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Gretzky's trade to L.A. 25 years ago still creating ripple effect

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Wayne Gretzky's trade to the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers on Aug. 9, 1988 continues to create a ripple effect 25 years later.

Here's a look at how the deal impacted the people and teams involved:

Nine things Wayne Gretzky has done since the trade

1. Traded again

In a deal that generated much less fanfare, Gretzky went to St. Louis on Feb. 27, 1996, for Craig Johnson, Patrice Tardif, Roman Volpat, the Blues' fifth-round choice, Peter Hogarth, in 1996, and their first-round pick, Matt Zultek, in 1997. They all had undistinguished pro careers.

2. Played in the Stanley Cup final

Gretzky led the Kings to their first-ever Stanley Cup final berth in 1993 when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens. He holds the distinction of playing in a championship series against the last Canadian team to win the Cup.

3. Played in the Olympics

In 1998, Gretzky played for the first Canadian team that included NHLers. In a controversial move, Canadian coach Marc Crawford elected not to use Gretzky in the semifinal shootout, going with defenceman Ray Bourque instead. Canada ended up losing to the Czechs, then fell to Finland in the bronze-medal game in Gretzky's last international tournament.

4. Built an Olympic team

As executive director for Canada's 2002 Olympic team, Gretzky built a roster that would go on to capture Canada's first gold medal in 50 years. He held the same position with Canada's 2006 Olympic entry, but wasn't successful as Canada was eliminated by Russia in the quarter-finals.

5. Won a Grey Cup

Gretzky owned the Toronto Argonauts from 1991 until the beginning of the 1994 season with former Kings owner Bruce McNall and late Canadian comedian John Candy. The Argos won the Grey Cup in their first season with Gretzky and his buddies at the helm.

6. Owned and managed an NHL team

Gretzky was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes ownership group from 2001 to 2005, when the team was purchased by trucking magnate Jerry Moyes, who attempted to take the club into bankruptcy in May 2009. Gretzky was a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings and lost a reported $8 million.

7. Coached an NHL team

Gretzky coached the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005-06 to 2008-09, compiling a record of 143-161-24. His teams never made the playoffs.

8. Fostered a hockey movement in California and other sunbelt markets

Gretzky's trade to L.A. played a large role in the NHL's decision to expand into southern U.S. sunbelt markets. The league beefed up its presence in California by putting expansion teams in San Jose and Anaheim.

9. Became a Hall of Famer

Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 22, 1999, becoming the 10th player to bypass the mandatory three-year waiting period following retirement. He was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2000.


Nine things that have happened to the Edmonton Oilers since the trade

1. Won a Stanley Cup

Despite missing star goaltender Grant Fuhr, the Oilers claimed their fifth and last Stanley Cup in 1990 with an unexpected five-game win over the Boston Bruins in the final. Backup goaltender Bill Ranford won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

2. Hired and fired 10 coaches

From John Muckler to Dallas Eakins, the Oilers have hired and fired 10 coaches since Gretzky was traded (not including interim stints by general manager Glen Sather). Eakins was hired this summer and will guide the club for the first time this fall.

3. Battled negative perceptions about the city

Since Gretzky was traded, the Oilers have had a hard time signing veteran NHLers, who prefer the warmer climates and tax advantages available in U.S. cities. As a result, the club has strived to sign and acquire Alberta-born players whenever possible.

4. Reached the 2006 Stanley Cup final

Backed by the strong goaltending of Dwayne Roloson and staunch defensive play of Chris Pronger, the Oilers unexpectedly reached the 2006 Stanley Cup final, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games. Roloson was hurt in Game 1 of the final.

5. Faced ownership extremes

Peter Pocklington, the owner who dealt Gretzky, was forced to sell the team after he ran into financial problems. Since then, the Oilers have gone from a large community ownership group headed by Patrick LaForge back to private ownership, in the form of deep-pocketed drugstore baron Daryl Katz.

6. Faced owners' threats to move the team

Since the Gretzky trade, the Oilers have faced threats to move the often financially strapped team from two different owners. Peter Pocklington threatened to move the club when he could not get a financing deal that he liked, and Daryl Katz hinted of potential moves as he battled with the city over funding for a new arena.

7. Lost several stars.

The trade of Gretzky and his large contract preceded the departure of core players from Edmonton's Stanley Cup dynasty. After Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr and Jari Kurri all followed.

8. Received approval on a new arena

The Gretzky trade, which led to on-ice struggles and financial woes for the Oilers in the early 1990s, served as an early catalyst for the development of a new downtown arena. After years of heated negotiations, the city and owner Daryl Katz came to an agreement in May.

9. Launched a youth movement

More than two decades later, the Gretzky trade has helped launch an Oilers youth movement that is currently underway. The Oilers are hoping that young stars like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov can help the club regain some of the glory the team lost after the Great One left.


Nine things that have happened to the Los Angeles Kings since the trade

1. They became cool

Gretzky's trade to Los Angeles brought Hollywood celebrities out to Kings games like never before. Movie stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, whose son Wyatt is a goaltender, were among those who became staunch Kings fans, while late U.S. president Ronald Reagan was also among the faithful. Celebrities like Tom Cruise and David Beckham are among the stars who follow the team today.

2. Made their first Stanley Cup final

With Gretzky at the helm, the Kings advanced to the Stanley Cup final for the first time ever in 1993 a year after missing the playoffs. They lost in five games to Montreal.

3. Won a Stanley Cup

The Kings won their first and only Stanley Cup in 2011-12 after they squeaked into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and beat the New Jersey Devils in six games in the final. Before then, the Kings failed to make the playoffs in six of the previous eight seasons.

4. Hired and fired eight coaches.

Robbie Ftorek lasted only one full season with the Kings while Gretzky was there. Since then, the Kings have hired and fired eight coaches (not including former general manager Rogie Vachon's brief stint behind the bench in 1994-95).

5. Moved into a new downtown arena

Gretzky's trade made the Kings more financially viable in the long run and helped them move into the Staples Center from the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

6. Increased hockey's popularity in the Western U.S.

Gretzky's trade to L.A. fostered NHL dreams among kids living in the western U.S. In addition to California, interest in youth hockey has risen, along with the construction of ice rinks, in Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

7. Became part of a multibillion-dollar sports empire

While the Kings had financial issues during Bruce McNall's ownership era, they have virtually no concerns now. The Kings are owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, a privately owned organization that has an estimated value of $8 billion to $10 billion.

8. Have gained star power

The Kings have become a team laden with young stars like Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown. In the years before Gretzky's arrival, many Kings—other than the famed Triple Crown line of Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor—fit the classic journeyman profile.

9. Helped spawn a new era in Toronto

Tim Leiweke's success with the Los Angeles Kings helped him get the job as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leiweke oversaw the Kings in his role as president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group and represented the team on the NHL board of governors.


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