Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times pointed it out last night.
The NHL referenced it again this morning in its daily “Morning Stanley Cup of Joe” email to the media.
Indeed, the Los Angeles Kings will tomorrow play their first Game 7 on home ice since knocking the Edmonton Oilers out of the first round of the playoffs in 1989.
That series, of course, was no ordinary series. It was the first one the Kings played with Wayne Gretzky in their lineup after he was traded to Los Angeles from Edmonton in August.
Let Posterity note that the Edmonton Oiler dynasty expired last Saturday at 10:29 p.m., Pacific daylight time. The mortal blow, though, had been struck eight months earlier, on Aug. 9, 1988. That was the day Wayne Gretzky became a Los Angeles King and the day a great team, the Oilers—winners of four Stanley Cups in five seasons—became merely a good one.
Winning a playoff series without Gretzky in itself presented a difficult task for the Oilers; winning one against him—even after sitting on a fat three-games-to-one lead in their Smythe Division semifinal series—proved not to be in the cards. “I told our guys once we went up three-one, ‘Don’t start thinking that it’s over,’ ” said a grim Glen Sather, Edmonton’s general manager and coach, after the Oilers were eliminated 6-3 in Saturday’s Game 7. “You got a player like Wayne on a club, that club is not going to fold.”
Shockingly, it was the Oilers who folded, after skating to that supposedly daunting lead, a choke of such colossal proportions that it has been duplicated only five times in NHL history.
Now, hopefully posterity has since noted that Edmonton won the Stanley Cup the next season, so the Oiler dynasty wasn’t quite over.
(Also, on the front page of that particular SI was a guy by the named of Tony Mandarich, a.k.a. “the best offensive line prospect ever.” Yeah, that prediction didn’t turn out either.)
The Kings lost to Calgary in the second round of the ’89 playoffs. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals once with Gretzky, losing to Montreal in 1993. But that was as good as they could do with the Great One.
After 1993, the Kings missed the playoffs in 11 of their next 17 seasons, advancing past the first round just once.
And then they won the Stanley Cup last year.