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25 years ago, Wayne Gretzky was traded

Aug 9, 2013, 9:58 AM EDT

Wayne Gretzky AP

Twenty-five years ago today, hockey fans were shown that there is no such thing as a completely untouchable player. Even Wayne Gretzky in his prime, and fresh off his fourth Stanley Cup victory in just five years, could be dealt under the right set of circumstances.

On Aug. 9, 1988, that’s what happened. The Edmonton Oilers shipped Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a trio of first round picks (one was then traded to the New Jersey Devils, who picked Jason Miller, and the other two selections were spent on Martin Rucinsky and Nick Stajduhar), Martin Gelinas, Jimmy Carson, and $15 million.

That deal sent shock waves through Canada and simultaneously breathed new life into the Los Angeles Kings. Although Gretzky never won a Cup with the Kings while Edmonton would win one more time without The Great One, Gretzky helped demonstrate that hockey could work in non-traditional markets.

This anniversary has been used as an opportunity to reflect on the historic deal and we wanted to share some of that with you.

For example, Sportsnet has been extensively covering the anniversary all week, including a video series complete with interviews from the people that made that deal.

One of the most interesting quotes from that series came from then Oilers coach and GM Glen Sather.

He was against the trade when it happened, but Oilers owner Peter Pocklington forced his hand. Still, when asked to reflect on who won the deal, Sather said, “Well, I don’t know whether you ever win or lose in that kind of a deal, but you could say hockey won.”

That’s a sentiment that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently echoed to the Canadian Press.

“Remember thinking at the time that that demonstrated a huge step forward for hockey and its credibility,” Bettman said. “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.”

Meanwhile, LA Kings Insider has been publishing interviews of people that were involved in the trade. Writer Jon Rosen talked with former Kings owner Bruce McNall, who discussed the immediate impact getting Gretzky had as far as fan interest was concerned. Rosen also got in contact with one of the Oilers players that got shipped with Gretzky, retired forward Krushelnyski.

The other side of the coin is Edmonton as its citizens were left trying to find themselves while Los Angeles celebrated. Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun took this opportunity to reflect on the trade from Edmonton and Canada’s perspective.

Towards the end of his piece, he shared an excerpt of the article he wrote 25 years ago in reaction to the trade:

Shock. Outrage. Anger. None of those emotions quite cover it, do they? The emotions we’re dealing with here are not unlike the death in a family. A death not by natural causes.

Wayne Gretzky is more than the greatest player in the history of hockey. He’s more than the most dominant team sport athlete in history. He’s that to the world. But to Edmonton, Wayne Gretzky was our mark on the map. This morning our city can only be in a state of mourning.

Finally, we’ll leave you with a clip of Wayne Gretzky addressing the media after the trade:

  1. blomfeld - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    And the Oscar for “Best Performance in a Dramatic Role” Goes to …

    Anyone but Gretzky ! :)

    Forensic evidence would suggest that it was ‘Janet’ who ordered the move to LA … not Gretzky, McNall, or Pocklington as hockey pundits tried to have us believe for so many years. And I also contend that the ‘Janet’ syndrome is why Luongo will return to Florida and never play again for the Vancouver Canucks.

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      You bring nothing to this forum

  2. jhmiddleton81 - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    This trade DID change the face of hockey to what it is today, he made hockey the multi billion dollar industry it is today, with hockey taking shape in California especially, he also was the guy who put hockey on the map and allowed for it to become globally renowned. Without Gretzky getting traded to Los Angeles who knows if we have more than 20 teams? And looking at the expansion, that could add up to $800 million dollars to the pot, and with new TV deals pulling in $400 million a year, the NHL is growing every single year, and it is all due to Wayne Gretzky, he arguably had the biggest impact on any sport ever. This guy definetely deserves to be back in hockey, because of how much he has done for this league, I watched the TSN feature it was extremely good and I highly recommend watching it

  3. florida727 - Aug 9, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Had to be the most difficult time in his entire professional life. Personally, he’s on top of the world, marrying one of the most gorgeous women in the world, baby on the way, God goes to him for a loan, the whole deal. But like #jhmiddleton already posted, it changed the face of hockey… forever. In hindsight, he probably views it in a positive light, but at the time, it had to be ripping him apart. Thanks, Wayne. The word great gets thrown around way too often in sports. There will only be one “Great One” that truly deserves the moniker, and that’s YOU.

  4. kingsforever - Aug 9, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    He wanted the trade an he faked his crying. Anyone with at least half a brain knows that.

    • ishiibrad - Aug 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Peter Pocklington was broke busted & Wayne`s new contract was about to come up the following year. Peter Pocklington was a putz.

    • blomfeld - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      well said friend … unlike the many sheep who frequent this sight, you obviously understand the deal … good job man ! :)

      • jernster21 - Aug 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM

        Using the term friend would indicate a reciprocation on part of the intended recipient – no one here is your friend. Also, it’s site, not sight.

      • blomfeld - Aug 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        thank you for paying attention … and by the way, it ‘jerkster’ you idiot, not jernster ! :)

  5. canucks30 - Aug 9, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I feel old and yet I’m only 25 myself…

  6. blackhawks2010 - Aug 9, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Wayne was an unrestricted free agent a year later, this trade was necessary as a small market team like Edmonton would not be able to match offers from bigger market teams. In hindsight, best move considering these factors. This move changed hockey forever.

  7. ray2013 - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    I’ve had to listen to this story on the radio for weeks. The one thing local commentators keep talking about is the “what if” factor. Instead of trading Gretzky, Pocklington sells the Oilers, and the team isn’t broken up. How many more Cups could they have won?

    But I suppose it was good for hockey in some ways.

  8. hehateme1 - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Greatest of all time.

  9. jollyjoker2 - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    As an owner you would be crazy to trade him. He was the best and no one has come close since. Edmonton went from on top to never seen again. They would have been smart to let him walk and come out with a better reputation than what they got for him.

  10. jollyjoker2 - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Edmonton for LA? no flipp’n way.

  11. jimw81 - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    it’s amazing how that trade change the game. ESPN’s 30 to 30 film about this was great.

  12. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    At age 27, he won his 2nd straight Stanley Cup and 4th of his Hall of Fame career, scoring the Cup winning goal no less. Though he played more than 10 more seasons and did make the Finals again, and scored more than 800 NHL goals (plus some in the WHA), he never did win another Stanley Cup.
    Does that describe Gretzky… or Gordie Howe? Actually, all those things are true of both.

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