Edmonton - August 8, 2013 - Back in 1988, I was a 15 year old kid living in Edmonton. I was in the middle of my summer holidays and playing sports with my friends on a daily basis. Be it soccer, baseball, tennis, football or a game of summer street hockey, we were all out and about and enjoying our time away from school. Back then, if I could have been out playing a sport 20 hours a day, I would have been in heaven. It was not easy to get me back into the house those days, nevermind not leaving it at all. Well, that changed on the morning of August 9th, 1988.
I woke up early that morning to rumours on the radio of Wayne Gretzky possibly being traded to the Los Angeles Kings. In 1988, the ease of finding info is nothing like today. I had to jump from my radio to local ITV, CFRN and CBC “Breaking News” stories to see what was going on. I didn’t believe it for a minute…no way the Oilers would trade the best player in the world. As the morning moved along the rumours continued and I started to worry…a little. There was no way I was going to go and hang out with my friends until I knew for sure this wasn’t going to happen.
It was too long ago for me to remember what time it was but I remember all the media outlets confirming that Gretzky was indeed going to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, I heard Rod Phillips, the Oilers Hall of Fame play by play man, come on the radio and confirm that the deal was indeed happening. Even as a kid, I could recognize the hurt in Phillips voice on the air. He was lost for words and trying hard to hold back tears…something I couldn’t do. I was crushed!!!
I watched the soon to follow press conference in stunned silence and I could not believe what I was watching. The best player in the NHL and best player on my hockey team was on my TV crying like a baby about having to leave the Edmonton Oilers…I did not get it. Most people were angry at Peter Pocklington and wanted blood. At that moment, I didn’t care about Pocklington…all I wanted to figure out was why. Why would you trade Wayne Gretzky?
It may be hard for some people to understand but the Edmonton Oilers were everything to me as a kid. I followed the team like a religion from the 1981-82, when I was 8 years old. From the 1981-1982 thru to the 1987-1988 I did not miss a single game on tv or radio. I listened to every broadcast that Rod Phillips did, whether the game was on the tube or not. If I was out doing something, I always had my little radio and one piece earphone with me. I kept player stats in my special notebook from every game...I even tracked the Molson Cup Three Stars every night!!!
I had just watched my team win their fourth Stanley Cup in the past five years and they did it with ease. They took apart the hated Calgary Flames in four straight to remind everyone that 1986 was a fluke and the Oilers would be a force for many more years. After they swept the Boston Bruins all I could think that about: How many more can the win?
Then August 9th, 1988 happened and it all changed. When I woke up the next day, I was hoping it never happened but it obviously did. I went back out to hangout with my friends and my summer holidays resumed…but my Edmonton Oilers would never be the same.