Today is Wayne Gretzky’s 50th birthday, a momentous event north of the border that has been marked for the past week or so by all manner of op eds, interview articles and sports journalist recollections. Here in LA, the Great One was courtside at the Lakers game last night with his kids but told NHL.com he was planning otherwise on having a low-key birthday.
The 1988 trade of Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings was of course a momentously sad business transaction for Canada, recently revisited by Peter Berg for ESPN’s 30 by 30 series. Amazingly, legendary Canadian hockey writer Red Fisher (pictured), now 84 and still writing, got word of the impending trade long before any other journalist. But his good friend, Oilers coach Glen Sather, and team owner Peter Pocklington both flat out denied it. Writes Fisher:
What I did do on that late June day was punch in a speculative story into my computer… Just for fun. It started: “Is The Great Gretzky about to become a King? Edmonton owner Peter Pocklington calls the idea ‘ridiculous’, but The Gazette has learned…” The story length was about 650 words. The computer was put away for the summer.
Fisher eventually learned of the August 1988 trade of Gretzy to the Kings while on vacation in Portugal. It went down exactly as the journalist would have reported.