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The Gretzky trade: Hockey changed forever 25 years ago today

By Mike Harrington

It was 25 years ago this afternoon -- Aug. 9, 1988 -- that the NHL changed forever.

It happened via an epochal moment some say is akin to Paul Henderson's 1972 goal to beat the Russians or the 1980 U.S. Miracle on Ice, even though it never happened near the ice.

This is the anniversary of the day the Edmonton Oilers stunned Canada and the entire hockey world by trading Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings had been in the NHL for 21 years by that point but this is the moment most hockey experts say is responsible for the growth of the sport in California. The Kings and Ducks have won Stanley Cups and plenty of youth players nowcome from the Golden State, including Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

The Edmonton Sun, naturally, has a special section that's well worth a look. It's in multiple parts, with lots of video and written by veteran columnist Terry Jones. Today's part, the trade day itself, is particularly noteworthy. 

For an incredible collection of newspaper images from the day, go to this page on BergerBytes, the lively blog by longtime Toronto radio reporter Howard Berger.

For 99 facts about the deal in honor of Gretzky's number, check out this entry on Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog.

NHL.com has a great collection of videos from the day at this page. The actual announcement of the trade by Oilers owner Peter Pocklington is at the top of this post and click below for Gretzky's memorable breakdown when he referred to teammate Mark Messier, and his recollections of the deal today.

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Edmonton Oilers | LA Kings
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | [email protected]

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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