Wayne Gretzky, a whirling magician on ice who is known simply as The Great One, is afraid to go out alone at night and is dogged by death threats.
A hockey legend in his own time, the Canadian-born captain of the Los Angeles Kings swears a blue streak during hockey games, is superstitious and has little use for money.
These snippets are contained in “Gretzky: An Autobiography,” released in Canada this week and co-written with Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly.
Although only 29, he is already the all-time scoring leader in the NHL and has graced the cover of Time magazine. A life-size statue of him stands in Edmonton, Alberta, where he led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships in five years.
“I could skate at 2. I was nationally known at 6. I was signing autographs at 10,” Gretzky writes.
Gretzky, born in Brantford, Ontario, and a high school dropout, breaks hockey records constantly. Hockey great Gordie Howe set the league’s scoring record after 26 seasons of professional hockey; Gretzky surpassed him in 10.
How does he do it? “My training regimen is pretty simple: no weights, no running, no biking, no steroids, no special vitamins,” he says.
In team fitness tests he scores dead last in strength, peripheral vision and flexibility. He credits his success to God-given talent; to his father, who trained him on a back yard rink each winter, and to his own relentless drive to win.
The book has some trivia for the rabid Gretzky fan. He wears a size 10 shoe but a size 8 1/2 skate. For superstitious reasons he always gets dressed the same way and on the ice keeps the right side of his hockey jersey tucked into his pants.
Gretzky’s wealth of friends from hockey to Hollywood comes as a great relief because the star, haunted by death threats, hates going out alone.
“I never go out alone. I’m seriously afraid of being knifed. When you’re out, sometimes people want to argue with you, and if you’re by yourself, they won’t let you walk away.”
He says he has little use for his money other than buying an occasional $1,000 suit, and finds it hard turning down people who ask for his help.
“And the more money you make, the more you end up worrying about everyone else. You don’t want to be Santa Claus, but you don’t want to ignore someone who needs help,” he says.