Monday, August 4, 2008

20th Anniversary of "The Trade"

On August 9, it will be the 20th anniversary of one of sports' most controversial trades. On that day, Wayne Gretzky, arguably hockey's top player of all-time, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a move that changed the game forever.

It was just hours after the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in 1988 that Gretzky learned from his father the team was looking to possibly trade him. It was during his honeymoon he received a phone call from then-Kings owner Bruce McNall, who was interested in acquiring the Great One. After discussions and negotiations, McNall and Gretzky came to an agreement on a deal and only one thing stood in the way. Gretzky had to request a trade.

It was on August 9, 1988, "The Trade" happened. Gretzky was traded along with defenseman Marty McSorley and center Mike Krushelnyski to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, the Kings first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993 and $15 million in cash.

Needless to say, this upset not only Oilers fans but all of hockey fans across Canada. It had such an effect that even the Canadian government tried to block the deal. However, when the dust cleared, Gretzky would be off to Los Angeles and his impact was immediate. The team switched their colors from the Purple and Gold that mirrored the Los Angeles Lakers to the Silver and Black that was associated with the Los Angeles Raiders.

In that first season, Gretzky and the Kings faced the Oilers in the Smythe Division Semifinals. Facing a 3-1 series deficit, Gretzky and the Kings rallied and won the series in seven games.
He made many popular returns to Edmonton. The first time back in 1988, Gretzky received a four-minute standing ovation. When he came back in 1989, Gretzky would break Gordie Howe's career points record with a goal.

Gretzky's effect in Los Angeles spurned many things. Two more franchises were born in California (Sharks and the-then Mighty Ducks). Non-traditional hockey fans were selling out the Forum, a building more known for the other sports tenants, the Lakers. It also proved that hockey below the Sun Belt, could exist and be popular.

After nine years in Los Angeles that saw Gretzky guide the Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final (where they lost in five games), Gretzky was traded again. On Februray 27, 1996, Gretzky was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson and two draft choices. Gretzky played out the remainder part of that 1995-96 season with the Blues, leading them to the Conference Semifinals. Unfortunately, it was Gretzky's giveaway in Game 7 which led to Steve Yzerman's famous double-OT goal in a 1-0 Red Wings win.

Gretzky would finish his career with the New York Rangers, but he failed to do what he did four times with the Oilers -- win a Stanley Cup. But that doesn't overshadow what most people remember as one of the most memorable days in sports history. Many people will never forget where they were on August 9, 1988, the day hockey (and sports) changed forever.

Other famous hockey trades:
May 15, 1967
The Boston Bruins acquire Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Blackhawks for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris

Dec. 6, 1995
The Colorado Avalanche trade Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko and Jocelyn Thibault to the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane.

June 30, 1992
The Quebec Nordiques trade Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, Ron Hextall, two draft picks and $15 million

Other famous sports trades:
The Cubs trade Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio

The Mets trade Tom Seaver to the Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman.

The Athletics trade Mark McGwire to the Cardinals for T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick, Blake Stein

The Baltimore Colts traded John Elway's draft rights to the Denver Bronocs for quarterback Mark Hermann, the rights to offensive tackle Chris Hinton and a first-round pick in the 1984 draft (Ron Solt).

June 9, 1980
The Golden State Warriors traded center Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick in the 1980 draft (Kevin McHale) to the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 pick in the draft, which they used to take center Joe Barry Carroll, and the No. 13 choice, which they used on guard Rickey Brown

October 12, 1989
The Dallas Cowboys trade Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for five players, six conditional draft choices and a 1992 first-round pick. The Cowboys would use those draft choices on running back Emmitt Smith and safety Darren Woodson.

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