By John Rolfe
The 20th anniversary of Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington doing the unthinkable — trading hockey’s greatest and most famous player — has been commemorated far and wide, its impact and legacy constantly assessed. The maker of ESPN’s “Kings Ransom” installment of its 30 for 30 series weighed in, and The Hockey News offered up a rather nice oral history. Here’s a snapshot of what the NHL and the world looked like on that epic summer day.
Notable events in hockey
• John Ziegler was in his 11th year as the NHL’s President (Gary Bettman was still toiling for the NBA).
• Mario Lemieux had ended Wayne Gretzky’s streak of seven consecutive scoring titles and eight straight Hart trophies as the league’s MVP. (Gretzky’s consolation: his fourth Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time assist record of 1,049 on March 1, and his marriage to Janet Jones on July 16.)
• The New Jersey Devils, once famously derided by Gretzky as a “Mickey Mouse organization” made the playoffs for the first time and reached the Wales Conference Finals.
• Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld got himself suspended for calling referee Don Koharski a fat pig while telling him to “eat another donut” after a 6-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the conference finals. NHL refs walked out in protest after the Devils got a restraining order that allowed Schoenfeld to coach Game 4, forcing the league to use scab officials. Schoenfeld was eventually suspended for Game 5 — which turned out to be GM Lou Lamoriello’s head coaching debut.
• Boston Garden suffered a power outage during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. So did the Bruins, who were swept by the Oilers.
Season leaders (1987-88)
Goals: Mario Lemieux, Penguins, 70
Assists: Wayne Gretzky, Oilers, 109
Points: Mario Lemieux, Penguins, 168
Plus/minus: Brad McCrimmon, Flames, +48
PIM: Bob Probert, Red Wings, 398
Wins: Grant Fuhr, Oilers, 40
Losses: Ken Wregget, Maple Leafs, 35
GAA: Pete Peeters, Capitals, 2.78\
Save percentage: Patrick Roy, Canadiens, .900
Hart Trophy: Mario Lemieux, Penguins
Norris Trophy: Ray Bourque, Bruins
Vezina Trophy: Grant Fuhr, Oilers
Jennings Trophy: Patrick Roy, Brian Hayward, Canadiens
Calder Trophy: Joe Nieuwendyk, Flames
Selke Trophy: Guy Carbonneau, Canadiens
Lady Byng Trophy: Mats Naslund, Canadiens
Jack Adams Award: Jacques Demers, Red Wings
G: Grant Fuhr, Oilers
D: Ray Bourque, Bruins
D: Scott Stevens, Capitals
C: Mario Lemieux, Penguins
LW: Luc Robitaille, Kings
RW: Hakan Loob, Flames
G: Patrick Roy, Canadiens
D: Brad McCrimmon, Flames
D: Gary Suter, Flames
C: Wayne Gretzky, Oilers
LW: Michel Goulet, Nordiques
RW: Cam Neely, Bruins
G: Darren Pang, Blackhawks
D: Calle Johansson, Sabres
D: Glen Wesley, Bruins
F: Iain Duncan, Jets
F: Joe Nieuwendyk, Flames
F: Ray Sheppard, Sabres
Top 10 draft picks
1. Mike Modano, C, North Stars
2. Trevor Linden, C, Canucks
3. Curtis Leschyshyn, C, Nordiques
4. Darrin Shannon, LW, Penguins
5. Daniel Dore, RW, Nordiques
6. Scott Pearson, LW, Maple Leafs
7. Martin Gelinas, LW, Kings
8. Jeremy Roenick, C, Blackhawks
9. Rod Brind’Amour, LW, Blues
10. Teemu Selanne, RW, Jets
Soundtrack (on the Billboard chart the week the trade went down): #1 Roll With It — Steve Winwood; #2 Hands to Heaven — Breathe; #3 Hold on to the Nights — Richard Marx; #4 Make Me Lose Control — Eric Carmen; #5 Sign Your Name — Terence Trent D’Arby; Other notable hits: Let It Loose — Gloria Estefan; Pour Some Sugar on Me — Def Leppard; Parents Just Don’t Understand — DJ Jazzy Jeff; Fast Car — Tracy Chapman; The Twist — Fat Boys;; Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns n Roses
Top movies: Cocktail, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, Coming to America, A Fish Called Wanda, The Blob
Top TV shows: The Wonder Years, Newhart, ALF, In the Heat of the Night, China Beach
Other cultural milestones:
• Yo MTV Raps had debuted as a special on August 8 with appearances by Run-D.M.C. taped during their current tour.
• Warner Brothers Records confirmed the formation of the Traveling Wilburys (George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynn, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison).
• Michael Jackson was touring behind his Bad album, and NBC had aired the documentary Michael Jackson Around the World on July 30, the day after the last Playboy Club in the U.S. had shuttered its doors.
• Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated radio show had debuted on August 1.
Notable world events: Secretary of State George Schultz escaped an assassination attempt in Bolivia on Aug. 8; Russia was busy pulling its troops out of Afghanistan; the Iran-Iraq War was raging as was the Iran-Contra Affair and the Margo Adams-Wade Boggs affair (she’d sued for palimony); Michael Dukakis had been chosen as the Democratic nominee for President; Sonny Bono was presiding as Mayor of Palm Springs, CA; The Tompkins Square Park riot had rocked New York City on the night of August 6-7; the Duchess of York squeezed out a 6-pound 12-ounce baby girl on August 8; and the Cubs beat the Mets in the first night game played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. (An attempt the previous night against the Phillies had been rained out.)