Having made a fortune in auto dealerships and real estate, high school dropout Peter Pocklington was one of the richest men in Canada when he and Nelson K. Skalbania cut a deal in October 1976 at a steak house before a group of reporters. For a Rolls Royce Phaeton which had been used in The Great Gatsby (1974), a painting by Maurice Utrillo , and the $150,000 diamond ring off of his wife's finger, Pocklington became co-owner of the Edmonton Oilers. He became full-owner in 1977 when Skalbania decided that the Oilers would not be joining the NHL anytime soon. Skalbania bought the Indianapolis Racers in 1978, and signed 17 year old Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds center Wayne Gretzky to a personal services contract. Gretzky was with the Racers for just 8 games when, on the advice of Glen Sather , Pocklington bought him and two other players for $700,000. When the Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Québec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets were admitted into the NHL for the 1979-1980 season, each team was allowed to keep 2 goalies and 2 skill players. Under the rules, Gretzky was not eligible to be protected. However, Pocklington had signed the phenom to a personal services contract. He shrewdly used that contract to force the league to accept the Oilers, and to prevent Gretzky from being put into the NHL entry draft pool. Supported by future Hall of Famers Jari Kurri , Mark Messier , Glenn Anderson , Paul Coffey , and Grant Fuhr , Gretzky spearheaded the Oilers to 4 Stanley Cups in 5 years. The team's success, however, could not offset its owner's financial woes. On 9 August 1988, Pocklington sold Gretzky, Marty McSorley , and Mike Krushelnyski to Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall for Jimmy Carson , Martin Gelinas , $15 million cash, and the Kings' first-round picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. "The Trade," as it is came to be known, so upset Canadians, one lawmaker demanded that the government buy Gretzky's contract so it could be sold to a Canadian team. Oliers fans even burned Pocklington in effigy. Gretzky, who blasted Pocklington in his 1990 autobiography as "a cheapskate", eventually made peace with his former owner, even admitting in "30 for 30: Kings Ransom" that he had given Pocklington no choice but to deal him. Forced to sell the Oilers in 1998, Pocklington moved to California in 2002. In August 2008, he filed for bankruptcy, listing debts of $19.6 million and assets of just $2,900.
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