Wisdom of Wayne Gretzky: How He Learned To Skate Where the Puck Was Going

A lot has been written about Wayne Gretzky and his ability and his athletic genius. When Gretzky married his intellectual capacity with technical ability, he dominated opponents like no other athlete in any other sport. From an early age, Gretzky developed his inner game as much as his physical skills.

How Did Gretzky Attain His Inner Game?

Like many successful athletes, Gretzky had some great role models, mentors, and coaches, and a phenomenal set of parents. He holds 61 NHL records and he’s said that his unofficial record of the Fastest 50 Goals will be the hardest for anyone to break. He did it in 39 games. Gretzky scored a total of 9 goals in his 38th and 39th games to shatter the previous record which had been 50 games.

One of his quotes that gets used (and probably overused at this point) is “Skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been.” It brings to mind the use of intuition and anticipation, skills that traders can make use of.

The thing is, it wasn’t Wayne’s idea — it was his father’s. Walter Gretzky, Wayne’s father, had him watch Hockey Night in Canada and trace where the puck went on a piece of foolscap during an entire 20-minute period. When he was done, the darkest areas would delineate where the puck had spent the most amount of time traveling.

Young Wayne did this exercise game after game, period after period and used this insight to intuit where the puck would most likely go during a game that he would eventually play in. After years of repetition, this instinct was honed to such a level, it was impossible to defend. It was as if he knew how the play was going to unfold before it happened.

I’ve skated since I was four years old and played ice hockey competitively since I was nine years old. I saw #99 come play Madison Square Garden as an Edmonton Oiler, LA King, St. Louis Blue, and a New York Ranger. I was always amazed how the puck seemed to find its way to Wayne…and how he always seemed to know what the opponent was going to do with the puck, even if the opponent didn’t know what he was going to do with the puck.

Here is the clip of Gretzky describing the “on-screen” exercise. If you’re on the iPad, the clip starts at the 24:55 mark and goes to the 26:03 mark. Google / YouTube have not gotten the bugs out of the coding to show only the segment. Sorry for the inconvenience.

For traders, this reminds me of the exercise that Linda Bradford suggested where you trace out a certain market in 5-minute intervals to get the best feel for it.

Here is the whole 2-hour video, Ultimate Gretzky.

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  • Manuelbravochico

    I have a colleague who draws his charts by hand every night. With all the charting software today, I wouldn’t be surprised if charting by hand gives one a unique perspective simply because nobody does it anymore.

    Great post.