You thought you hated Pocklington now – Book reveals near Oilers / Leafs team swap

By , October 11, 2009 12:41 pm
Prepare to vomit... Gretzky in his Leafs Dynasty days..

Prepare to vomit... Gretzky in his Leafs Dynasty days..

It’s a bit early for Halloween, but today’s Edmonton Journal has a nightmarish story in it. Can you imagine if Gretzky became a Maple Leaf instead of a King? Well it almost did happen, and it gets even worse.

Peter Pocklington’s new biography, “I’d Trade Him Again”, tells that the Leafs and Oilers nearly swapped teams in the 1980s.

Ballard approached Peter to see if a deal involving Gretzky could be struck–but it wasn’t the usual sort of deal that’s made in hockey.

Ballard’s pitch to Peter would have brought not only Gretzky to Toronto, but Mark Messier, too, and Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe and the rest of the young Oilers.

In what would have been a blockbuster transaction that makes Gretzky’s subsequent move to Los Angeles pale by comparison, Ballard proposed to Peter that their hockey teams swap markets.

Ballard would move his fading Leafs to boom town Edmonton, while Peter would bring his up-and-coming Oilers to Toronto–provided, of course, that he also wrote Ballard a cheque for$50 million.

Peter was ready to do the deal in a heartbeat.

“I was actually pretty excited about it,” Peter recalls. “I did the numbers. I would have made a fortune in Toronto.” It was a done deal as far as Peter was concerned.

But if trading the old Leafs for the new Oilers was a good deal for Toronto hockey fans, especially if it also meant bidding adieu to the much-loathed Ballard, it was a really sweet deal for Peter. He was about to be handed the keys to Maple Leaf Gardens, the so-called Carlton Street cash box, for a “mere” $50 million.

But aside from the money, why would Ballard do it? What was in it for him?

Peter says he never knew for sure. But public records from the time suggest Ballard, whose stewardship of the Leafs had been, at best, checkered, desperately needed the cash.

Excerpt from “I’d Trade Him Again”

Thank god Harold Ballard changed his mind. I don’t think we could handle the Maple Leafs actually having won a Cup anytime within the last 40 years.

11 Responses to “You thought you hated Pocklington now – Book reveals near Oilers / Leafs team swap”

  1. chucker says:

    Once again proving Pocklington would sell everyone’s soul to make a buck. Thank God this didn’t happen.

    On the flip side, there likely wouldn’t be all this BS expansion to the southern U.S. Kinda makes you wonder how things would have turned out in hockey history. I’m glad we didn’t find out.

  2. Racki says:

    Depending on when it happened, I could see the franchise being moved to another city. The reason we have such a loyal following, I’m sure, is because of the history this team has. No history… no loyal following. No loyal following when we were going through the whole mess near the end of the 90s, and I’m not so sure the EIG cares enough to step in. Who knows.

    And I totally agree with you on Pocklington, Chucker.

  3. Mr.Majestyk says:

    I’m an Oiler fan because when I was a kid and didn’t really know anything about hockey, they were the best. People were either Leaf fans, Canadiens fans, Islander fans or Oiler fans. I chose the Oilers.

  4. Max Powers says:

    Great read in the journal today, and great choice by Pocklington or the powers that be to publish this story in there. It was definitely interesting enough to guarantee a book sale to me.

  5. Hockey Noob says:

    Hey Racki, it looks like the Oilers aren’t the only team scoring on themselves with some slick deflections. Tonight, Neidermayer scored on Giguere with a tip off a Kotalik shot. Hmm, Kotalik has 3 goals and 4 points already this season :(

  6. Racki says:

    It’s ok, Comrie has 4 points in one less game so far and costs nearly 1/3 as much. I’d be willing to bet that if both stay healthy, Comrie wins the points race too.

  7. Travis Dakin says:

    That picture looks so wrong… Even Gretzky is a righty…

  8. chucker says:

    I don’t know. The more I think about this and the more I see comments from form Leafs execs the more I wonder about this.

    I think Puck knows he still has the power to sell a few books. It’s no secret he needs money. At this point there is not one single former Leaf or Leaf exec. who knows anything about this to collaberate the story. I think it’s likely a bunch of BS.

  9. Racki says:

    I definitely wouldn’t put it past Pocklington to fabricate something for his own benefit. Lucky for him, Ballard isn’t around to confirm his story.

  10. sparky says:

    According to the book it was Gretzky who told the authors about the trade first. But he was confused thinking it was the Red Wings. Interesting.

  11. Racki says:

    Yah that is pretty interesting how he would even have known about that. I would think that you wouldn’t consult the players if you’re about to ship them all to another city.

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