Whenever you trade for the best player in the game, it will always go down as a day to remember. Unfortunately, in typical St. Louis Blues fashion, what could have been a momentous occasion has devolved into a trivia question answer.
On this day (February 27, 1996), 25 years ago, the Blues acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues basically gave up nothing.
Johnson was the only one who had an actual NHL career of note. The other two had a combined total of 13 NHL goals and neither draft pick made it to the NHL.
It was supposed to be one of the big moments in franchise history. The Blues had acquired the best player in the game.
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Even with slightly diminished skills, Gretzky scored over 100 points the season the Blues picked him up. He scored over 90 in two of his three years with the New York Rangers after that.
However, that’s the part that is painful about this anniversary. St. Louis had one of, if not the greatest hockey player ever on their roster and it only lasted three months.
Those of us that were alive at the time remember that day. It was one of those moments you remember all the details.
I was in middle school, in class, when the news started trickling out. My mom came to school and met me in the lunch room to ask if I wanted a jersey, since they were already going to be selling them – there were not cell phones around at the time.
It should have been the beginning of a Stanley Cup window. The best playmaker in the game paired with the best pure scorer in Brett Hull.
The Blues were slowly building plenty of talent around the core as well. Gretzky might not have been the final piece, but he definitely would have been the lynch pin.
Instead, as we all know, Mike Keenan ruined it all. He pulled an agreed upon contract off the table because Gretzky had a mediocre playoffs, by his standards.
I’ve never been one that thinks stars need special treatment beyond what is reasonable. In spite of that, you don’t disrespect the best player in the game by trying to nickle and dime him.
25 years later, you still see Gretzky jerseys walking around. Despite the fact he was basically here for a cup of coffee, Blues fans accepted him and treated him as though he played half his career here.
Even if he never went to New York, he would have only been in St. Louis for parts of four seasons. It still would have been nice to have him for those four seasons.
Instead, the Blues are merely a trivia answer. Almost nobody outside of St. Louis remembers that he played here.