Wayne Gretzky Trade
In the world of professional sports, many of the athletes, managers and owners consider it to be a business more than sport. Players being traded, coaches being fired, and entire teams being sold are all a result of the financial implications often related to the organization’s success. Every so often, you hear of a blockbuster trade that can impact not only a single player or team, but even an entire city or country. Twenty-two years ago, the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings completed a trade that shocked an entire nation and introduced hockey as a valuable economic investment for the southern United States.
In the viewpoints of many people, Wayne Gretzky would have been considered untouchable at the time of his trade. Most people would laugh at any hint that Gretzky might be traded. However, when Peter Pocklington, Edmonton’s owner, made it known that Gretzky was available, there is little doubt that every other team in the NHL pictured Gretzky wearing their colors. No one in their right mind would think of trading away Gretzky, but in the business of sports, decisions are made without taking personal interests into account.
On that day, the hockey world stood still, as the most successful player in the history of the game was traded from Edmonton, a small-market team situated in Alberta, to Los Angeles, a team located in a city where hockey wouldn’t be considered as one of the major sports. In Canada and the northern United States, hockey was and had been popular for many years. But in the South, it was relatively unknown, and expansion teams in the south were struggling to gain recognition in the market.
This paper will discuss the implications that this trade had in the business world of the United States and Canada at the time, the immediate years following, and the twenty-two years that have passed since it happened. It will touch on how it turned the National Hockey League from a 21-team league concentrated mostly in the north to a 30-team league with teams in states such as Arizona, Florida, and Texas. It will look at the increased numbers of registered hockey players in the United States after the trade occurred, and how it created economic prosperity in these areas.
It will also look at some negative impacts that the trade may have had on the Edmonton Oilers, and how it may have contributed to the demise of the Winnipeg Jets. For some people, this trade will simply be considered as another one of the many transactions made in the world of sports. But, after reading this paper you will find that this trade was not as simple as one may think, and that perhaps it had a greater effect economically than it ever did on the ice. Afterall, it created a whole new market in the south, but Los Angeles still hasn’t won a Stanley Cup.