It’s been labeled the trade which rocked the hockey world.
Twenty five years ago Wayne Gretzky headed to L.A. after leading the Oilers to their fourth cup in five years.
The rocking part was the assumption, Gretzky, the face of hockey, was deemed untouchable so for any deal to be constructed was never on any hockey fan’s radar.
But apart from the shock value, one has to look at how the trade worked out for the teams.
The Oilers were bounced from the playoffs the next year by Wayne and the Kings but came back in 1990 to win the cup. Their last cup win by the way.
The Kings made it to the final in 1993 and finally won a cup well after Wayne retired.
I would say advantage Oilers based on simply those facts.
Of course other trades went well for one team and not the other involving high profile players.
In 1975 Boston sent Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais to the Rangers for Jean Ratelle, Joe Zanussi and some guy named Brad Park.
Espo was coming off a 127 point season but never really scored in the Big Apple like he did in Boston. Park and Ratelle went to the cup final in 1977 and ’78, so Bruins win.
In 1980 the Kings sent Butch Goring to the Islanders for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Butch has four cup rings. End of story.
In 1986 Vancouver sent a young Cam Neely to Boston for Barry Pederson who had scored 129 goals in three years. Neely potted 36 in his first year in Beantown, Pederson 24 in Vancouver and never cracked the 20 goal mark after that.
Once again, Boston wins.
In 1991, the Oilers once again dealt away a man who represented the team over the years sending Mark Messier to the Rangers for Bernie Nicholls, Louis DeBrusk and Steven Rice. Nicholls played 95 games for the Oilers who went back to the conference finals in 1992. The Rangers, with a Stanley Cup drought of 50 years, made it to the final under Messier who scored the winning goal in game seven. No need to ask what Rice and DeBrusk did in their careers. Rangers come out ahead.
There are many other examples of big name players getting traded but the Gretzky deal will still rank as the top for now and in this day of chasing rings, a big name trade won’t reach the magnitude of the Great One leaving.