By johnsrolfe
August 09, 2013

Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet Jones at the press conference announcing his trade to the LA Kings The Great One and his new Mrs. contemplate their change of address. (Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

By John Rolfe

The 20th anniversary of Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington doing the unthinkable -- trading hockey's greatest and most famous player -- has been commemorated far and wide, its impact and legacy constantly assessed. The maker of ESPN's "Kings Ransom" installment of its 30 for 30 series weighed in, and The Hockey News offered up a rather nice oral history. Here's a snapshot of what the NHL and the world looked like on that epic summer day.

CAZENEUVE: Rating the Gretzky trade and other landmark deals

Photos: Superstars who were traded in their prime | Rare shots of the Great One

Notable events in hockey

• John Ziegler was in his 11th year as the NHL's  President (Gary Bettman was still toiling for the NBA).

• Mario Lemieux had ended Wayne Gretzky's streak of seven consecutive scoring titles and eight straight Hart trophies as the league's MVP. (Gretzky's consolation: his fourth Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, breaking Gordie Howe's all-time assist record of 1,049 on March 1, and his marriage to Janet Jones on July 16.)

• The New Jersey Devils, once famously derided by Gretzky as a "Mickey Mouse organization" made the playoffs for the first time and reached the Wales Conference Finals.

• Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld got himself suspended for calling referee Don Koharski a fat pig while telling him to "eat another donut" after a 6-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the conference finals. NHL refs walked out in protest after the Devils got a restraining order that allowed Schoenfeld to coach Game 4, forcing the league to use scab officials. Schoenfeld was eventually suspended for Game 5 -- which turned out to be GM Lou Lamoriello's head coaching debut.

• Boston Garden suffered a power outage during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. So did the Bruins, who were swept by the Oilers.

Season leaders (1987-88)

Mario Lemieux in June 1988. Mario Lemieux (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Goals: Mario Lemieux, Penguins, 70

Assists: Wayne Gretzky, Oilers, 109

Points: Mario Lemieux, Penguins, 168

Plus/minus: Brad McCrimmon, Flames, +48

PIM: Bob Probert, Red Wings, 398

Wins: Grant Fuhr, Oilers, 40

Losses: Ken Wregget, Maple Leafs, 35

GAA: Pete Peeters, Capitals, 2.78\

Save percentage: Patrick Roy, Canadiens, .900

Major awards

Hart Trophy: Mario Lemieux, Penguins

Norris Trophy: Ray Bourque, Bruins

Vezina Trophy: Grant Fuhr, Oilers

Jennings Trophy: Patrick Roy, Brian Hayward, Canadiens

Calder Trophy: Joe Nieuwendyk, Flames

Selke Trophy: Guy Carbonneau, Canadiens

1988 NHL rookie All-Star Darren Pang. Darren Pang (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Lady Byng Trophy: Mats Naslund, Canadiens

Jack Adams Award: Jacques Demers, Red Wings

All-Star Teams


G: Grant Fuhr, Oilers

D: Ray Bourque, Bruins

D: Scott Stevens, Capitals

C: Mario Lemieux, Penguins

LW: Luc Robitaille, Kings

RW: Hakan Loob, Flames


G: Patrick Roy, Canadiens

D: Brad McCrimmon, Flames

D: Gary Suter, Flames

C: Wayne Gretzky, Oilers

LW: Michel Goulet, Nordiques

RW: Cam Neely, Bruins


G: Darren Pang, Blackhawks

D: Calle Johansson, Sabres

Mike Modano at the 1988 NHL Draft Mike Modano (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

D: Glen Wesley, Bruins

F: Iain Duncan, Jets

F: Joe Nieuwendyk, Flames

F: Ray Sheppard, Sabres

Top 10 draft picks

1. Mike Modano, C, North Stars

2. Trevor Linden, C, Canucks

3. Curtis Leschyshyn, C, Nordiques

4. Darrin Shannon, LW, Penguins

5. Daniel Dore, RW, Nordiques

6. Scott Pearson, LW, Maple Leafs

7. Martin Gelinas, LW, Kings

8. Jeremy Roenick, C, Blackhawks

9. Rod Brind'Amour, LW, Blues

10. Teemu Selanne, RW, Jets


Soundtrack (on the Billboard chart the week the trade went down): #1 Roll With It -- Steve Winwood; #2 Hands to Heaven -- Breathe; #3 Hold on to the Nights -- Richard Marx; #4 Make Me Lose Control -- Eric Carmen;  #5 Sign Your Name -- Terence Trent D'Arby;  Other notable hits: Let It Loose -- Gloria Estefan; Pour Some Sugar on Me -- Def Leppard; Parents Just Don't Understand -- DJ Jazzy Jeff; Fast Car -- Tracy Chapman; The Twist -- Fat Boys;; Sweet Child O' Mine -- Guns n Roses

Top movies: Cocktail, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, Coming to America, A Fish Called Wanda, The Blob

Top TV shows: The Wonder Years, Newhart, ALF, In the Heat of the Night, China Beach

Wayne Gretzky on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids How SI For Kids covered the big event. (SIFK)

Other cultural milestones:

•  Yo MTV Raps had debuted as a special on August 8 with appearances by Run-D.M.C. taped during their current tour.

• Warner Brothers Records confirmed the formation of the Traveling Wilburys (George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynn, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison).

•  Michael Jackson was touring behind his Bad album, and NBC had aired the documentary Michael Jackson Around the World on July 30, the day after the last Playboy Club in the U.S. had shuttered its doors.

• Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show had debuted on August 1.

Notable world events:

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