At the risk of embellishing quarter-century hyperbole, Aug. 9, 1988 really did shake hockey to its core.
Not only was there emotional impact on fans in Edmonton (agony) and Los Angeles (ecstasy) and a significant change to street cred possessed by the Oilers (diminished) and Kings (enhanced), but the trade of Wayne Gretzky simultaneously broadened any territorial horizons previously imagined by the suit-wearing power players at NHL HQ in New York.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently commented on the 25th anniversary of the trade to the The Globe and Mail.
“I remember thinking at the time that that demonstrated a huge step forward for hockey and its credibility,” recalled Bettman, who was an NBA corporate minion at the time. “It was obviously something that, in the annals of sports, was one of those seminal events that gets a tremendous amount of attention because of its import and impact.”
In fact, by the time Bettman went from hardwood lackey to ice rink czar five years later, the chain of events triggered by the Alberta-to-California swap had already begun.
Click through to recall some of the memorable timeline moments as we saw them.