Wayne Gretzky was so good none of the words in the dictionary do him justice. “The Great One” is miles from the truth and yet that moniker is the one that has lasted forever. As good as he was, and as much as we knew about the importance of money (or lack thereof), the trading of Wayne Gretzky was a stunning moment in Edmonton history. For an Oiler fan it was kind of like, and exactly like, falling off a cliff.
August 9, 1988: Wayne Gretzky is traded to Los Angeles by Edmonton with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, Los Angeles’ 1st round choices in 1989 (later traded to New Jersey – New Jersey selected Jason Miller), 1991 (Martin Rucinsky) and 1993 (Nick Stajduhar) Entry Drafts and cash.
Cash. Whenever anyone tries to tell you it was a hockey deal, please remember that last word. Cash.
I never found a way to cheer against 99, even when the Kings were beating my own beloved Oilers. The guy had done so much, was so far beyond anyone who had come before, he had become an icon and other-worldy by the time of the trade. I well remember the stories of Slats saying that Wayne just had to say the word and the deal was dead, and another story that Sather wouldn’t approve the “sale” without players coming back to Edmonton.
The press conference remains one of the truly incredible moments in Oilers history. Wayne crying, grim Oiler men and Peter Pocklington looking for all the world like a 10-year old who’d broken his neighbour’s window and was about to catch colossal shit.
It was a harsh lesson for Oiler fans. The fans can cheer, yell, scream, drink, get angry and walk their seaon’s tickets, but they are far from the decision making process. Having said that, no one knew better what that trade meant to the Oilers. The club–despite winning a Stanley without him–was never the same.
WHERE WERE YOU?
Paulina Gretzky was a distant bell that day, and for Wayne Gretzky it probably took something like being a parent to surpass the emotion of being sold to Los Angeles.
I was on holidays the day of the trade, in the USA where hockey coverage in January sucks let alone August. The fame of 99 was so big he made the front page in Seattle, and I honestly didn’t believe it even when reading the paper.
Seriously. Reading it in the newspaper and still not really getting it.
Where were you on that fateful day? My guess is many of you weren’t even around or were very young at the time. I’d still like to hear what you have been told from family and friends about the day Wayne was sold to the Kings.