Written by by James Turek, CNN
If you thought the career of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had a fairy tale ending, you may be surprised to learn that he started out at the bottom — working as a busboy and dishwasher at a Toronto restaurant during his final year of high school.
Now a Toronto native, the 71-year-old retired hockey icon is currently one of the most famous sports figures in the world.
Gretzky has raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer charity, THRIVE Canada , and for established — and still working — startups. His last business to close included his own hockey card business, WayneGretzky.com , which was heavily criticized for a variety of charges –including the purchase of thousands of unauthorized pieces of memorabilia and the unlawful practice of practicing enforcer and celebrity boxer promotions.
Here’s a look at Gretzky’s career, from his humble beginnings to his current role as a successful entrepreneur.
Gretzky began his career as a pinball machine vendor in the United States, but got into sports memorabilia through his pal, businessman Steve Jobs, according to Business Insider . After working in a pinball machine business, Gretzky started making game cards for the “Ice Ice Baby” hockey card series in the late 1980s. The initial success led to other coin-operated cards, and games like “Doug the Pug,” “Rick Rypien” and “Mario Lemieux” were introduced to the masses.
In 1992, Wayne Gretzky Company was eventually sold to DC Comics, according to Sports Illustrated , and many of his cards are now valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Through Wayne Gretzky Company , Gretzky created and created unique gaming platforms, such as a coin-operated gaming unit that was displayed in President Kennedy’s Oval Office, and a lifesize cyborg playing hockey from 1993 to 1995.
Visit Wayne Gretzky Company website to learn more about the hockey legend.
In his efforts to star in his own Comedy Central series, ” Shaq VS. Everybody ,” in 2016, comedian, actor and artist Big Shaq proposed an unusual concept — he asked Gretzky to throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.
The following year, on the “Taxi With the President” podcast, Gretzky recalled the experience: “I think it went about three inches at the time. Basically, the president of the United States got up and kinda asked me if I was having any trouble. He started throwing out the pitch as I stood there, and I got up and tried to throw it, and I didn’t have the power. I failed miserably.”
Big Shaq finally did fulfill his quest on the big screen in this year’s “Rampage,” which starred Dwayne Johnson and appeared in theaters on April 20.
Oxygen Ball is a short term memory test introduced by the National Institute of Health in 2012. The test is meant to help aging adults improve their ability to recall and retain details. The reaction time of participants to specific events and tasks measured on the test were compared to their own past memories.
Back in 2017, a young couple who met through the test started taking it together, and Gretzky subsequently became involved in the project, working as a “coach” to guide the participants through their interpretation of their recollections and stories. The couple, which is still going strong, filed a patent for their business, Oxygen Ball.
Among the more famous entrepreneurs, Nike co-founder and basketball star Mark Cuban has offered a leadership experience to teenagers, while the Hockey Hall of Fame has endowed his name in relation to a museum.
Cuban, an investor and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, has created two degree programs — one in the U.S. and one in China — for MBA aspirants, called “Mark Cuban University” and “The Forum.” According to Entrepreneur , Mark Cuban University is a two-year, single focus degree in Global Analytics and Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Colorado School of Mines.
Cuban has supported not just this new school, but the basketball players on the Dallas Mavericks , which he purchased in 2000. He is also is the owner of the Dallas Stars, and was even named the Chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors in 2012.