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As I know, Wayne Gretzky is the best hockey player in the history, but I don't understand the reference to his name in this sentence:

On the one hand, I was relieved to find that I personally wasn’t the reason why the session had failed—the Wayne Gretzky of professional developers probably couldn’t have pulled off the session since there were so many negative subcurrents.

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“The Wayne Gretzky of professional developers” is a hypothetical person who would be one of the best professional developers - when you say someone is the “(famous person’s name) of (group of people unrelated to the famous person)” this means they are to that group what the famous person is to their own group. In this case, as you know, Gretzky is one of the greatest hockey players - so the Wayne Gretzky of professional developers refers to one of the greatest professional developers.

The sentence is saying that not even someone as great at professional development as Wayne Gretzky is great at hockey would have been able to succeed due to all the “negative subcurrents” (not sure what this means, but it seems to be something that would prevent success), so the narrator feels relieved, knowing it wasn’t their fault the session failed - no one would have succeeded in this situation.

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  • It can also convey more meaning if the example has some notable quality, I don't know my hokey players but it Gretsky was known for, for example, speed the "Wayne gretsky of development" would be both one of the greatest and very fast. – Borgh Jun 3 '19 at 12:35

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