Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gretzky Trade


"Never, though, has there been a sports transaction of this magnitude. The Great Gretzky, 27, is just at the peak of his almighty powers. Handshakes all around and the Los Angeles Kings are made a championship contender in the National Hockey League, complete with a personality who'll give them a high profile in a metropolis of celebrities and star-worshippers. The Oilers, in return, get playing talent that'll keep them strong for years to come, plus (and this was critical) a staggering sum of money."

- Jim Proudfoot
Toronto Star, August 10, 1988

My former colleague at the Star, the late Jim Proudfoot, wrote those words about one of the most unforgettable days in Canadian sports history. For many Canadians, it was one of the saddest. It certainly was a day of broken hearts in Edmonton.

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded superstar Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings in return for a rising American star named Jimmy Carson, Martin GĂ©linas, three first round draft picks and an enourmous amount of money. Peter Pocklington, the cash-strapped owner of the Oilers received $15 million (U.S.) in the deal. Many disgruntled Edmonton fans considered it blood money. Pocklington and Gretzky's new American bride Janet Jones were cast in the role of villains in this sporting drama.

With tears welling in his eyes, The Great One bid farewell to the city of Edmonton at a press conference. I'll never forget how he looked that day. His locks were bleached blond and he was wearing a striped shirt. This Canadian hockey icon, this native of Brantford, Ontario, was already transforming himself into a California surfer.

Twenty-one years have passed since that fateful day. Wayne Gretzky certainly succeeded in making hockey trendy in L.A. during his time there. Although he spent many years playing in Los Angeles, he never brought a Stanley Cup to the city. After twenty seasons in the NHL, Number 99 finished his career in a New York Rangers' uniform. He retired as a player in 1999 (how appropriate) and has kept active in the game until recently. Gretzky, now 49 years old, was Executive Director for the champion Canadian national men's hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2000, he became part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise of the NHL and later spent several frustrating years coaching that struggling team.

The Edmonton Oilers, after winning four Stanley Cups during the Gretzky era, won a fifth with Mark Messier as captain in 1990. Last season the Oilers finished at the bottom of the NHL standings. However, their future looks more promising since they obtained Calgary-native Taylor Hall as their first round draft pick. The star of the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League is expected to be a good one.


How about those Blue Jays! What a memorable weeked it was for Toronto's baseball franchise! On Saturday, they went on a home run rampage and defeated the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 17-11. The Jays slammed 8 home runs, but the talk of the town was rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia. In his major league debut, Arencibia homered on the first pitch delivered to him. He then went 4-5 in the game, adding another home run and two doubles.

Yesterday, young Brandon Morrow pitched a gem of a game and almost had himself a no-hitter. He lost the no-hitter in the 9th inning, but the Jays went on to a 1-0 victory. Morrow posted 17 strikeouts in the game. The only fly in the ointment waa Vernon Wells' injury during a spectacular catch. In his valiant attempt to preserve the no-hitter for Morrow, Wells dislocated his toe.


My niece turns 14 years old today. Happy birthday, Victoria!

- Joanne

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