wayne gretzky

How Gretzky trade changed the hockey landscape in LA


On the 23rd anniversary of the Wayne Gretzky sale trade, it’s only natural to take a look back at the trade’s importance on the league. Stephen Brunt wrote a good book about the entire deal in “Gretzky’s Tears” and Peter Pocklington was able to get his side of the story to the public in an even better effort: “I’d Trade Him Again: On Gretzky, Politics, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Deal.” Plenty has been made of what the trade meant for Sunbelt hockey, the Edmonton Oilers, and Canadian hockey as a whole. But what gets lost in the mix is the immeasurable impact Gretzky’s trade had on the local Southern California market. Outsiders understand that it was a big trade—but people don’t quite understand how it completely shifted sports landscape of the entire region.

The obvious, immediate impact was at the box office. From his first game of Gretzky’s first season in Los Angeles, attendance at the Forum skyrocketed to levels that only Bruce McNall had dreamed of. Gretzky was the biggest name in a game that was still a regional sport in the United States. People may not have known about offsides, line-changes, or icing—but they knew about Wayne Gretzky. Instantly, he put the Kings on equal footing with Magic and the Lakers, Gibson and the Dodgers, USC football, UCLA basketball, and whoever the Raiders/Rams were trotting out onto the field. The team had a marquee name—more importantly, they had the only name in hockey that could transcend all sports and entertainment.

The old, recycled joke from comedian Alan Thicke captured the lack of interest in the pre-Gretzky era pretty well:

“What time does the Kings game start?”

“Depends, what time can you get there?”

Might not be the greatest joke from Kirk Cameron’s on-screen Dad, but it was painfully true. But everything changed when the Kings had their own superstar to grab the sports headlines away from the teams that dominated the LA sports landscape at the time: Lakers and Dodgers.

In the year before he arrived, the Kings averaged only 11,667 fans per game. In his first year, attendance shot up 27% to 14,667 fans per game. In the six consecutive playoff appearances for the Kings after Gretzky arrived, there wasn’t an empty seat for even a single game. The attendance peaked in 1991-92 when the Kings sold out every single game of their 40 game schedule. Not bad for a team that was used to playing to two-thirds capacity in the mid-1980s.

The Kings finished the 1987-88 season with a 30-42-8 record that was good for 18th in the 21 team NHL. In the year before Gretzky’s arrival, the Kings were 5th in the league in scoring—but dead last in defensive. Gretzky was expected to bring more than just a boatload of points; he was expected to bring wins.

Just important as the success in the stands, was the success on the ice. In the three seasons before Gretzky arrived in LA, the Kings had averaged 64 points per season. In the three seasons after he arrived, they averaged 89 points (including the second best record in franchise history in 1990-91). The Kings went from a near .500 team at home to one of the more difficult places to play. Did the fans show up because they won? Or did they win became more people showed up? Most likely it was a little bit of both.

Both the success at the box office and on the ice can still be seen at Staples Center today. There’s an entire generation of fans who are buying season tickets today because their parents jumped on the bandwagon when Gretzky came to town. John Hoven from the fantastic Kings blog Mayor’s Manor shows that the new fans have provided the gift that keeps on giving:

“In the years that followed the Kings found record attendance and Wayne Gretzky continued to re-write the NHL record book. However, his most significant impact on the hockey landscape is probably just now starting to be felt, some 20+ years later. Over the last few years, more and more California-born (and trained) players have been taken at the NHL Draft, including four last year and five this summer. Just another example of Gretzky giving back to the game of hockey, long after he’s retired.”

As time goes on and success continues to elude the Kings, many of the fans can still look back to the Gretzky era for their fondest memories. Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty is a perfect example:

“Looking back to before I started writing about the Kings and the NHL, I was a fan of The Great One and had been since his days with the Oilers. I remember back in those days that whenever the Kings and Oilers were on TV, I would make sure to get home and watch so I could marvel at his extraordinary skill—talent that we had not seen before. And after Gretzky was traded to the Kings, I rarely missed a game on television.

I was in attendance at the Great Western Forum on March 23, 1994, when Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s career NHL goal-scoring record against the Vancouver Canucks. I remember leaping to my feet, arms raised high over my head, cheering loudly along with everyone else. What a great memory that was.

Of course, there were many others, including the amazing Stanley Cup run in 1993 where he put the team on his back and almost willed the Kings to their first championship.”

But most obviously, the biggest change to the hockey landscape in Southern California was the addition of another team. Before Gretzky arrived, hockey fans were usually transplants that had two choices: the Kings or the team from their old hometown. Often times, they chose the latter. With the buzz Gretzky created in the media, the success the Kings achieved on the ice, and McNall’s willingness to open his market (for a one-time cash grab), the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were born. Fans in Orange County and the Inland Empire suddenly had a much closer option to satisfy their hockey fix. Ticket prices had exploded as demand increased for the Kings—there were a segment of season ticket holders who jumped at the chance to cut down on their tickets prices and drive time.

It’s been a divided region ever since. Hard to believe that a region that had a hard time supporting a single team for two decades was able to add a whole new franchise only four years after his arrival.

Former first round pick Zach Boychuk signs in KHL

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Zach Boychuk #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes heads back for the puck during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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After spending the past eight years moving around the NHL, Zach Boychuk is moving overseas.

On Friday it was announced that the 27-year-old forward has signed a contract with HC Sibir of the KHL.

Boychuk was a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators in his career.

He did not play in the NHL during the 2015-16 season, spending the year split between the Charlotte Checkers and Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.

In 127 NHL games he has scored 12 goals and added 18 assists.

Boychuk was in camp in September with the Arizona Coyotes on a tryout contract but did not make the team.

Flyers’ Dale Weise suspended three games

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 15:  Dale Weise #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 15, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers are going to be without forward Dale Weise for the next three games as a result of a suspension handed out by the NHL’s department of player safety on Friday evening.

The league announced that Weise has been suspended due to an illegal check to the head of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer during their game in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Weise was not penalized for the hit.

The incident happened midway through the second period of the Ducks’ 3-2 win, and came just as Holzer was skating with the puck in his own zone.

Here is a look at the play, as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.

Holzer was not injured as a result of the hit.

The Flyers have been hit hard by suspensions so far this season. They played the first three games of the season without forward Brayden Schenn as he served a suspension that carried over from the 2016 playoffs. Defenseman Radko Gudas is still sidelined as he serves a six-game suspension for a hit this preseason.

Weise has yet to record a point in four games for the Flyers this season. He scored 14 goals and added 13 assists a year ago for the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.

This suspension will cost him $39,166.68 in salary.

He will be eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup on Oct. 27 when they host the Arizona Coyotes. He will miss games against Carolina, Montreal and Buffalo.

Douglas Murray calls it a career


One of the more unique blueliners in recent memory is hanging up his skates.

Douglas Murray, the big-bodied Swedish rearguard that appeared in over 500 NHL contests, has decided to retire.

“Thirty general managers do not want me,” Murray told Alftonbladet (translation per Yahoo). “I know that I can still play, but it’s over now.”

Murray, 36, is best remembered for his time in San Jose, where he used his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame to become one of the hardest hitters in the league.

His best years came between 2009-11, when he helped the Sharks advance to a pair of Western Conference Finals, and represented Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Murray also spent time with Pittsburgh and Montreal, before joining German League side Kolner Haie in ’14-15. He also had a brief stint with the Calgary Flames, though things never progressed beyond the professional tryout stage.

As mentioned above, Murray was a pretty interesting guy. A late bloomer, he was 25 upon making his NHL debut but quickly endeared himself to Shark fans.

Ivy-league educated, Murray and friends also created a beer dispensing system called the UberTap while at Cornell University.

A few years ago, Murray was rumored to be dating Elin Nordegren, the ex-wife of Tiger Woods. Murray later shot down the reports, saying he and Nordegren were just friends.

Goalie nods: Domingue has ‘got to play better’ for Coyotes tonight in Brooklyn

Louis Domingue
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Pressure’s on, Louis Domingue.

Domingue, now Arizona’s No. 1 goalie with Mike Smith (lower body) shelved indefinitely, will get another chance to prove himself when the Coyotes visit the Isles at Barclays on Friday night.

Things haven’t gone great for Domingue thus far.

Since coming on in relief of Smith in Ottawa, the 24-year-old has allowed seven goals on 30 shots in just over 36 minutes of action — leaving him with a ghastly .767 save percentage and 11.35 GAA.

(Not a typo. Eleven. Point. Three. Five.)

“He’s gotta play better,” coach Dave Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s gotta play better than these two games he’s played. We’ll give him another opportunity, and hopefully he responds.”

The Coyotes haven’t provided a health update on Smith, who was flown back to Arizona earlier this week to be examined by team doctors. Justin Peters was recalled from the minors to serve as Domingue’s backup and looked sharp in relief of Domingue last night in Montreal, stopping 23 of 24 shots faced.

As such, Domingue has plenty on the line tonight. Peters is a 30-year-old veteran with over 80 games of NHL experience, so the Coyotes could turn to him if Domingue struggle yet again.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak gets the call in goal.


Corey Crawford starts yet again for the Blackhawks, who are in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the opposing goal.

Pekka Rinne, sporting a 2.04 GAA and .934 save percentage thus far, gets the nod as the Preds head to Detroit. Petr Mrazek will be in goal for the Red Wings, after Jimmy Howard played well in a Wednesday win over the Rangers.