If you get the opportunity to watch this 30 in 30 special featuring Wayne Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles, do so.
It takes about 10 minutes to get into the film, but it is very much worth the wait. In short, this is the most I feel like I ever truly understood what happened back then, back in a time before I even knew what professional hockey was.
Gretzky tries to explain what hockey means to the city of Edmonton. He likens it to how people feel about hockey during the two weeks it appears in the Olympics and then says that is the way it is 12 months a year in Edmonton.
Something that many of us, as Americans, can only dream about.
I encourage you to watch the special, but in case you don't or can't:
*Gretzky is not the most well-spoken man in the world. I've known this for years, but it's odd seeing an entire special surrounding him. He's awkward at times, perhaps a true indication of the kid of somewhat humble roots born in Ontario. Doesn't take away from his greatness, but in some way it does make him a little more human.
*I never knew how much conversations went into the trade. Gretzky had been talking to the owner of the LA Kings for weeks about the components of the trade. One day Pocklington, the Oilers owner, called when Gretzky was in the office and said maybe it was the best thing Gretzky leave. When they hung up, Gretzky said, "I'm an LA King."
*The docu-film gives the impression that Wayne was okay with the trade because he didn't understand why they would want to trade him. Thus, he felt he needed to go.
*He was asked up until the moment that "I promised Mess I wouldn't do this" press conference if he wanted to change his mind. He said no, cried on the podium, and couldn't continue his speech.
*Glen Sather, smiling and happy in old Edmonton videos, was dead-set against the move. Said he wouldn't trade an entire organization for Wayne, let alone draft picks, money, and players. Said he'd threaten to resign, but it was literally too late.
*Gretzy's wedding to actress Janet Jones was often the "reason" some people thought he want to LA. It had nothing to do with it. The coverage of Gretzky's wedding however was just unbelievable. You get just a small glimpse into just how deep the relationship between player and city truly ran.
*After the trade, the trade that was talked about on every news station, the Kings sold 5,000 season tickets in a week, many by people that said they'd never seen a hockey game.
*Clips were shown of Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, the late John Candy, in the stands of the Forum and shaking hands with Wayne in the locker room.
*After Gretzky's departure, Edmonton would win one more Cup, in 1990. Wayne would win the Hart Trophy in his first year with Los Angeles, his last time winning the award.
*Gretzky didn't understand at the time why Edmonton needed to do what he did. He does now. He doesn't regret his decision.
Truly a rare look into the greatest athlete our sport has ever known.