The Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship is the pinnacle honor bestowed at the Musial Awards. It recognizes iconic sports figures who exemplify sportsmanship and embody the class, dignity, generosity, excellence, civility and integrity for which Stan The Man was known.
Before the rise of the GOATS, The Great One stood alone. The herd, whose members have been hailed Greatest of All Time, still hasn’t quite caught up with Wayne Gretzky. In some ways, they never will, most importantly in sportsmanship and class. But Wayne couldn’t have risen to the top without the help of family, especially his wife, Janet. For setting examples in grace, genuineness and generosity, Wayne and Janet Gretzky have earned the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award.
No one disputes Wayne’s place at the pinnacle of hockey. More than 20 years since his retirement, he remains atop the NHL’s list for career goals, assists and points. His total of 1,963 assists alone would still place him first in career scoring. Toss in his 894 goals, and he leads second-place Jaromir Jagr by 936 points. Wayne is the only player in NHL history to top 200 points in a season, which he achieved four times, and won nine Hart Trophy awards as the most valuable player to his team.
Also attesting to his greatness is his supremacy in sportsmanship. Wayne is a five-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy – awarded each season to the player who exhibits “the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” No other living player has won the award as many times as Wayne.
In 1984, just six seasons into his 20-year career, Wayne met St. Louis native Janet Marie Jones on the set of “Dance Fever.” Wayne was a judge. Janet – a graduate of Pattonville High, for all you St. Louisans – was a dancer. But sparks didn’t fly until 1987, when they met again at a Los Angeles Lakers game. By July of 1988, they were married in a fairy tale ceremony broadcast live across Canada. Janet continued to pursue her acting and dancing career in such movies as “Annie,” “Staying Alive,” “The Flamingo Kid,” “A Chorus Line” and “A League of Their Own.” Over time, though, priorities shifted, as the Gretzky family grew to include five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Emma.
Following his retirement in 1999, Wayne became the ninth – and final – player immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since then, he has served as coach of the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes and executive director of the 2002 Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Salt Lake City. The couple also committed to international charities, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, MedicAlert Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. In 2002, he and Janet launched the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, which assists community-based hockey programs for underprivileged and at-risk youngsters.
But perhaps no cause has been closer to the couple’s hearts than the fight against cancer. As a teenager, Janet lost her father, Robert, to the disease. When her sister, Jeanette Brown, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Wayne and Janet bought and renovated a 100-year-old house in Frontenac. The couple was based here as Janet helped care for Jeanette and her family before she passed away. Having lost a second sister to breast cancer, Janet is passionate about supporting charities that fund research and support those battling the disease.
Though his time as a Blue was brief, his ties to St. Louis grow stronger. Wayne played just 31 regular and postseason games for the Blues in 1996, scoring 10 goals and 27 assists. But the Gretzkys continue to spend time at their house here. Wayne has referred to St. Louis as “one of the nicest cities in the world. It kind of reminds me of the town I grew up in, Brantford (Ontario).” He agreed to lace on his skates one last time to represent the Blues in the alumni game of the NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. And now, his family legacy is intertwined with the Musials.
“Knowing how beloved Stan was and the way he carried himself on and off the field, it is tremendously humbling to receive an award named for him,” Wayne said. “It also means a lot to me that Janet and I are being honored together because I’m so proud of the work she has done and the generosity she has shown to important causes. I hope this recognition inspires more families to get involved with charitable efforts and encourages us all to be good sports in every aspect of life.”