WATCH ABOVE: Wayne Gretzky’s tearful and emotional farewell press conference after being traded to the L.A. Kings in 1988
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Wayne Gretzky would have been playing for the Detroit Red Wings if his wife would have had her way in the 1988 trade from the Edmonton Oilers that gutted Canadian hockey fans.
On Aug. 9, 1988, the Oilers traded Gretzky, along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million in cash, and the Kings’ first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993.
The retired superstar discussed his NHL career and the trade to the Kings with former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson at the Greatness in Leadership forum in Lethbridge, Alta., on Tuesday.
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“I got sold. I didn’t get traded,” Gretzky said.
“At the end of the day and this is kind of unique the Oilers said, `what city do you want to go to?’ I had the choice of New York, Detroit or L.A.
“Everyone thought that my wife (actress Janet Gretzky) had picked L.A. and my wife said, `you should play in Detroit.’ It was my dad who called me and said, `you should play in L.A.’ For whatever reason, he said, `I think you should move to L.A.’ and I became an L.A. King after that.”
Gretzky said he is thrilled that his move into the California market spurred an interest in hockey in the region and listed the Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks as three of the best franchises in the NHL.
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At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six all-star records.
Now he is looking forward to the birth of his first grandchild. His daughter, Paulina Gretzky, is expecting her first child with her fiance, golfer Dustin Johnson.
“Now that my wife and I are going to be grandparents that will be the fun part of life,” said Gretzky with a smile.
“Charles Barkley sent me a text and said, `what does it feel like sleeping with a grandma?’ I said, `pretty good.’ ”
Gretzky will be in Edmonton later this week to mark the 30th anniversary of the Oilers’ first Stanley Cup victory.
The entire roster of the 1984 Stanley Cup champion Oilers will take part in the reunion, including Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson and Glen Sather.
“We started talking about this Kevin Lowe and I and Craig MacTavish about a year ago. It was just such a special group of players,” he said.
“Glen Sather used to say to us all the time, `you guys don’t know how good you are.’ We were kids. We just played. Nobody thought about winning trophies. Nobody thought about being in the Hall of Fame. We were having so much fun.”