It was almost as if it happened yesterday. However, this is the day that changed the hockey landscape forever. Superstar athletes were untouchable from their respective teams back then, but this is what set the pace for free agency and trades. After this day, it seemed like no player, superstar athlete, future hall of famer was untradeable. The day in question, August 9th 1988.
I had just come home from playing street hockey along with my friend Greg and my brother had told me the news. WAYNE GRETZKY HAD JUST BEEN TRADED!. I couldn’t believe it. I turned on the television and saw the highlights, there he was with his tissue and tears running down his cheek. “I TOLD MESS I WOULDN’T DO THIS” is how he began his addressing of the media.
Wayne Gretzky got traded along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley in return for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas and the Kings first round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993 and 20 million dollars cash. The Oilers were on the verge of greatness, they had just come off winning 4 Stanley cups in the last 5 years. Who knows how good the Oilers may have been had number 99 not been traded. We do know how good the Kings became after this trade. A few division titles and even though he didn’t bring them the Stanley Cup, Gretzky broke my heart in 1993 as he beat my beloved Maple Leafs in the Campbell Conference Final in 7 games, including a 5 point effort in Game 7, advancing the Kings to the Stanley Cup final versus The Montreal Canadiens. He also helped raise the average attendance for Kings home games from 10,000 in 1988 to almost near sellouts as soon as he arrived in Tinsel town. He also helped expand the game in the US , which is why you see teams in such warm weather climates as Florida, Anaheim and San Jose.
So what was the real reason why Gretzky got traded? Was it Oilers owner Peter Pocklington who needed money and wanted to make himself set financially by profiting off such a trade? Or was it Janet Gretzky’s insistence that they move to Hollywood to benefit her own acting career? To this day, we still don’t know the whole story, but the impact was felt all over Canada including Edmonton, as their native son had just been taken away from them and adopted to the south.