Wayne Gretzky Earned 1 of His Many Nicknames With Some Less-Than-Ideal Airplane Behavior
While the on-ice component of hockey is certainly exciting, the sport’s nicknames can leave something to be desired. Most players simply default to adding a “y” or “er” to the end of their last name; think of Rick Nash going by “Nasher,” and you’ve got the idea. Thankfully for Wayne Gretzky, though, his monikers were a bit more interesting.
Those nicknames aren’t limited to “the Great One,” either. Did you know that, on the golf course, Gretzky’s buddies call him “Doc”?
And, to make things even stranger, it has (almost) nothing to do with Gretzky’s medical history. Instead, he earned that title from some less-than-ideal behavior on an airplane.
Wayne Gretzky earned the title “Doc” after volunteering his non-existent medical expertise during a flight
During his time on the ice, Wayne Gretzky suffered his share of bumps, bruises, and miscellaneous injuries. While that probably made him more familiar than most with medical treatments, it didn’t make him a doctor. That reality, however, didn’t stand in No. 99’s way during one fateful flight.
“I was on a plane flight one time from New York to San Francisco, and it was one of those flights where the stewardesses kind of panicked and started running to the back of the plane,” Gretzky recalled on an episode of TNT’s The Steam Room. “And I thought, ‘Oh my god. This is the end.’ And they came back, and I’m like, ‘Is everything OK?’ And she goes, ‘No, no, everything’s fine with the plane. I think somebody back there is having a heart attack.’ And they went running back to the back of the plane.”
After an unspecified amount of time had passed, the living legend received an update. He asked if everything was OK and learned that the other passenger was “having some anxiety.” That update came with a question, though: Was there a doctor on the plane?
In that moment, Gretzky made the decision that would earn him a nickname from his friends.
“So I hit the call button because I’m an honorary doctor,” he explained. “I go, ‘Ding.’ She goes, ‘Really?’ And I go, ‘Yeah, I’m an honorary doctor.’ She goes, ‘That’s not funny,’ and I said, ‘Well, my goodness, I wouldn’t have said it if I thought the guy was really in trouble.”
And while that wasn’t the perfect course of action — even if someone isn’t in life-threatening distress, you really shouldn’t offer your services as a doctor when you aren’t a medical professional — it did earn Gretzky a new nickname. When he recounted the story to his buddies on the golf course, they started calling him “Doc.”
That isn’t Gretzky’s only under-the-radar nickname, though
The Great One and Doc aren’t the only things you can call Wayne Gretzky, though. During his conversation with Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson, he provided two other options from over the years.
The first, Mr. Douglas, comes from the star’s middle name. During his heyday, No. 99 would check into hotels using that moniker to try and keep a low profile. His teammates eventually caught wind of that trick and started calling him Mr. Douglas in the locker room.
Alternatively, Mark Messier apparently liked to call his teammate “Mr. Waynederful.” That might sound clunky in hindsight, but Gretzky said that he thought it was a “cool name.”
And, if all of that stresses you out, there is a simpler option. During a conversation with Dan Patrick, Gretzky said that he actually prefers the simplicity of being called Wayne.