Canadian History for Kids!
Sketches of Canada for August 9th!
August 9, 1988 is the anniversary of ‘The Trade”. Superstar Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League to the Los Angeles. This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada, looks at the amazing career of Gretzky, and the day that shook sports history.
“The Great One”, as he has been called is considered by many as the greatest player to play the game of hockey. This Canadian History for Kids article begins when Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario. Gretzky learned to play the game in his backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey several levels above his age. Even though he was considered quite small and slow, Gretzky quickly became an unstoppable player because of his intelligence on the ice. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind his opponent’s net, an area that was nicknamed “Gretzky’s office” because of his skills in that area. He is the leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – something he accomplished four times. He scored over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records.
This Canadian History for Kids article continues in 1978, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL, where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup championships
Hours after the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1988, Gretzky learned from his father that the Oilers were planning to trade him to another team. According to Gretzky, Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers, needed money as his other business ventures were not doing well. At first, Gretzky did not want to leave Edmonton, but he later received a call from Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall while on his honeymoon asking permission to meet and discuss the deal. Gretzky informed McNall that if the deal were to happen, that players, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski were to be traded with him and join him as teammates in Los Angeles. After the details of the trade were finalized by McNall and Pocklington, one final condition had to be met: Gretzky had to call Pocklington and request a trade.
This Canadian History for Kids article continues on August 9, 1988 when in a move changed the face of the NHL, the Oilers traded Gretzky, along with McSorley and Krushelnyski, to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million in cash, and the Kings’ first-round draft picks in 1989. “The Trade”, as it came to be known, upset Canadians to the extent that New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis demanded that the government block it, and Pocklington was burned in effigy outside the Northlands Coliseum. Gretzky himself was considered a “traitor” by some Canadians for turning his back on his adopted hometown, and his home country.
In Gretzky’s first appearance in Edmonton after the trade—a game that was nationally televised in Canada—he received a four-minute standing ovation. The arena was sold out, and the attendance of 17,503 was the Oilers’ biggest crowd ever to that date. After the game, Gretzky took the opportunity to confirm his patriotism: “I’m still proud to be a Canadian. I didn’t desert my country. I moved because I was traded and that’s where my job is.”
This Canadian History for Kids article continues after his retirement in 1999 when he was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived. The NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide, making him the only player to receive this honour.
And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada.