Friday, August 08, 2008

The Gretzky deal: 20 years later

Tomorrow's the 20th anniversary of the trade that sent Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles, a rather earth-shattering deal at a time when franchise players really were, more often than not, just that.

I'm a little late to the party, but I did want to point out USA Today's Kevin Allen's good read on the subject:
After Gretzky moved to L.A., he was seen often in commercials. He made the tour of talk shows. In 1989 and 1990, the Kings played all of their exhibition games in non-traditional markets. Gretzky's arrival made the NHL hotter than it had ever been, and on Aug. 15, 1990, nine cities applied for NHL expansion franchises, including Houston, Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario. Ottawa and Tampa Bay joined the league in 1992-93 followed by Anaheim and Florida in 1993-94.
I do a radio bit out in Edmonton every week on Thursdays or Fridays, and as part of today's discussion, host Bob Stauffer wondered how many more Stanley Cups those then-dominant Oilers could have won had they kept Gretzky in the fold.

Six? Seven? Maybe eight? Surely more than five, in any event, given the cast that was still there.

Former Kings owner Bruce McNall made it happen, so he gets the last word: "This deal probably has more impact in the sports world than any other deal in sports history."
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11 Comments:

At 1:31 AM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

...host Bob Stauffer wondered how many more Stanley Cups those then-dominant Oilers could have won had they kept Gretzky in the fold....

How many Stanley Cups would the Oilers have won had Peter Pocklington not won Gretzky in a bakcgammon game with Nelson Skalbania?

 
At 3:28 AM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Hooks Orpik said...

Oilers/Penguins Cup finals in the early '90s would have been pretty ultimate.

Lemieux v. Gretzky, Messier v. Francis, Kurri v. Jagr, Tocchet v. Anderson, Fuhr v. Barrasso. And Paul Coffey for good measure. Wow.

Shame it never played out that way. The famous Gretzky/Lemieux debate probably wouldn't even be up for discussion.

 
At 6:30 AM, August 09, 2008, Anonymous vadim sharifijanov said...

@ the poster above, kevin stevens and larry murphy say hi. that said, the oilers would have owned the penguins. especially in the second half of the 80s, the oilers' defensive system was amazing and they had the role players to completely dominate both sides of the puck. plus, discounting the wayne vs. mario debate, i'd think that the offensive genius of the oilers' top offensive players (young coffey, kurri, messier, anderson, simpson) can make things happen seemingly out of nothing far more than the penguins' top offensive players (stevens, young jagr, older coffey, francis, recchi/tocchet).

@ the bruce mcnall quote, babe ruth says hi.

 
At 9:31 AM, August 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gretzky just had to have his 2M salary. It's all about money.

 
At 12:48 PM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

How many Stanley Cups would the Oilers have won had Peter Pocklington not won Gretzky in a bakcgammon game with Nelson Skalbania?

That's actually an urban myth, from what I read in Ed Willes' WHA book. Skalbania needed cash to keep the Racers alive, so he was willing to give Gretzky away for money alone. I think the backgammon thing was actually an offer to compete over Gretzky's rights by Pocklington to Winnipeg Jets owner Barry Shenkarow, but Shenkarow declined.

Oilers/Penguins Cup finals in the early '90s would have been pretty ultimate.

That would have been the best Final in history, no matter who won. And it would've gone seven games, too.

As for the topic at hand, I hate to quote myself, but this is what I've said on both Kukla's and CinO:

"The NHL can fuck right off with this asinine commemoration. This was The Day the Music Died, for Christ's sake. The spark for the second wave of salary escalation. The spark for a new round of southern expansion. The Point of No Return for the dismantlement of the NHL's last dynasty. The day that lining some douchenozzles' pockets became more important than winning the fucking Cup."

(Adjusted with a suggestion from Bruce.)

 
At 5:03 PM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

St. Wayne was at least partially the author of his own fate.

In the one-hour Wayne-u-mentary on the first night of Gretzky Week, 99 admitted that he pushed to renegotiate the 21-year deal he and Gus Badali signed with Pocklington in 1979. He talks about other guys making a million bucks while he was making $250K.

He acknowledged that by the end of the new 5-year deal he'd no longer be an Oiler. (ie. he'd be traded, like Moog and Coffey before him).

Gretzky also talked about how his father tried to convince him to to "choose" Detroit. That implies 99 had a much bigger hand in things than most fans are willing to acknowledge. In fact, when Puck Daddy posted this tidbit this week, he got shouted down for posting non-news.

Gretzky also admitted that Slats told him he could stop the trade. Even at the last minute. And Gretzky declined.

Sure, Pocklington is an easy figure to hate: blaming Janet for the trade, the Gainers strike, Alberta government bailout, holding the city hostage while he threatened to move the team, etc.

But let's not be naive. Gretzky was, by the time of the trade, a powerful figure.

He wanted to be paid off. We all do, unless we're Tibetan monks. He took steps that led from A to B to C ya later, Wayne.

 
At 5:16 PM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Oh, I'm well aware of Gretzky's part in things; hence, my pluralization of "douchenozzle." I saw the same Wayne-u-mentary you did. I still don't think it's something exactly worthy of celebration, for its overall impact on pro hockey.

 
At 9:14 AM, August 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it's up to debate how good or bad it was for the NHL that they expanded to Sunbelt after 99 was traded to Kings there's no denying that the real impact is starting to show years later.

USA hockey is in great shape as far as young players go and if you look at timing of this change (first rounders) and The Trade it's easy to see it's impact.

California is not the only state where hockey rinks have been built left and right. Registered players have increased threefold.

It's almost funny that Canadian kid from Brantford changed US hockey just by wanting to be paid fairly.

IMO Gretzky in the best hockey player ever although I love Bobby Orr the most. But even those that think Orr, Howe, Rocket or Lemieux is better than 99 must admit that Wayne Gretzky is the MVP (Most Valuable Person) in hockey history.

Gift to hockey that keeps on giving years after his playing career was over. And one big part of this is The Trade 20 years ago.

How would have hockey changed if Gretzky had stayed in the City of Champions and won eight cups? In the big picture not much. Period.

I salute you, Wayne, for not keeping you promise to your buddy Mess!

 
At 12:27 PM, August 10, 2008, Blogger Delicious said...

This was The Day the Music Died, for Christ's sake. The spark for the second wave of salary escalation. The spark for a new round of southern expansion. The Point of No Return for the dismantlement of the NHL's last dynasty. The day that lining some douchenozzles' pockets became more important than winning the fucking Cup."

-- what's wrong with salary escalation? Once baseball let the genie out of the bottle in the 80s (who told them that people would spend much more on tickets than they thought) the fans were bound to get sheared. And I'd rather have the players get more of that money than say, James Dolan.

-- The Southern Expansion is a generation-long experiment. In a perfect world, I think the NHL should close up shop where it doesn't seem to be taking (Miami, Phoenix) in order to feed Canada more, but the Ducks, Sharks, and Stars are all Good Things. And there's a lot of people here.

-- This can't possibly be the day that lining pockets became more important than winning the Cup unless it is also Harold Ballard's birthday.

 
At 9:14 PM, August 10, 2008, Blogger Lord Bob said...

To be fair to Gretz circa 1989, if you were told the owner of your hockey team wanted to screw over the city and sell you to California so he could keep his increasingly impractical lifestyle afloat and a week later the GM said "I think I can stop this," how enthusiastic would you be to say "sure! I want to stay on a team which the owner is trying to dismantle!"

Yes, Gretzky wanted something for himself. No, as an Oilers fan I don't hold that in the least against him.

 
At 1:58 PM, August 11, 2008, Anonymous Motorokr said...

wow has it really been 20 years already?!?! Time flies!

 

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