Sunday, August 9, 2009
On August 9th, 1988 the hockey world was rocked as the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings for a package that included Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, the King's first round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993 plus $15 million dollars.
"The Trade" ended an era in Oilers hockey and caused a great deal of reaction, including politicians demanding the government block the trade and Oliers owner Peter Pocklington being burned in effigy outside the Oilers home arena, the Northlands Coliseum. Many blamed Gretzky's wife Janet, whom he had married in a wedding broadcast live throughout Canada less than a month earlier, for wanting to live in Los Angeles to continue her acting career.
His impact on the Kings was immediate, scoring on his first shot and leading the Kings to the fourth best record in the NHL while earning the Hart Memorial Trophy. Ironically, the Kings would meet the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs and, after falling behind 3 games to 1, would come back to eliminate the Oilers from the playoffs.
The long term effects of Gretzky's move to Los Angeles can be debated, but are often credited with kick-starting the NHL's expansion into the southern United States, beginning with the arrival of the San Jose Sharks in 1991 and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the season following the Kings run to the finals, giving Los Angeles a rival only 35 miles away. NHL teams would eventually find homes in Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Miami, Atlanta, North Carolina and Nashville.
While a member of the Kings, Gretzky would win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player once in his first season in Los Angeles, the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer three times (1989-90, 1990-91 & 1993-94) and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as Most Gentlemanly Player twice (1990-91 & 1991-92).
Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1988-89 Los Angeles Kings Wayne Gretzky jersey as worn during Gretzky's first three seasons in Los Angeles when the Kings wore two color names (on a nameplate) and two color numbers in sliver outlined in black. 1991-92 would see the Kings change to three color names, no longer using nameplates for the remainder of the life of this jersey style, and three color numbers and then change once more the season after that to one color names with three color numbers, only finally changing to a more visible black numbers. We will never understand why they didn't use black numbers on the white jersey to begin with and why it took four seasons to decide to make the change.
This jersey sports the assistant captain's "A" as worn during Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles, as Dave Taylor was the current captain on Gretzky's arrival. Wayne would be named the King's captain the following season and remain so for the remainder of his time with the Kings until being dealt to the St. Louis Blues in 1996.
Here are highlights of the reaction to the trade and Gretzky showing off his new Kings jersey.
This video documents the second half of Gretzky's career after the trade to Los Angeles through his move into coaching.