Also See: Alternative Trades: Yzerman? Linden? Leetch?
I remember the day well. I refused to listen to the radio when I first heard it. Still lost in an age of innocence, trading the greatest player in the game was impossible, or at least so I thought. Everyone thought that.
The Oilers had just won their fourth Cup in five years and Gretzky was 27, coming off a year where he put up 40 goals and 149 points in 64 regular season games and 12 goals, 43 points in 19 playoff games. The local radio must have been playing a terrible prank.
After listening to the news reports several times over it finally dawned on me that this was indeed true. Then came the teary eyed press conference followed by the Kings jersey unveiling that cemented a whole new reality in the completely shaken hockey world.
Wayne Gretzky had been traded.
It was probably the biggest trade in the history of sports, or certainly tied with the Babe Ruth transaction. The impact of the move was beyond what anyone could imagine, and is still unfolding.
The NHL went Hollywood and has since gone through immense expansion in US sun belt zones. For a while hockey was even cool in the US, something the rest of the western world already knew though they now craved it even more.
Though Canadians love to accuse these virgin US markets of not being able to support the NHL, in reality grassroots hockey in these parts is now starting to blossom. More kids in America, notably in California and other sunny climes, picked up the game, and now some are starting to make a run at their own NHL dreams.
In Canada, the ramifications were also immense. We all lost a little something when they took Gretzky out of the Canadian prairies. In many ways #99 exemplified the Canadian image: Hard-working and talented yet humble and determined. He wasn’t just a hockey player, he was a national treasure.
For many Canadians, the date of August 9th, 1988 marks the date Canada started losing control of hockey, although in reality it was more of an awakening to a long time reality than a beginning.
Hockey quickly became a big business, and the American dollar and entertainment marketplace called the shots. Gretzky was taken. Soon the Stanley Cup would be hoisted in unthinkable cities like Raleigh, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Anaheim. Though it always seemed America remained disinterested in Canada's game, the game was sold out irreversibly starting on the day Canadians learned who Bruce McNall was.
For me personally, the trade helped cement me as a great hockey fan. The trade set up a season full of intrigue every time the Kings played the Oilers. Gretzky and his new team returned to Edmonton on October 20, 1988, and the Great One scored on his first shift. Later that spring, Gretzky and the Kings eliminated the Oilers from the playoffs. On October 15, 1989, Gretzky made his most heroic return visit of all. In front of cheering fans at Northlands Coliseum, he broke Gordie Howe’s NHL all-time points record by scoring his 1,850th and 1,851st point.
Some great memories, indeed. In some ways my awakening allowed me to cherish Gretzky's Hollywood days more so than his younger days when the Oilers were kings. A whole new hockey landscape was created for me. I don't just mean in the old Smythe Division where the Oilers and Kings faced off regularly. I mean it was a complete awakening for me to realize that hockey was a business, and hockey players are businessmen. My innocence may have been lost, and Canada's greatest hero may have flew south, but my love for Canada's game only grew stronger.
Other players involved in the trade:
|Jimmy Carson - He was traded for The Great One. Though he had one of the most impressive three year starts in NHL history, he could never live down the trade.|
|Marty McSorley - Popular Marty McSorley worked hard to shed his goon image and become known as a good player. Then he blew it.|
|Mike Krushelnyski - When Mike Krushelnyski potted 43 goals in 1984-85, the Oilers thought they finally found a LW to play with Wayne Gretzky.|
|Martin Gelinas - Martin Gelinas earned a lot of respect for his hard working, honest game. He showed up every night, gave it his all and was a great teammate..|
Also see: Whatever Happened To Those Draft Picks?
Also see: They Said It: Quotes From 20 Years Ago
Also see: Hockey In California Pre-Dates Gretzky
Also see: Wayne Gretzky Trivia
Also see: Wayne Gretzky vs. Mario Lemieux
Here is what the rest of the web has to offer:
Impact on Canada & California
Gretzky's trade to L.A. sent shockwaves through Canada and California.
End of Innocence
How this trade created the cliche: If Gretzky can be traded.....more
Gretzky Recalls Trade
An interview with Wayne Gretzky ... more
A marketing dream
Wayne Gretzky wasn't just "The Great One" on the ice.. ...more
Is this the year?
Will anyone ever touch The Great One's 92 goals in a season? ...more
Gretzky By The Numbers
An in-depth look at his great career. Stats Video
Top Ten Trades Of All Time
A history of blockbuster NHL trades ...more
(Joe's note - hey, where's the King Clancy trade?)
The Shocking Trade - Terry Jones, (Aug. 3rd, 2008)
Not So Happy Anniversary in Oilerland - (Aug. 9th, 2008)
Don't Ever Call It The "Gretzky Trade:" It Was A Sale - David Staples (Aug 8th, 2008)
Los Angeles Times
Gretzky's Trade To Kings Ice Breaker For NHL - Thomas Bonk (Aug 8th, 2008)
Orange County Register
Why Is This Weekend So Special? Hint: Gretzky - Dan Wood (Aug 9th, 2008)
It's Like Losing A Son, More Than A Hockey Player - (Aug 9th, 2008)
Just Business - (Aug 9th, 2008)
20 Years Ago The Gretzky Deal Shocked The World - (Aug 9th, 2008)
SportsNet.caThe Gretzky Trade: 20 Years Later
The Original Reports: A collection of newspaper reports from Aug 9, 1988
The Gretzky Trade: By The Numbers
Residual Effect From Gretzky Trade Still Felt Today - Scott Burnside (Aug. 8th, 2008)
Twenty Years Later It's Still A Great Trade - Lyle Richardson (Spector)
Gretzky Trade Had 'Seismic Impact' - Kevin Allen (Aug. 8th, 2008)
Gretzky Deal Still Resonates Through Hockey - Wes Goldstein (Aug. 8th, 2008)
Gretzky Trade: What happened to.... - Erin Brown (Aug. 8th, 2008)
The Sporting News
The Gretzky Trade At 20: McSorley's Perspective - Craig Custance (Aug. 9th, 2008)
CanWest News Services
Gretzky Forgives And Forgets - Aug 8th, 2008
Gelinas Recalls Hockey's Biggest Trade - John Glennon (Aug. 8th, 2008)
Gretzky Trade Spurred NHL To Expand Here - John Glennon (Aug. 8th, 2008)
CBC (video) - The Shocking Trade (August 9, 1988)
New York Times - The Two Sides of The Gretzky Trade (August 11, 1988)
In Los Angeles: New Day Dawns - - In Edmonton: Future Is On Hold
The Gretzky Trade (Video)
- August 22, 1988
A Nation In Mourning
- August 22, 1988
New King Boffo At Box Office
- October 9, 1988
Life Without Gretzky
- December 26, 1988
More Than A Man Can Do
- November 28, 1988
Gretzky Returns Edmonton
- October 31st, 1988
Edmonton SunThe Great Trade - August, 1998 (ten year anniversary)
How The Deal Was Done - Sporting News Staff (Feb 12th, 1989)
Don't Ever Call It The "Gretzky Trade:" It Was A Sale - David Staples
Gretzky Trade Still Shapes Hockey - Eric McErlain
Forgotten Benefit Of Gretzky Trade - Greg Wyshynski
20th Anniversary of "The Trade" - Masiv Blog
Gretzky Broke Non-Crying Promise To Messier - Covered In Oil
20 Years Later And 10 Years Too Young - AOL Fanhouse
Remembering The Gretzky Trade of 1988 - Waiting For Stanley
A Look Back At The Historic Gretzky Trade - Battle of NY
What If Gretzky Had Gone To Detroit - Eric McErlain
It Was Twenty Years Ago - NHL Home Ice
Hey Dad! Gretzky Got Traded - Puck Hog
The Gretzky Deal: 20 Years Later - James Mirtle
There's Just One Nagging Little Thing - Frozen Royalty
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today - Eyes On The Prize
Also From Eyes On The Prize
The Gretzky Trade - Part 1: The Hockey World Stands Still
The Gretzky Trade - Part 2: Getting Analytical
The Gretzky Trade - Part 3: Transaction Breakdowns
His trade really changed the hockey world...he is such a good athlete!
In an alternate reality...
It is 1989 and the Oilers have defeated the Montreal Canadiens to claim their fifth Stanley Cup. In hockey history, only the Habs have ever been able to assemble a dynasty like the Oilers - high scoring, record breaking, and five Cups in six or fewer years. Thus it is only fitting the Oilers would claim their latest Cup against them, like a passing of the torch.
The NHL finals would also see a sotired showdown between Gretzky, the greatest scorer, vs. Roy, the greatest goaltender. The scorer would win.
For the fifth time in his storied career, Wayne Gretzky would post a 200-point season and would close out his legendary season with a Conn Smythe trophy.
Beyond Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, and Anderson all posted 100+ point seasons, posing an unstoppable threat. Coupled with a strong blueline led by Lowe and Grant Fuhr in goal, nothing could stop the Oilers, nothing could stop them...
Behind the scenes, trouble is brewing. The Oilers are going bankrupt and Peter Pocklington turned down an offer of $20M from the Los Angeles Kings for Gretzky. Meanwhile, Gretzky was coming up towards free agency and due for a major raise.
That summer, the Los Angeles Kings have announced they signed Gretzky to a multimillion dollar contract in free agency. The Oilers are hoodwinked. Attendance drops dramatically. Pocklington is forced to trade off Messier, Kurri, and the remainder of the Stanley Cup winners in a fire sale, and soon declares bankruptcy and is forced to sell the team. The Oilers rapidly fall into the basement, never makes the playoffs until after the turn of the millenium.
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