1988-89: Gretzky Trade Shocks World
The Three Stars:
Oilers Trade Wayne Gretzky - Wayne Gretzky made a lot of unbelievable achievements in the 1980s, the most unbelievable moment had to have been August 9th, 1988 when the Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers traded away the greatest player in the game. The seven time scoring champ and eight time MVP was traded (along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley) to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three 1st round picks and a reported $15 million. The hockey world over the next 10 years changed immensely because of this one transaction.
Lemieux Scores 199 Points - At the age of 23 Mario Lemieux scores 85 goals, 114 assists and 199 points, winning his second straight scoring title. His assist and point totals are the most in NHL history by any player other than Wayne Gretzky. Lemieux's most impressive night comes on New Year's Eve when he becomes the only player to score 5 goals 5 different ways - power play, short handed, even strength, penalty shot and empty net. For all his efforts he did not repeat as Hart Trophy winner, as that went back to Gretzky after his first season in LA.
Soviets Arrive Then Mogilny Defects - Little known Soviet player Sergei Priakhin, 25, debuts with the Calgary Flames on March 31st with the Soviet federation's blessing. It is seen as the first of many such releases of veteran Soviet players. But the new found relationship is tested when 20 year old Alexander Mogilny - seen as one of the next great Soviet players - defects and signs with the Buffalo Sabres. Soviet officials cry foul and label Mogilny a traitor.
- Minnesota North Stars select Mike Modano first overall. Trevor Linden goes second to Vancouver. But it was Brian Leetch who impressed most among first year players, setting a rookie scoring record for defensemen with 23 goals. He won the Calder trophy
- Just weeks after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Guy Lafleur comes out of retirement and players for the New York Rangers.
- Dino Ciccarelli spends 1 day in jail after an Ontario court finds him guilty of assault in a stick swinging incident vs Toronto's Luke Richardson back in 1987-88.
- Detroit tough guy Bob Probert is arrested after crossing the Canadian border with 14.3 grams of cocaine. The NHL expels him but does allow him to return.
- Buffalo Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk has his jugular vein accidentally slashed by the skate of St. Louis forward Steve Tuttle. Malarchuk bled profusely on the ice and required immediate surgery but did return to the ice later in the season.
- Steve Yzerman has an amazing season with 65 goals, 90 assists and 155 points.
- Lanny McDonald records both his 500th career goal and 1000th career point.
- Wayne Gretzky becomes the first player in NHL history to score 2000 points (including playoffs) in his career. Gretzky totaled 168 points, including 54 goals, in his first season in LA.
- One of the biggest benefactors of Gretzky's arrival in LA is Bernie Nicholls. Nicholls had always been an offensive threat, but with Gretzky around he blossomed to a 70 goal (2nd best in NHL) and 150 point (4th best) season.
- Gretzky's Kings met Gretzky's old team, the Oilers in a memorable playoff series. The Kings knocked off the Oilers in 7 games. In the 7th game Gretzky opened the scoring just 52 seconds in and then sealed the deal with the empty net goal at the end of the game.
- Montreal and Philadelphia engage in quite the playoff battle. Norris trophy winning defenseman Chris Chelios of Montreal elbowed Flyers finesse forward Brian Propp into unconsciousness. Later goalie Ron Hextall, who scored a goal in a previous series vs Washington, retaliated by surprisingly leaving his net to assault Chelios.
- Montreal did win that series, and, thanks to the goaltending of Patrick Roy, made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final. But it was the Calgary Flames, owners of the league's best regular season record, who won the Stanley Cup. It was the first time a visiting team hoisted the Stanley Cup at the Montreal Forum.
- Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, though Mike Vernon was spectacular in net. Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joel Otto and Theo Fleury were also prominent.