On August 9th, 1988, the greatest player to have ever played the game left Canada for the United States; the Great One was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. I was 10 at the time and I’m pretty sure the significance of deal didn’t register for me until I was a little bit older. But looking back at some old articles, you could see the impact it had on the hockey world.
Wayne Gretzky traded… California, Here He Comes!
Scott Morrison, Toronto Sun, August 10, 1988
The king is dead. Long live the King. The tearful end to one of the most spectacular chapters in hockey history was authored in Edmonton yesterday, fittingly with one of the greatest trades involving one of the greatest players. Wayne Gretzky, the king of modern-day hockey, was dealt by the Edmonton Oilers as part of a multi-player, multi-dollar deal, one that granted his wish for a new life with the Los Angeles Kings. And, the Sun has learned, the trade also involves equity. Gretzky was to receive a 10% ownership share in the team but if league bylaws preclude that, he would receive a payment in the area of $5 million U.S., plus a share in gate receipts from the expected rise in Kings’ attendance from an average last season of about 10,000. The latter is part of a new, four-year contract Gretzky is expected to sign soon. Gretzky, owner of four Stanley Cup rings, countless league scoring records, eight consecutive most valuable player awards, and other honors with the Oilers, was – at his request – sent to the Kings along with defenceman Marty McSorley and centre Mike Krushelnyski. Gretzky demanded that McSorley, a noted enforcer, be included in the trade. In return for the best player in hockey, the Oilers received centre Jimmy Carson, a 55-goal scorer last season, rookie left winger Martin Gelinas, the Kings’ first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993, as well as $15 million Canadian. News of the trade set off something of an emotional earthquake. In Ottawa, NDP house leader Nelson Riis asked the government to block the trade. The impact was felt most, though, in Edmonton, and especially by Gretzky and Oilers’ coach/general manager Glen Sather, both of whom wept openly during a press conference.
Gretzky Yields Stanley Cup but Deal Will Spread Wealth
Mike Perricone, Chicago Sun-Times, August 14, 1988
Is the deal good for the NHL? The greatest player is now in the greatest media market. But the NHL has no U.S. TV network contract. In fact, the NHL, in the person of president John Ziegler, has said it is not interested in pursuing a U.S. network contract and is satisfied with its cable-TV exposure. The greatest feat of Gretzky’s career might be changing that outlook, if he can. But this is the NHL.
Is the trade good for Gretzky?
He and Janet are expecting a child, and Janet has her own film career. But above all, it’s a smart business move. Gretzky’s contract has four years to run at roughly $1 million a year, making him grossly undervalued in the sports world. McNall is sure to address that issue. There is no telling how many millions Gretzky can make from endorsements, fueled by regular appearances with Carson and Letterman. Who wouldn’t grasp such potential to provide for his family?
If Gretzky can’t sell hockey in the U.S., no one can.
And if you’re feeling nostalgic, I’d advise watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 Kings Ransom when you get a chance for an inside look at the deal that sent way from chilly Alberta to sunny California. I’ve included the first part for your viewing pleasure.
Until then TimandSid-izens, remember to check out Tim and Sid: Uncut at 4PM ET on Sirius Radio Channel 158.