Wayne Gretzky Discusses NHL and Southern California with Rachel Nichols

Wayne Gretzky's blockbuster trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 did what many thought was impossible: It ignited the popularity of hockey in Southern California. Just more than a quarter-century later, Gretzky and the NHL are about to bear witness to another impossible feat—an outdoor hockey game at Los Angeles' hallowed Dodger Stadium.

The Jan. 25 matchup between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks was just one of many subjects broached with The Great One when he sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Rachel Nichols.

Gretzky's appearance at Dodger Stadium, along with Vin Scully and many other Los Angeles legends, will mark the first time in four years that the all-time leading goal scorer will appear at an NHL event. In December, the league agreed to pay Gretzky money he was owed from his days as an owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. 

But despite the contentious relationship, he made clear he wanted to be a part of the historic event—one that was totally unthinkable when he arrived in California more than two decades ago:

Yeah, I gotta be really honest. I didn’t see this coming in 1988. As a matter of fact, we were more of a sense of survival in ’88. We wanted to build a good hockey club. And we knew if we built a good organization, that this was a wonderful sports city. And with the Dodgers here and the Lakers here, that there was going to be room for the LA Kings and the sport of hockey.

He was traded from Edmonton not long after bringing a Stanley Cup to the Oilers, and the deal is still arguably the most discussed and most controversial in NHL history. ESPN's 30 for 30 series produced a documentary specifically on the mechanisms of the deal and its repercussions. 

Gretzky's teary-eyed press conference announcing the deal was a noteworthy moment in and of itself. He never had quite the le...

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