On this day in 1988, Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky requested the traded. He was sent to the Kings with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley. Edmonton received Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelina, three first-round draft picks and cash.
The trade was monumental to say the least. It single-handedly changed the sports culture in this country, helping the growth of the league in the U.S. Without Gretzky’s move to La La Land, the league wouldn’t have been able to successfully expand to non-traditional American hockey markets in western and southern states. It helped to transform the league in the early to mid 1990s.
Gretzky was already popular before, as he had already cemented himself as one of the best. Adding L.A. to the picture took it to a whole new level. His popularity, combined with the fact that he played in Los Angeles, put the NHL on national television, made headlines throughout the United States and had a gigantic influence on the sport’s growth in new markets.
Shortly after Gretzky’s trade, the NHL added five expansion clubs: two in Florida (Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992-93 and Florida Panthers in 1993-94) and two more in California (San Jose Sharks in 1991-92 and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993-94).