Since there were some relatively exciting trades this off season, I thought it would be fun to revisit the most exciting trade in NHL history. If you have no idea what trade I am talking about stop reading now, you are a horrible Kings fan. Okay that was harsh, I am talking about when the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. Here is when you sigh and ohh and ahh like you knew what I was getting at, because his picture is in the headline! August 9th, 1988 the trade of the Century!
Wayne went from playing in front of family, friends and die hard fans on the best team in the league, to a crowd of strangers on the second worst team in the league. He was sold for the price of 15 million dollars, 5 draft picks and a couple of players. That definitely puts a contract like Jonathan Quicks into perspective, because what would Gretzky be worth today? I can answer that, a heck of a lot more than 15 million dollars and a few draft picks!
Wayne wanted to be the highest paid player in the game, because he believed he deserved it. Few would argue with his wishes, especially back then. So I have to ask, do you think if Wayne was a 27 years old with the stats he had at that age, would he be the highest paid player in the NHL today? Gretzky deserved to be paid that much, and clearly it was a difficult decision. That trade changed hockey, you can agree or disagree, but deep down you know it did. Gretzky could have stayed and potentially won 4 more Stanley Cups, but he didn’t. Wayne Gretzky becoming an LA King was a positive thing, regardless of the money, it was great for the sport of hockey. We now have 3 professional hockey teams in California and a large amount of players coming from the Los Angeles area, which would not have been likely had Gretzky never been traded to the Kings.
Watching him address the media, when he was leaving Edmonton, is one of the most amazing glimpses at a players emotions that you will ever see. He truly loved being an Edmonton Oiler, loved his team, loved the fans and loved the city of Champions. It was time for both sides to move on and it had repercussions for both sides.
Gretzky made the Kings relevant in Los Angeles, not unlike this past season Stanley Cup Champion Kings. In LA the Lakers will always be relevant, but the Kings have to work for it. A big trade or a run in the playoffs can change the dynamic of the game, but the game has to be played for this to happen. The Wayne Gretzky trade shows us that it’s important to keep expanding this game into new markets. To keep progressing forward and not take steps backwards. Right now the NHL could learn from the past, and end this lockout and allow the players to do what they do best, play hockey!