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.