August 09 2014 07:13PM
"Gretzky statue". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Peter Pocklington sent Wayne Gretzky away on a Tuesday, the same instant he broke a city's heart. Previous to August 9, 1988, Peter Puck could be defended—he brought Wayne and Stanley to our fair city—but on that day the die was cast. The story has not and will not change: It was NOT a hockey trade, it was a sale and a dirty damn deed.
- Janet Gretzky: "I know the real story. I know the whole story. I know Wayne didn't deserve any of this. He wouldn't let Edmonton fans, Canada and, most important, his teammates down without good reason."
- Wayne Gretzky: "I remember the first weekend I was in L.A. I was going by these tennis courts and I stopped the car and told my friend, 'If we were in Canada, people would be playing inline and ball hockey here.' A year later there was a sign on the fence that read, 'No Inline Hockey Allowed.' It's come a long way; there are minor hockey teams in California now and in Arizona that can compete with the top teams in Canada and they're very good. There aren't as many, but we are getting to that point."
- Chris Cuthbert: "I took a call. And we kind of laughed about it, then dismissed it. And then, about 15 minutes later, we started talking again about why he would be traded and tried to piece together some clues. One of the things that convinced us to pursue it was that the year before, for the first time, the coaching staff had been openly critical of Gretzky if he wasn't playing at a Gretzky-like pace. Before, if anybody ever said anything about Gretzky, the organization would almost blackball you. They didn't like his attitude as much, and that kind of tweaked our curiosity a bit. And I guess that was during the point where negotiations on a new deal weren't going that well and they might have let their guard down and showed their frustration in another way."
I was on holidays (I'm always on holidays when these things happen, one of the reasons I hate holidays). I heard about the news and called Too Tall Matthews (he was John Short's producer at the time) and he said something like "you didn't hear it from me but there's a press conference, maybe Molson House, don't know yet" and then I knew something was up.
A little later, I had a chance to chat with John Short (one of the real pleasures of my radio career: about 1000 chats with John Short) and he told me some background. Things like it was originally a straight cash deal, but Sather said no damn way and then the players were added (Krushelnyski and McSorley one way, a boatload the other).
There's also a legendary rumor that Slats told 99 'if you say no, I'll kill this deal' but the die had been cast.
Rob Vollman says the Kings won the trade, but not by as much as people think.
I will tell you Gretzky wasn't quite the player in 1988 that he was in 1984. None of that matters. What does matter to the story of August 9, 1988? What should you know?
It was NOT a hockey trade, it was a sale and a dirty damn deed.
PETER GZOWSKI, 1981
There are those who think that Gretzky has already established himself as the heir to a tradition of superheroes that dates back to Howie Morenz, whose magic helped the league move from its Canadian beginnings to the bright lights of Broadway, or before Morenz, Joe Malone, who scored 44 goals in the first season the NHL ever played. Gretzky's importance to the Oilers is impossible to exaggerate. The 137 scoring points he accumulated last year meant he was involved in 44 per cent of their goals.