Hobby Outposts from The North: Hockey’s biggest trade turns 25 – If you think the title of this entry refers to when Wayne Gretzky was sent packing to the Los Angeles Kings, you’re sadly mistaken.
Yes, the trade of The Great One was monumental. Yes, it affected the NHL’s growth in the southern US, particularly in California. But was it the most impactful trade in NHL history? No. That swap took place around this time, 25 years ago, when Patrick Roy was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche.
Cool the torches and put the arrows back in your holster. Hear me out.
At the core of every trade is how it impacts the teams involved, and the swap that sent Roy, inarguably the NHL’s greatest goalie at the time, unquestionably did the most favor for one team and most damage to the other.
Not convinced? Let’s compare these two swaps quickly.
Gretzkyless, the Edmonton Oilers won a Stanley Cup just a couple years later. The Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile, made the Cup finals just once and lost to, oh who was that team… that’s right, the Montreal Canadiens, led by Conn Smythe winner Roy.
So when you look at the bottom line, getting Gretzky didn’t move the needle much in LA in terms of success, nor did it harm the Oilers as one may have thought.
The Colorado Avalanche, on the other hand, benefited greatly. Roy was the final piece of the puzzle for this potent team and paid off immediate dividends. How quick? Well, it was later that season that Roy, along with fellow traded player Mike Keane, again hoisted Lord Stanley’s Mug. Roy also helped the Avs win another Cup in 2001. The Canadiens, in that same time period, only made the playoffs three times in six years and won just a single postseason series, period.
So now that the questions are silenced, let’s understand what led to the trade in the first place, because this is a doozy of a story in and of itself.
Back in 1995, Roy was hockey royalty, but for some reason was allowed to be absolutely hammered when he was on an off night on December 2 of that year. Rather than pull the star netminder after the first, say, three or four goals, Habs coach Mario Tremblay left Roy between the pipes for nine markers. This led to one of the most incredible moments in hockey, when Roy scurried across the Habs bench and told the team’s president he was done playing in Montreal.
The impact of the deal rocked both teams, but they weren’t the only ones.
The trade meant that card companies at the time were now going to be in a scramble to get new cards of Roy in his Avalanche jersey and be the first to market. Remember – this was long before on-demand production was a thing, so there wasn’t, say, a Topps Now or an Upper Deck Game-Dated Moments card to rush out and pick up off the Internet (still, by the way, in its populous infancy).
I can’t remember the exact timeline, but I believe the first to have a Roy card in Avs clothing was Fleer. The company had a second series of their highly popular Ultra brand en route to market. Two cards were produced – one base card and one No Entry subset card – along with parallels. Topps, Donruss Inc. and Pinnacle Brands also scurried and produced cards of Roy in a white mask while a new mask was being painted.
The first to get Roy with his now familiar Avs mask? If memory serves correctly, it was Parkhurst International, a smaller company born out of Brian Price’s separation from Upper Deck (more on that in a future column). Speaking of the Carlsbad company, UD, curiously included both cards of painted and white masks in their Series Two product.
Those first Roy cards, including a hilariously poetic card from the NHL’s Cool Trade program, were big hits at the time, and while the prices have settled down since, they still are hallmark cards that any serious hobbyist will have in their collections.
Roy’s attitude to Montreal has softened in recent years and he has renewed his relationship with the team, but the lasting impact of the trade will forever be remembered, thanks in part to a plethora of hockey cards that showed Roy, for the first time, as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Hobby Outposts from The North: Hockey’s biggest trade turns 25 – Image Gallery
Hobby Outposts from The North: Hockey’s biggest trade turns 25
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