30 films, 30 reasons to watch ESPN
Wayne Gretzky, shown here with his wife, Janet Jones, is the subject of Kings Ransom, premiering Tuesday as part of ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary series.
"30 for 30," the 30-part project from ESPN Films commemorating the network's 30th anniversary, gives the floor each Tuesday to such prominent filmmakers as Barry Levinson ("Diner," "Good Morning, Vietnam"), Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights," "Hancock"), Frank Marshall ("Alive," "Arachnophobia") and John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood," "2 Fast 2 Furious") to explore topics ranging from the 1980 title fight between Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali, the end of the USFL, and the rise and fall of CBS football analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder to the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, which continued to play on after the Colts left town under cover of night in 1984. Seven films are scheduled for this fall, with the rest slated to run throughout 2010.
The series opens Tuesday, Oct. 6, with Berg's "Kings Ransom," which looks at the shocking 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, a deal that broke the heart of not only a city but of an entire country, while placing "the Great One" in a city of many other megastars.
Here Gretzky, now 48 and part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes impassively recalls the events leading up to the trade. Over a round of golf with Berg, Gretzky tells of how persistent rumors of the impending deal prompted him to confront Oilers owner Peter Pocklington. When Pocklington confirmed that he indeed was trying to work something out with the Kings rather than lose him to free agency in a year, he gave Gretzky the right to negotiate a contract with Kings owner Bruce McNall.
When he found out how much the Kings were giving up for him, Gretzky chuckles as he recalls telling McNall, "Bruce, you've got to get something back here. I can't play by myself. I need some help. I gotta have a couple of guys come with me."