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Sunday Newsletter 2001-03Su.

January 21, 2001.

As a young man growing up in Canada, my television habits on late Saturday afternoons were the same as most kids my age. We watched the "Bugs Bunny" and "Road Runner" hour from four until five on a black and white television with two channels (three if you were lucky), rabbit ears and no remote control, while we waited for "Hockey Night in Canada" to start. It was during one of those broadcasts that I can recollect hearing the name "Gretzky" for the first time, probably because there was a feature on him during one of the intermissions of that night's broadcast. It was the spring of 1972, and I would have been thirteen when I heard something that amazed me. Here was a kid, only two years younger than me, that had amassed the amazing total of 378 goals in an 85-game season, of which he had played in only 69. All I can remember saying to myself is, "I have to remember that kid's name, because one day he's going to be a professional and I want to remember it when he turns pro, then see how the kid does when he's in the big time." The name was easy to remember, being oddly spelled and sounding foreign. (This was a time when few foreigners played in the NHL, and you didn't need to be a linguist to read the coach's line-up.) I fancied myself as somewhat of an amateur sports statistician at the time. Little did I know how many times I would hear that name again and again over the years.

Welcome to week three of FactsCanada.ca's 2001 Sunday Newsletter. I hope you enjoy the following short biography on, in my opinion, the most talented athlete from any sport: Wayne Gretzky. We also have details on yet another FactsCanada.ca giveaway below. The prize is Gretzky's autobiography.



= Question of the week
= Biography -- Wayne Douglas Gretzky ("The Great One")
= Giveaway details
= Joke of the week
= Update to previously published article
= Quote of the week
= Place names -- Biggar, Saskatchewan
= Political commentary
= Pet peeves
= From our friends, the CIA
= Words of the week
= Answer to this week's question
= Links and resources
= Legal and subscription information



Long referred to and well known as the "The Great One", Wayne Gretzky also had another nickname. What was it?



Wayne Douglas Gretzky ("The Great One").

A gentleman's gentleman is how many have regarded Gretzky, the man, over the years. A "Sports Illustrated" writer by the name of Rick Reilly once said, "I've dug ditches, lubed jackhammers and manned the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven. But the worst job I ever had was writing Wayne Gretzky's autobiography. The only thing Gretzky hates worse than going into the corners is going on about himself." An example of Gretzky's humility was this interview sequence with Reilly, as told by Wayne:

"Gretz, seriously, you've got to go into a little more detail about yourself."

I'd moan. "All right, all right," I'd say. "What year are we up to now?"

"Nineteen eighty-four."

"I didn't do much that year, did I?"

"Oh, no, not really. Except you led the freaking league in goals and assists! Won the Hart Trophy! Won the damn Cup!"

"Good. Go with that. Now, what happened in '85?"

Visitors to Wayne's only official Web site, that of his Toronto restaurant, are initially greeted by the quote; "Skate to where the puck is going... Not to where it has been... Anticipate." One might expect it to be sage advice from "The Great One" himself, but in keeping with the fact that the site (and Wayne himself) is not about glorifying himself or his accomplishments, it's actually a quote from Walter Gretzky, Wayne's father.

Here we have the genesis of the formation of the world's most predominant athlete of the twentieth century. Born to Walter and Phyllis Gretzky in Brantford, Ontario, on January 26, 1961, Wayne learned all he could from his father, followed his guidance, and applied these techniques and teachings to the gift with which he had been born. In only his second National Hockey League season, Gretzky scored 164 points, surpassing the all-time record of 152 set some years earlier by Phil Esposito, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He would surpass this mark eight more times before ending his career in 1999. His highest output, 215 points during the 1985/86 season, was recorded while playing with the Edmonton Oilers. To put this feat into perspective, consider this theoretical postulation: Michael Jordan, basketball's all-time greatest player, would have to average 71 points per game, every game for an entire season, to match Gretzky's hockey prowess. The most points Jordan ever scored in a single game was 69 in 1990, and his best season average was 37.1 points per game during the 1986/87 season. Yes, Gretzky's on-ice accomplishments stand alone. His is the mark that all aspire to meet in professional sports.

Gretzky led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships in a five year span, before being traded by Oilers owner Peter Pocklington to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 in a cash and player deal. Though unable to recreate the team success with the Kings that he had enjoyed when an Oiler, he single-handedly raised the profile and awareness of hockey in the United States dramatically. His presence in Los Angeles is widely credited with the League's continued expansion throughout the Sunbelt area of America during the nineties.

In 1991 Gretzky, along with fellow Canadian, comedian John Candy, and the then-owner of the Kings, Bruce McNall, purchased the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. This team went on to win the Grey Cup that year. The group sold the club in 1993.

In 1993 Gretzky also resumed playing, after a long bout of back troubles had him playing in only half the games of the prior year. He scored only 16 goals yet still lead the Kings to a Stanley Cup final. The team eventually lost to the Montreal Canadiens, but Gretzky still won the playoff scoring title; his tenth in 15 NHL seasons. His scoring touch culminated in the 1993/94 season with his 802nd goal, equalling Gordie Howe's long-held record. Financial difficulties with the Kings franchise, as well as Gretzky's own disenchantment with the club's lack of commitment to building a winner, resulted in his being traded during the 1995/96 season to the St. Louis Blues. Then, in July 1996, Gretzky changed teams again, this time to join his ex-Oiler team mate, Mark Messier, with the New York Rangers. The Rangers would be the last team with which he played, as Gretzky announced his retirement some three years later, on April 18, 1999.

On the ice, Gretzky holds or shares 61 acknowledged scoring records. These include: most goals, most assists and most points in a season; most career and most playoff points. His siblings are Keith, Glen, Brent and Kim. He married actress Janet Jones on July 16, 1988, and they have three children: Paulina, Ty and Trevor. Gretzky received the medal of the Order of Canada from then-Governor General Romeo LeBlanc on January 28, 1998, having been inducted as an Officer by former Governor General Jeanne-Mathilde Suave on June 25, 1984. Scheduling problems interfered with the actual presentation for more than a decade.



Our latest prize is Wayne Gretzky's autobiography, entitled "99: My Life In Pictures". This book is very complete, easy to read, and comes complete with Wayne's full, lifetime statistics. As suggested by the title, it also has lots of pictures (which may be why it's an easy read!). It's also an excellent read. You can read a more in-depth review and the jacket information by going to the Indigo.ca site, which is linked to in today's resources at this link.

In order to win this book, you must be the first person to e-mail Craig with the correct answer to the question below. Please e-mail your answer to craig@factscanada.ca before Saturday, January 27, 2001, at 12:00 noon Pacific Time. Please also read the contest rules on the site at this link.

Question: What two sports (other than ice hockey) did Wayne pursue and enjoy immensely while he was growing up, one of which he also played quite a bit as an adult?

The winner will be announced in next Sunday's newsletter.

Wait! There's more! If you haven't yet signed up for a free e-mail account @factscanada.com, now would be a good time. By doing so you have a chance to win a Palm IIIc Handheld with colour display. There is a new prize every month. Check the site at this link for more details.



What do the Vancouver Canucks and a gray whale have in common?

They both get confused when surrounded by ice!



I was re-reading my biography on Jim Carrey when this story was posted to the Hollywood press:

Jim Carrey buys plane for $41 million.

Jim Carrey has purchased a Gulfstream V aircraft for almost US$41 million. This is one of only one hundred or so of the newer aircraft in service in the world, according to sources. The plane, which is selected usually by top corporations and American or foreign governments, is owned by only a handful of individuals. "Private ownership of a Gulfstream V is a pretty exclusive group," said Gulfstream spokesman Keith Mordoff. Other celebrity owners of Gulfstream aircraft include John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both pilots. The fast, long-range GV can fly as high as 51 000 feet and make a New York to Tokyo trip non-stop.



"If you didn't have a developed bosom, you had to be smart." --June Callwood, magazine writer and journalist from Chatham, Ontario, discussing sex appeal during her high school years in the early 1930s.



Biggar, Saskatchewan.

As you drive into Biggar you are greeted by the sign "New York is Big... but this is Biggar." A catchy slogan for visitors to the town, but I think they should change the New York reference to something a bit more appropriately Canadian, like Toronto.

Anyway, the town of Biggar had a 1996 census population of 2351. It is located some 93 kilometres west of Saskatoon. The town was established by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1908 and was named for William Hodgins Biggar, then the general counsellor of the railway line.

Today, the majority of residents work for one of the two barley processing plants that cater to the malt industry, or the local salt mine.



Statistics are only as important as they are presented.

A recent poll by "Maclean's" magazine showed that for "most Canadians" (70 percent) their top concerns dealt with a variety of social issues, a definite trend towards the issues of health care, education and poverty. These results are in severe contrast to the platforms presented in last November's federal election, when most of the parties concentrated their campaigns on tax cuts and debt reduction.

A reader sent his comments to "Maclean's" stating, "One must wonder: Why were the parties so myopically focused on issues that resonate with, according to your poll, only about eight percent of the population? The answer is contained within the demographics of the poll itself. As your article pointed out, this group was composed mostly of 'essentially higher income-earning males'. It is not supposed to happen in a democracy, but in Canada, it is clear that he who pays the piper calls the tune."

This is a perfect example of how to use statistics to weave whatever story the writer wishes. Here we have a leading Canadian magazine polling only those of a certain demographic -- in this case high-income males, or only seven percent of the population -- presenting the results as representing the views of "most Canadians". While 70 percent of those in this category listed "social issues" as their number one concern, "Joe and Josephine Public", the majority of the population, listed tax cuts and debt reduction. These two concerns are angled to favour the individuals and their family's survival first, then the nation as a whole. For once it seems the politicians had it right.

I refer everyone to the now famous line, "Four out of five (doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.) surveyed support Brand X." This statistic does not really tell you anything except that four out of five people favour a particular product. The survey could have polled 200 dentists, let's say, and out of that only four supported the findings. Well if the source of information wants, they can grab any five respondents answers: the four who favoured the item in question and a fifth one against thrown in for good measure. Therefore, four out of the five people presented in the final results did indeed respond favourably. Nowhere do they tell you the total number that were surveyed, or what the full results were. They only state that four out of five (yes, any five) favour the item.

Please, when you read statistics, think of the source, read any fine print, use your common sense and whatever you do, don't believe it just because it is written out and handed to you.

Although I subscribe to "Maclean's", I'll bet that the majority of subscribers are closer to the top of the economic ladder than "most Canadians". Therefore they want to hear results that they can agree with. Don't get me wrong -- not every survey and statistic presented by this magazine or others is misrepresented. I just want you to think about what you read and to be able to make up your own minds as to this or any other survey's so-called findings.

(While the above commentary is from John, I [Craig] will add a couple of old sayings, which I will probably mangle seeing as I don't have an authoritative source at hand: "Figures can't lie, but liars sure can figure"; and "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." I think they both validate John's argument nicely.)



Trying to untangle the string of lights, from both the Christmas tree and the outside light show, is a full day's job. I wanted to set them out in perfect order, but what should have been a one-hour job turned into one of five hours. Now, while I disassemble my creation, I am vexed to find that I only want to throw the lights into a box for next year, knowing full well the frustration this will produce at that time. I go ahead anyway.



This paper was approved for publication by the National Foreign Intelligence Board under the authority of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Here is an excerpt from the CIA's 15-year forecast on global trends, as it pertains to Canada:

Canada will be a full participant in the globalisation process in 2015 and a leading player in the Americas after the United States, along with Mexico and Brazil. Ottawa will still be grappling with the political, demographic, and cultural impact of heavy Asian immigration in the west as well as residual nationalist sentiment in French-speaking Quebec. This vast and diverse country, however, will remain stable amidst constant, dynamic change.

Ottawa will continue to emphasize the importance of education, especially science and technology, for the new economy. Canada also will promote policies designed to stem the flow of skilled workers south and will seek to attract skilled immigrants "especially professionals from East and South Asia" to ensure that Canada will be able to take full advantage of global opportunities. The question of Quebec's place in the country will continue to stir national debate.

Canada's status as the pre-eminent US economic partner will be even more pronounced in 2015. National sensitivity to encroaching US culture will remain, even as the two economies become more integrated. Ottawa will retain its interests in the stability and prosperity of East Asia because of growing Canadian economic, cultural, and demographic links to the Pacific region. As additional trade links with Latin America are developed through the North American Free Trade Agreement and a likely Free Trade Area of the Americas, Canada increasingly will take advantage of developments in the Western hemisphere. Although Canadians will focus more on Latin America and less on Europe, they will still look to NATO as the cornerstone of Western security. Like Europeans, Canadians will judge US global leadership in terms of the relationship with Russia, especially regarding strategic arms and National Missile Defence (NMD).

Despite the relatively small size of Canada's armed forces, Ottawa still will seek to participate in global and regional discussions on the future of international peacekeeping. Canada will continue to build on its traditional support for international organizations by working to ensure a more effective UN and greater respect for international treaties, norms, and regimes. Canadians will be sympathetic to calls for greater political "management" of globalisation to help mitigate adverse impacts on the environment and ensure that globalisation's benefits reach less advantaged regions and states.

The CIA has said it, therefore it must be true. We will see. Only time will tell -- it usually does.



John knows me pretty well. He knew I'd procrastinate on the purchase of my own copy of a "Gage Canadian Dictionary: 2000 Edition", so he delivered one to me himself this week. So today's definitions (and all future definitions) will be based on this resource. All three words below are from today's newsletter. No, I won't be providing links to pictorial examples of the first word! Enjoy anyway.

Bosom -- (noun) 1. the upper, front part of the human body, especially the female breasts. 2. the part of a garment covering the bosom. 3. the centre or inmost part. 4. the heart; the seat of one's thoughts, affections, desires, etc. 5. the surface or depths (of a sea, lake, river, the ground, etc.). 6. (adjectival) close; trusted. 7. (verb) 1. cherish; embrace. 2. hide in the bosom.

Linguist -- (noun) 1. a person trained in linguistics, especially one whose work it is. 2. a person skilled in a number of languages besides his or her own; polyglot. 3. philologist.

Statistics -- (noun, plural) 1. numerical facts about people, the weather, business conditions, etc., collected and classified systematically. 2. the science of collecting, classifying, analysing and interpreting such facts in order to show their significance.



Long referred to and well known as the "The Great One", Wayne Gretzky also had another nickname. What was it?

"The White Tornado." This because of the white gloves he wore as a child prodigy.


This week I got involved in a few issues that are not exactly "facts". I wanted to bring them to everyone's attention as a sort of awareness campaign. Be alert to what your read -- know its source and the validity is has to you. If you factor these cautions into the overall equation, I feel you can absorb any information and then be able to make quality judgments and decisions for yourself. Talk to you next week. John.



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