Thursday marks the 30-year anniversary of the infamous Wayne Gretzky trade, where the Edmonton Oilers shipped No. 99 to the Los Angeles Kings. Turns out, the Vancouver Canucks nearly landed “The Great One.”
There’s no questioning just how much greater the Vancouver Canucks franchise would have been in the ’90s if they somehow managed to land the great Wayne Gretzky, who’s only the greatest hockey player to ever live.
Thursday marks 30 years since the Los Angeles Kings acquired Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers in a summer shocker. L.A. also received tough guy Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the Kings, in exchange for $15 million, multiple first-round draft picks, Martin Gelinas and Jimmy Carson.
But on the 30-year anniversary of the trade, former Vancouver Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths appeared on Sportsnet 650 and revealed that they nearly landed ‘The Great One’, via Rick Dhaliwal:
The Canucks could have certainly used Gretzky to play alongside franchise icons Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden. Perhaps he would have been the final piece in helping them win that elusive Stanley Cup championship in 1994.
Instead, Gretzky continued to dominant the NHL as a member of Los Angeles, winning three scoring titles and leading them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, where they fell to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
1988 wouldn’t be the only time where Vancouver fell just short of landing the GOAT of hockey. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Canucks were close to signing Gretzky when he was a free agent in 1996.
However, Canucks CEO Stan McCammon demanded that Gretzky formally sign his contract after a meeting, but No. 99 promised he’d get them in by the morning. McCammon said “No questions,” and kept pushing for Gretzky to sign. Per Friedman, the “whole deal blew up over that.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Gretzky would finish his career with the New York Rangers, while the Canucks would embark on a miserable finish to the ’90s decade, highlighted by the woeful Mark Messier free agent signing.
The Canucks can’t change the past; they simply never got their hands on Gretzky. But you can only imagine what could have been different, if they sealed the deal to acquire him in either 1988 or 1996.