The post Wayne Gretzky Trade era prepared me for the post Nolan Arenado trade era

The trading away of a fan favourite superstar can be a touchy subject so let’s start with some disclaimers.

First, at no point am I telling you that you doing anything wrong with however you are handling seeing Nolan Arenado in St. Louis Cardinals red. I’m simply relaying a personal story of dealing with the Wayne Gretzky trade on August 9th, 1988. No Google search was required to recall that date.

Second, it is understood hockey and baseball are completely different sports but one can unequivocally state that Gretzky meant more to hockey than Arenado will ever mean to baseball. On a lesser level, and much more fair comparison, Gretzky is still a Top 1 all-time Oiler while Arenado will likely stay behind Todd Helton on Rockies all-time best lists.

Memory Lane

Edmonton is an Oilers town. Stanley Cups in 1984, 1985, frickin’ Steve Smith banking it in off the back of Grant Fuhr’s pads costing us ’86, 1987 and 1988. That’s four Stanley Cups by my 12th birthday and no reason to believe their wouldn’t be four more championships before my 18th birthday. That is until that fateful day in August when a teary eyed Gretzky said, “I promised Mess I wouldn’t do this.” It was tabbed a trade but it was a sale. Then Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, the man who owned Gainers and is largely responsible for one of the nastiest labour strikes in Alberta history (my father worked for Gainers), just sold a player we all already “knew” would be in the conversation for greatest of all time.

Of course back in 1988, there was no social media. If you wanted your displeasure voiced you phoned John Short who hosted Sports Talk (i’m 99% sure that was the name), a radio call in show. Or you wrote a letter to the newspaper and hoped they would insert it into an edition early the next week.

The other big difference from 32 years ago is that watching Gretzky play for his new team meant you waited for him to play against the Oilers so your local TV station broadcast the game or you hoped the NHL schedule had the Kings playing the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens on Saturday so that CBC would broadcast the game.

I recall watching Gretzky’s return to Edmonton game. He was given a hero’s welcome. When the play began, business was business. The more he visited as an opponent, the less and less the hero’s welcome became until Gretzky morphed into “just” another superstar playing for the opponent.

Back To 2021

The DNVR, reading the room, put up a very apropos poll question.

Based on my previous experience, the answer is “only for something big”. As a fan who owns an Arenado jersey plus The DNVR “Nolan being Nolan” shirt I wish nothing but the best for number 28. That said, I will not be watching the St. Louis Cardinals anymore than the usual when they play against the Rockies or when TSN/ESPN force feeds the Cards/Cub rivalry to the masses.

Each day of the Cards 4-game series in Denver from July 1 to July 4, Arenado should receive a hero’s welcome. If he comes up to bat with the bases loaded, the hope is he strikes out. That is not disrespecting Nolan, that’s just rooting for your team.

Not sure if the Rockies are still your team? Still angry as hell that his trade will likely forever be referred to as one of the worst trades of all-time? You have every right. Social media gives you the avenue to air all your grievances. Just remember, the intern running the teams social media account has about as much say in the teams transactions as you or I do…maybe don’t always @ them.

Speaking from experience, I tell you sincerely that seeing Arenado in red will become second nature. The caveat here of course is that the Arenado move was completely unnecessary.  Depending on how long your Rockies fandom has been you have already dealt with some heartbreaking moves: Troy Tulowitzki in 2015, Matt Holliday in 2008, and Larry Walker in 2004 come to my mind. Tulo was 30 and hampered by injuries, Holliday netted the Carlos Gonzalez, Walker was 37 years olds. Here’s hoping Austin Gomber is more of return than Jeff Hoffman was.

Here’s hoping whatever stage you are in dealing with the departure of Nolan Arenado that your Rockie fandom returns to 100%. It’s a weird time hoping to be third in the NL West.

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