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NHL.com's Online Magazine
March/2003, Vol. 1, Issue 6
  • Even Gretzky wasn't immune to wheelin' and dealin'

  • NHL.com's top 15 trades since 1980

  • GMs Pleau, Waddell take you inside the trade game

  • Wigge: Making magic at the deadline

  • Blake, Kovalev know all about living with trade rumors

  • Trades put players' wives to the test

  • A look back at 2002 trade deadline deals

  • Behind the scenes: Small transaction spurs big activity

  • Photo of the month

  • Back issues of Impact
  • Impact! is published eight times, October-May during the NHL season.

    Editors: Rich Libero, Phil Coffey

    Production Director: Russell Levine

    Producer: Roger Sackaroff

    Creative Producer: Diana Piskyn

    Writers: Shawn Roarke, Rob Picarello, John McGourty

    Columnists: Mike Emrick, Larry Wigge

    Wayne Gretzky
    The press conference to announce Wayne Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles was all Hollywood.

    Trading places
    Even Gretzky wasn't immune
    to wheelin' and dealin'

    "(Wayne) Gretzky got traded, so everybody goes through it, different rumors. You just play."

    -- Calgary's Jarome Iginla

    By Phil Coffey

    Throughout the course of its history, the National Hockey League has seen trades of every conceivable shape and size.

    There have been trades of players, draft picks, cash and the ever nebulous "future considerations".

    Players have laughed, cried and shrugged their shoulders when told of a trade. So too, have the fans. Trades are part and parcel of the professional sports game. No one is immune.

    A look at this season's leading scorers confirms the fact.

    Vancouver's Markus Naslund began his career in Pittsburgh before being traded to the Canucks. Colorado's tremendous Peter Forsberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers but traded before his first NHL game. Todd Bertuzzi was a struggling prospect for the New York Islanders before being traded to Vancouver and blossoming with the Canucks. Alexei Kovalev is back for an encore with the New York Rangers after the first trade of his career sent him to Pittsburgh. Even Jaromir Jagr, one of the greatest scorers in the League, was traded, going from Pittsburgh to Washington.

    In the past, stars like Phil Esposito and Brad Park were swapped for one another setting up a quandary for fans who had grown to detest their bitter rivals. Frank Mahovlich went from Toronto to Montreal. Mark Messier went from Edmonton to New York. Paul Coffey from Edmonton to Pittsburgh, Darryl Sittler from Toronto to Philadelphia. Ray Bourque from Boston to Colorado. Rob Blake from Los Angeles to Colorado, Eric Lindros from Philadelphia to New York.

    Heck, retired forward Brent Ashton was swapped all over the map. Ashton began his career in Vancouver in 1979 and was sent to Winnipeg in 1981 and the Jets traded him to the Colorado Rockies on the same day. He transferred to New Jersey when Colorado relocated in 1982 and the Devils traded him to Minnesota in 1983. He was then dealt to Quebec in 1984 and the Nordiques dispatched him to Detroit in 1987. The Red Wings, in turn, sent him back to Winnipeg in 1988 and the Jets shipped him to Boston in 1991. The last time he was traded was in 1993 when the Bruins dealt him to Calgary.

    As you can see, no one is immune. Not even Wayne Gretzky. The Gretzky trade warrants a refresher look because of its magnitude. Here was the sport's greatest star on the move weeks after winning a championship to a rich, but untapped market.

    The date was Aug. 9, 1988 and it proved once and for all that trades can affect anyone.

    Including Wayne Gretzky. That summer day, not long after Edmonton Oilers had won the Stanley Cup, ended an NHL era, while also ushering in a very important period for the NHL.

    Wayne Gretzky
    Upon arrival in L.A., Gretzky made hockey an event there, putting to bed fears that he would be a "$15 million flop."
    "The tearful end to one of the most spectacular chapters in hockey history was authored in Edmonton yesterday, fittingly with one of the greatest trades involving one of the greatest players," wrote Scott Morrison in the Toronto Sun.

    The cold, hard facts read as follows: Edmonton Oilers trade centers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Krushelnyski and defenseman Marty McSorley to the Los Angeles Kings for forwards Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993, and $15 million.

    The facts may have been cold and hard, but the response sure wasn't. In Edmonton and throughout Canada the trade was met with derision as the city and country's favorite son was headed to the United States. In Los Angeles, the response was pure Hollywood, a glittery press conference that attracted scores of celebrities.

    Yes, things had changed.

    "For the benefit of Wayne Gretzky, my new wife and our expected child in the new year, I thought it was beneficial to all involved if they let me play with the Kings," Gretzky said at a tearful farewell in Edmonton. "It's disappointing having to leave Edmonton, but there comes a time when ..."

    "I don't want to try and philosophize on what happened," said Glen Sather, the Oilers' general manager at the time. "We tried to do what was good for Wayne, the Oilers and the NHL. We all would like to be proud of what we do for a living ... I know we'll adjust."

    Call Sather a prophet in this regard because everyone did adjust. The Oilers went on to win another Stanley Cup without Gretzky before the remaining cogs in that dynasty -- Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, etc -- also were traded. Gretzky, too, would play elsewhere.

    He was traded a second time, to the St. Louis Blues, but only played a portion of a season there before signing with the New York Rangers as a free agent, finishing his career on Broadway.