(Video posted to YouTube by CBC)
August 9, 1988…
I was 16 and in Florida visiting my grandparents with about a month left before my junior year in high school. I walked into the house that afternoon after a visit down to New Smyrna Beach, and my grandfather, a big baseball and football fan but who didn’t know (or give) a whit about hockey, greeted me with the last news I ever expected to hear.
“Hey, Kirk- did you hear that Wayne Gadsby just got traded?”
I must’ve stared at him blankly, because he followed up with: “You know? That hockey player from Canada?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the largest percentage of hockey players in the NHL were from Canada, but my brain was beginning to process what he’d just said.
“Wayne Gretzky got traded?” I said.
“Yes! Gretzky…that’s the one! They’ve been talking about it a lot on the TV and radio…”
He started to tell me what he knew about the deal…Los Angeles Kings…cash and young players…but his words were like the teacher in Charlie Brown (Wah-WAH-Wah-Wah-Wah.) My mind was racing: Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers’ four-time Stanley Cup captain and face of hockey, the only player in the history of the game to score more than 200 points in a season not once, not twice, not three times but FOUR times…had been dealt in the prime of his life at 27 years old. My goodness, I thought as the realization hit me- if my grandfather Merlin in Florida is talking about this trade- how enormous of an impact is Gretzky to Tinseltown going to have on the NHL and hockey?
The truth is…in my teenage mind, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it.