Yes! He played the 1977-78 season with the Greyhounds, came second in scoring to Bobby Smith of the Ottawa 67s, won the league trophies for Rookie of the Year and Most Gentlemanly Player and made the second All-Star Team. He received # 99 on his sweater, his trademark during his hockey career. That year he played for Team Canada and although only 16 years of age, he led them to a gold medal. He led all scorers and was named the best forward in the tournament. That year, Gretzky signed the personal service contract with Nelson Skalbania and played the next season with the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey League.
That 1977-78 season was amazing for many reasons. Wayne Gretzky, although already considered a phenomenal player at 16 years of age and considered by most as the hottest budding star since Bobby Orr, was still available when the Greyhounds chose him third overall. Angelo Bumbacco had to convince Walter Gretzky that Wayne would be well taken care of if he let him come to Sault Ste. Marie. As the season progressed, the team attracted growing hordes of reporters from print, radio, and television media, including the New York Times and Sports Illustrated. I was able to purchase on eBay a copy of the Sports Illustrated 1978 edition. It carried an article in which their reporter recounted his experiences, discussions, and observations while following Wayne Gretzky and the Greyhounds for four days.
During the season, despite the excellent talent, the team was under-achieving. Muzz MacPherson was replaced as head coach by Paul Theriault with eleven games left in the regular schedule. Under Theriault, the Greyhounds ended the regular season losing only one game in the last eleven. We had momentum and defeated Kingston in the first round. The players were exhausted from a hard-fought series but played their hearts out against the powerhouse Ottawa 67s. Bobby Smith and Jimmy Fox were the 67s star players. It took Ottawa eight games and a goal in the last minute of play by Jimmy Fox to win the series before a more than sell-out crowd, which had the Memorial Gardens bursting at the seams. It still is one of the most memorable series played by our Soo Greyhounds.
Next week the answer to the following question: Were the Soo Greyhounds really named the Hockey News Magazine’s No. 1 Dream Team of the 108 teams that feed players to the NHL?