Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kings Ransom by ESPN

ESPN has a series of 'films' coming out in their "30 for 30" campaign. This idea is to showcase 30 events or moments and explore them in a documentary film. ESPN got Hollywood names to be involved. ESPN is a powerful and somewhat dangerous bully in the sports-entertainment-journalism world, but they have moments that showcase what their power can do for good when used appropriately. The first entry "Kings Ransom" was entertaining and told an interesting tale.

Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player to ever play. He was the Michael Jordan of the NHL. He was the Babe Ruth of the NHL. He was both, as he shattered records, won titles and was a icon for an entire sport and nation. In the middle of his peak years, at the age of 27, Edmonton traded him to the LA Kings. It was mindblowing for hockey fans, for Canadians, and confusing to many others. Why would a team trade the greatest player to ever play the game at his peak?

This documentary maps out how it happened. You hear stories from the owners involved, the Edmonton coach, Wayne, Wayne's dad and his wife of Chorus Line fame, Janet Jones. The documentary gets people to tell their side of the story. You hear some stories that differ a bit. It's interesting how the Edmonton owner spins his side of the tale. I would have liked to have heard the commissioner of the NHL's side of the story. How could the commissioner of the NHL not have had a heads up or involvement in the trading of its biggest star to a giant TV market (L.A.). Something always smelled fishy about this trade. While it was great to hear about it from the owners, Gretzky, his coach and even his family, where was the concerned NHL commissioner who heard about it and allowed it? Somethign felt a bit incomplete, and maybe this is a function of ESPN limiting these "30 for 30" films to 1 hour time slots. If so, it is a shame on ESPN. If not, Shame on Peter Berg the director. This first film was enjoyable, let's hope the rest are as well.

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