As a kid growing up just outside of Edmonton, at the peak of the Oilers Empire, I remember being told three things: Alberta will never run out of oil, every city’s jealous we have West Edmonton Mall and Wayne Gretzky will never be traded. Clearly not all of those things were true…
Yes, depending on your age–or if you were even born–you may remember the day “the trade” happened, which sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings 25 years ago. The magnitude of the deal is likely lost on newer generations, since increasingly superstars move from team-to-team in mega trades or via free agency. In 1988 Canada, however, it was like the sun had just exploded.
Of course, the trade has been dissected, debated and discussed for years now, and while it may seem like ancient history to some, it’s impact is still visible. Case in point, this week’s announcement that indeed, the Phoenix Coyotes have secured new ownership, after bleeding money for years. If you haven’t heard, the IceArizona Acquisition Co. LLC, has taken the reigns of the Coyotes, and the team is staying put for the foreseeable future.
“Today is about starting over,” Anthony Leblanc was quoted saying in a press release from the NHL, who is one of IceArizona’s business leaders. “Today is about turning our collective focus to the strong future of the Coyotes here in Arizona, and clearly stop talking about ownership questions. It is time to stop talking about arena leases, time to stop talking about financial options and where the team will play next year, and to focus on what is important to all of us, and that is what happens on the ice.”
While it remains to be seen whether the Coyotes will still be around in ten years, if you had told someone in 1988 Arizona was going to land a NHL team, a blank stare would have followed. Yes, it may sound contrived at this juncture, but when you see American markets going to such great lengths to retain their hockey teams, you can’t help but reflect on how important the Gretzky trade was in terms of promoting the sport.