Los Angeles Kings: The Wayne Gretzky Sweater Card and the Hope of Cool

In 1988, black, silver and white was a menacing color combination for a sports jersey.  

In a world of jerseys still bursting with Technicolor, only football’s renegades, the Los Angeles Raiders, shrouded themselves in such darkness.  The only thing missing from this fashion statement of intimidation was a pair of brass knuckles.

That August, the royally draped but historically jesterish1 Los Angeles Kings pirated the Raiders’ look.  They also traded for a player good enough to be called “The Great One.”

Even in a city teeming with stars, people noticed.  Hollywood celebs who didn’t know hockey from hookers helped the Kings become the first professional Los Angeles sports franchise to sell out every home game in a season (via the Los Angeles Times).  N.W.A., the Compton-based gangsta rap group that had literally just invented the term “gangsta rap,” started repping Kings snapbacks.

And in Monterey Park, an L.A. suburb best known for being the first American city with a majority Asian population2, a pudgy Taiwanese second-grader who repped Pro Wings finally got into something cool.

Two months later, the Great Gretzky debuted before an expectant, sellout crowd at the Great Western Forum.  That same arena had been a little more than half full on opening night last season. This was the first time in the team’s 22-year-old history that the Kings had sold out their home opener, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As if on cue, Gretzky conjured a goal on his very first shot as a King.  The Kings went on to win that game 8-2.

In conjunction with the season’s opening month, Topps released its annual hockey card set. Because printing and packing the cards had to be done earlier in the summer to meet this release date, summer transactions had always been represented with a barely decipherable line of text or preh...

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