WHERE WERE YOU?

Edmonton Oilers

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.

 

 

  • paul wodehouse

    I was eating my morning cereal when I was informed of the trade. The first thing I did when I found out was grab a globe, and search for Hicktown on the map. Needless to say, I was not pleased.

    Also, if you’re looking for a used car, please contact me at West Side Auto Sales and Collision.

  • justDOit

    I can’t remember which town I was in, but it was somewhere in Alberta. In the middle of a miserable career playing rock and/or roll throughout the province, hockey wasn’t front-and-center in my life at the time.

    Which I think made the trade all that more spectacular to me. Out of the blue, what I thought was a constant – something that one could just assume would always be – came to an end. I wouldn’t have been any more shocked if the NHL had announced they were changing the name of the league, or if CBC had replaced the opening musical theme for hockey night in Canada.

    No, it must be April 1st. This can’t be. Ha ha – funny. OK. I get it. Now let’s just tell everyone it was a prank, and let us get on with our lives. How about adopting metric time instead? Can we all buy 10 hour clocks and forget this little trade thing? Please? OK – FINE – BUT I’M NEVER WATCHING ANOTHER OILER GAME AGAIN! HMMPH!

  • I was at the family cabin. A youthful 8 years old watching the news on rabbit ears on an old Zenith television that was normally dominated by Atari. I was pretty confused at the time why they would trade their best player. Recall asking my dad if the players they got were really good. Unfortunately the answer was no. I actually started cheering for Chicago for a while because their colors were the same as my hometown team.

  • geoilersgist

    I was 3 years old not even understanding what had happened but as I grew up I heard over and over from my dad how Pocklington was a major Delta Bravo for that trade. I’m just glad I have vague memories of the ’90 cup win and for this I was a huge Messier fan

  • I would have been just about 3. Living in what I now know as the center of the universe. Maybe it is what sparked a move back west?, I’m not sure. But I do know that I had no clue what had happened either way. I’m glad, because there is no possible way I could have dealt with hearing that. It would be like us trading Hall,Ebs,Nuge,Yak +++++ right now… for a pile of cash. I would have lost all confidence in the team.

    For this I commend you Lowetide, and everyone else, who has stuck with this team through that trade…. and the misery it caused.

  • Milli

    EL PRESIDENTE was 14 chasing 16 year old girls
    around a Kelowna camp ground trying to steal a kiss, or was it the 16 year old girls chasing EL PRESIDENTE? Either or same difference, after hearing the news of Gretzky being traded
    playing kissy face wasn’t enough to stop the waterfall of tears that followed.

    Strangely enough, EL PRESIDENTE is heading back to Kelowna tomorrow for the first time since that tearful day back in 1988.

  • paul wodehouse

    I was 15 and at home when my stepfather called (a huge Canadiens fan, and an even bigger douche when it comes to hockey) and gloated about Gretzky being traded – I hadn’t seen the news yet. I remember trying to pretend like it didn’t bother me that much, because Grant Fuhr was my favorite and he wasn’t going anywhere!

    Archaeolguy….we share the same birthday! I too turned 29 (for the 9th time) on July 13!

  • paul wodehouse

    @Arch…a Cancerian…i get it now …i had thought of you as much older since I came to know of you here …you are more intuitive than your years would reflect…as you know it all DID happen and i was so blessed to have been there to witness AND record his dozen year career as an Oiler …BLESSED I TELL YOU!!!… the image of him with the five pucks was from the 50in39 games night…i drew the numeral 50 on that puck so we could all get that picture …that night? he had a hatty in the first period…and it’s this day that was so pivotal in my own career…sh*t after he was sold off I had precious little to do without seeing Gretz every day that he was in town … and sometimes when he was out of town doing ‘stuff’ I’d get assigned to cover it … in fact that morning before i left the house to get to the airport Brian Gavrilof of the Journal (we were Arch Enemies LOL )called me and asked if I was part of the trade and going to L.A. to be 99’s personal photographer ( i was often spotted in 99s back pocket) …and then there was the six hour wait in L.A. for Gretz&Janet to arrive …they always had a flair for the best entrance to an event… late for the most part but they never disappointed…it’s so sad still to this day …the what ifs and how many Cups that bunch coulda won…imagine eh?

  • Copperblueandwhite

    I was 9 years old. My family had driven from Peace River to Nova Scotia for a little family reunion. We were having a picnic outside our little kitchenette rental unit with some other family. My uncle came from town and told us. I remember not believing him initially, and then being quite upset.

    At that point in my life, my family owned 2 VCR tapes – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Wayne Gretzky’s Hockey My Way. I had watched both about 50 times on our little 13 inch tv.

    Incidentally, I remember being much more upset by Andy Moog leaving the team in 87 and ultimately going to the Bruins. With all the talent on the oilers during my childhood, for whatever reason Andy Moog was always my favourite player.

  • Jay Gray

    I was at my grandparents farm, 8 years old. The only hero I had ever known at that point. Gone. I cried that day, and have trouble holding back the tears whenever I see footage of that press conference 24 years later. I became a Kings fan until the spring of 90. I still get angry thinking about it. I cannot watch 30 for 30 Kings Ransom without yelling at Pocklington thru my tv screen.

  • STIXLER

    It took me almost a full week to find out. Grad 1988 lead me to Hawaii where not even this ground shaking hockey news could penetrate. I must have learned by email or text message upon my return….wait maybe not….

  • Tony Montana

    I was camping with my parents in the Whispering Pines campground on Mara Lake in BC when the news came over the radio, and I was devestated! One day maybe I may forgive Peter Pocklington, but I have not reached that point yet, 24 years later, and there is nothing to indicate that it is going to happen anytime soon.

  • paul wodehouse

    I was 10. We were camping in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t find out till a couple days later when a relative came to camp with us and brought a newspaper.

    I don’t remember my exact feelings, but I was a much bigger Messier fan than Gretzky one and I do remember thinking, at least it wasn’t Messier. Unfortunetly as we all know, that day too was to come.

    Sad sad day.

  • Copperblueandwhite

    I was going into my fourth year @ UofA and was working a summer job in Ottawa….I can remember reading about the trade in the Ottawa Citizen….I wanted to kill Pocklington and may have started to bawl but won’t admit it…now I’m PO’d all over again.

  • GLoKz0r

    I was almost 7 years old at the time, and my memory is very vague. I only remember running around and playing with a friend when my dad came unglued about something, which stopped me in my tracks (it usually meant I was about to catch some justice for doing something wrong). As it turns out, he was freaking out about the trade. I remember him calling my mom into the room, and them both acting aghast. Then they had to explain to me why they were so flustered, because I didn’t get it.

    Being 7 in the town of Edmonton, Wayne Gretzky was a name that had become synonymous with God. When they told me he wasn’t going to be an Oiler anymore, it didn’t crush me… it just didn’t make sense. I didn’t even know players COULD be traded, really. I think it might have actually been easier to swallow if the Oilers had left town, but Gretzky had stayed.

    This trade did a lot to damage my hockey psyche for a long time. When I grew old enough to actually understand that Gretzky had basically been shipped away for a handful of cash for Pocklington (followed closely by the rest of the stars on the team), it absolutely gutted my joy for Hockey. I actually stopped watching Hockey for most of my teens, and didn’t really get back into following Hockey AT ALL until my early twenties.

  • OilDoug

    Lowetide,

    It is a day that will stand out in Oiler history forever.

    I was 13 years old in 1988 and I found out about the trade when I was walking from my parents house to my cousins house about 2 minutes away. I was standing in the middle of the street when a neighbor opened his door and shouted to me that Gretzky had been traded. He invited me into his house to watch the news report.

    I honestly don’t remember watching the news conferences or anything like that. It was later and over the years that I saw all that.

    I just remember being stunned even at age 13. Not by my own doing of course cause hockey was still a game to me back them and the Oilers were my heros. I didn’t understand the game within the game I just watched the hockey.

    Sad day indeed in Oiler history. My redemption came a few years ago when a buddy got married on August 9th. I was asked to give a speech at his wedding. Being an Oiler fan I personally thanked he and his wife for making August 9th a day I could now look at and smile.

  • paul wodehouse

    …wakened from a dead sleep the voice on the other end of the phone said … “Gretzky’s been traded to Los Angeles, pack a bag, get to the airport, meet Dan Barnes for your flight…it leaves in two hours…by 9a.m. Barnes and I were on a plane to L.A. with our mouths still literally wide open with amazement that we were on our way to cover the presser in L.A. that would change the face of hockey forever …

  • I was 5 years old. Too young to understand or even care. I know I missed out on the best of the best, but I wont lie and say I was heart broken.

    By the time I started to give a hoot about hockey it was the end of the gory years and Doug Weight was the team’s best player. Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton was already an ancient history too good to be true. If it werent for video evidence I might be hard pressed to believe it actually happened.