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Why did the Maple Leafs decide against signing Wayne Gretzky as a free agent in 1996?

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01-26-2013, 01:47 PM
  #1
hockeywiz542
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Why did the Maple Leafs decide against signing Wayne Gretzky as a free agent in 1996?

http://www.bergerbytes.ca/gretzky-to-run-leafs/

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It seems there has long been something inevitable about a Gretzky/Maple Leafs union. As a young hockey phenom in Brantford, Ont. — an hour’s drive from Toronto — Gretzky idolized the Blue & White. I can still close my eyes and see him sitting next to his first hockey agent — Gus Badali — at Leaf games in the mid-to-late-’70s. Badali had season tickets in the south-mezzanine blues at Maple Leaf Gardens, a dozen or so seats to the left of my own ducats in Sec. 30. During the era of Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Borje Salming and Tiger Williams, Badali would often be accompanied by a gangly, long-haired kid with a big nose and lots of acne. People around me would point to the kid and talk about the things they were hearing and reading — that he would one day become the greatest hockey player who ever lived. It seemed improbable at the time, but we all know how it turned out.

In the summer of 1996 — long after he had re-written the NHL record book — Gretzky wanted to finish his playing career as a member of the Leafs. Fletcher, in his first coming as Toronto GM, had all but worked out the details of a free agent contract with Barnett when Leafs’ owner Steve Stavro put the kibosh on the deal. In the ensuing years, two stories have made the rounds. The first, and most prominent, is that Stavro denied approval on the grounds that Gretzky could not possibly fill any vacant seats at the Gardens. Stavro was in a financial crunch at the time and had recently slashed the Leafs’ payroll. But, Stavro, himself, had a different take — one he relayed to me on a long flight from Vienna to Toronto after the 2005 World Hockey Championships. The owner, who would pass away just more than a year later, claimed that Gretzky and Barnett wanted equity in the Leafs — a demand that he and his board of directors were unprepared to meet.

Whatever the case, the situation didn’t pan out, and Gretzky signed with the New York Rangers — the club with which he finished his career three years later.

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01-26-2013, 01:49 PM
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dannyboy8920
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We don't need to win to put people in the seats. Stavro is a moron.

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01-26-2013, 01:55 PM
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colchar
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Originally Posted by dannyboy8920 View Post
We don't need to win to put people in the seats. Stavro is a moron.

Did you read the whole thing? There was another possibility put forth that you seem to have missed.

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01-26-2013, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by hockeywiz542 View Post
This is funny i asked Walter this same question at Gretzky's bar in toronto and he said to me "yep stavro put the kibosh on it". walter is a hell of a person if u ask me, loved talking to him for that half hour

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01-26-2013, 02:07 PM
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Fletcher, in his first coming as Toronto GM, had all but worked out the details of a free agent contract with Barnett when Leafs’ owner Steve Stavro put the kibosh on the deal
So if scenario two actually took place, was the inference that Fletcher was under the apprehension he was empowered to include equity in the Leafs as part of a FA contract? Or that CF had included equity in the contract as a gamble that once passed by the board would be accepted? Or did Barnett contact Stavro's people outside of Fletcher's negotiations, put the request in no uncertain terms, after which all contract discussion was then stopped?

If it's the first scenario, the move sounds possible but the reasoning doesn't. Doesn't mean Stavro acting out of irrational justification isn't possible, just appears odd for a business man of his stature to do so, as depicted. I mean...Toronto has problems filling it's seats? Come on...I think the numbers didn't seem justified to SS plain and simple.

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01-26-2013, 02:10 PM
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Pi
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Equity in the Leafs? From a Leafs POV it was a great move not to sign him then. They're worth a billion dollars now.

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01-26-2013, 02:58 PM
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the squared circle
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This is the first I have heard about owning an equity in the team. If that was the case, good on Stavro.
If that wasn't the case....well, it isn't nice to speak ill of the dead.

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01-26-2013, 03:10 PM
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deleted.

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01-26-2013, 03:13 PM
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The Podium
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Considering every game was already sold out, it would have costed the Leafs more to pay his salary then the profits his presence would return.

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01-26-2013, 03:18 PM
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Tak7
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Isn't it obvious?




To troll Leaf fans so we could discuss it in depth 17 full years later.

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01-26-2013, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Pi View Post
Equity in the Leafs? From a Leafs POV it was a great move not to sign him then. They're worth a billion dollars now.
ya but they could be worth 2 billion

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01-26-2013, 03:25 PM
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The Podium
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Isn't it obvious?




To troll Leaf fans so we could discuss it in depth 17 full years later.
your wrong, 16 years and 8 months

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01-26-2013, 03:31 PM
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Fascinating; this equity theory makes the situation a lot more logical. I never really believed the original rumours.

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01-26-2013, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by BayStBullies View Post
Fascinating; this equity theory makes the situation a lot more logical. I never really believed the original rumours.
yes and no....why would he agree to sign with the Rangers (without equity) but was a requirement to finish his career with his childhood favorite team? What a shame...Gretzky in any time of his career would have looked great wearing the Leafs colors.

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Old
01-26-2013, 04:28 PM
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Interesting. Perhaps Stavro didn't tell the entire truth, or perhaps Berger took what he said out of context; maybe the Gretzky camp gave Stavro the option for payment in Leafs equity if he didn't have the cash to pay Gretzky's contract. Totally different than simply demanding an equity in the Leafs. But it's funny how this Berger spin took 8 years to come out from when Stavro supposedly first told him.

I wonder what Gretzky would say about this.

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01-26-2013, 04:36 PM
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I get tired of these bs reports coming out years after . Gretz was on the downside of his career and he wouldn't have accomplished much here .

I remember him and his agent goiing from city to city trying to drum up a bidding war for his services which never materialized . Here in Toronto Al Strchan was working as his personal publicist trying to pump up fans .

There were also reports of him agreeing to a deal with the Nucks but the hang up was he wanted a couple of days to discuss it with his wife but the Nucks wanted an immeadiate answer and that killed the deal .

Gretz was always about the cash once he left Edm and when he signed with the Ranger he made a retarded comment at his press conference how he was the only player to take a pay cut to got o NY .

Take this for what it's worth but my father was a manager for him for over 30 years and Stavro told him Gretz would never wear a Leaf jersey because he felt he cost the Leafs a cup when he carved Gilmour and wasn't penalized .

To be honest i never felt he'd ever come back and play for a Canadian team , i felt he was exploiting our fans and media to try to get a bigger deal in the States . If he wanted to come back to Canada and it wasn't about the cash why wouldn't he have gone back to Edm where he won his 4 cups ?

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01-26-2013, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hotpaws View Post
I get tired of these bs reports coming out years after . Gretz was on the downside of his career and he wouldn't have accomplished much here .

I remember him and his agent goiing from city to city trying to drum up a bidding war for his services which never materialized . Here in Toronto Al Strchan was working as his personal publicist trying to pump up fans .

There were also reports of him agreeing to a deal with the Nucks but the hang up was he wanted a couple of days to discuss it with his wife but the Nucks wanted an immeadiate answer and that killed the deal .

Gretz was always about the cash once he left Edm and when he signed with the Ranger he made a retarded comment at his press conference how he was the only player to take a pay cut to got o NY .

Take this for what it's worth but my father was a manager for him for over 30 years and Stavro told him Gretz would never wear a Leaf jersey because he felt he cost the Leafs a cup when he carved Gilmour and wasn't penalized .

To be honest i never felt he'd ever come back and play for a Canadian team , i felt he was exploiting our fans and media to try to get a bigger deal in the States . If he wanted to come back to Canada and it wasn't about the cash why wouldn't he have gone back to Edm where he won his 4 cups ?
I think he could have made a decent impact on the team, especially those awful 1996-1997 / 1997-1998 Leaf teams. Gretzky put up two 90+ point years with the Rangers

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01-26-2013, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hotpaws View Post
I get tired of these bs reports coming out years after . Gretz was on the downside of his career and he wouldn't have accomplished much here .

I remember him and his agent goiing from city to city trying to drum up a bidding war for his services which never materialized . Here in Toronto Al Strchan was working as his personal publicist trying to pump up fans .

There were also reports of him agreeing to a deal with the Nucks but the hang up was he wanted a couple of days to discuss it with his wife but the Nucks wanted an immeadiate answer and that killed the deal .

Gretz was always about the cash once he left Edm and when he signed with the Ranger he made a retarded comment at his press conference how he was the only player to take a pay cut to got o NY .

Take this for what it's worth but my father was a manager for him for over 30 years and Stavro told him Gretz would never wear a Leaf jersey because he felt he cost the Leafs a cup when he carved Gilmour and wasn't penalized .

To be honest i never felt he'd ever come back and play for a Canadian team , i felt he was exploiting our fans and media to try to get a bigger deal in the States . If he wanted to come back to Canada and it wasn't about the cash why wouldn't he have gone back to Edm where he won his 4 cups ?
He got 97 points that season and 90 the year after. He would certainly have helped, not to mention the thought of playing for your team you grew up loving certainly would give him the motivation to play even harder.

Who really knows to be honest but to say he wouldn't do much here is a false statement

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01-26-2013, 05:04 PM
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Newfie John
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Originally Posted by The Podium View Post
Considering every game was already sold out, it would have costed the Leafs more to pay his salary then the profits his presence would return.
Simplistic.

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01-26-2013, 05:07 PM
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dougieg93
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If Gretzky asked for equity I can understand why the deal fell through. Look what happened to Messier/Vancouver where the canucks agreed to give him some equity, or at least a percentage of their earnings.

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01-26-2013, 05:43 PM
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hotpaws
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Winreims View Post
I think he could have made a decent impact on the team, especially those awful 1996-1997 / 1997-1998 Leaf teams. Gretzky put up two 90+ point years with the Rangers
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Originally Posted by KuleminFan41 View Post
He got 97 points that season and 90 the year after. He would certainly have helped, not to mention the thought of playing for your team you grew up loving certainly would give him the motivation to play even harder.

Who really knows to be honest but to say he wouldn't do much here is a false statement
Everyone was putting up points back then and whatever Gretz gave you on the offensive end he cost you on the defensive end .

Anyway it doesn't matter what impact he would have have because it's ancient history . I just get tired of the multiple stories that come out years later and all of them trying to paint Stavro in a bad light .

The team won when Stavro was the COB but the media continually attacked him at every chance . When he sold the media immeadiatly skipped over the new COB LT and blamed everthing on the teachers pension plan reps who i believe were always in the back ground and didn't really get invovled in the day to day running of the team .

And like i already said at i never believed Gretz wanted to come here because if he did and it was only about the money somthing could have been worked out . These stories how the team budget was slashed are pure stupidity , i know we were never the biggest spenders but i don't remember us ever dropping out of the top 10 and we could have moved a little money out to accomadate Gretz if he was being resonable like some stories have said ( others stories have also said he'd take a discount to come here ) .

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01-26-2013, 07:26 PM
  #22
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He could have ended his final season by ending a 32 year drought.. What a story it would have been. I believe, with Gretzky, we might have won in 99. He was still very good late in his career. Imagine a Mats/Gretzky 1-2 punch at center

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01-26-2013, 09:54 PM
  #23
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The "Gretzky wanted equity" stuff from Stavro is complete nonsense. Total smoke screen.

That off season Gretzky could have went to four teams: Vancouver, Dallas, Toronto or the New York Rangers.

A deal with Vancouver fell apart. Gretzky didn't really want to go to Dallas (he had already played in a southern market when he was in LA).

That left Toronto and New York. Fletcher worked out a deal that Gretzky accepted and it was kiboshed by Stavro - who was in full cost cutting mode at the time to save money to build a new arena.

The equity thing is complete BS. If Gretzky wanted equity in the Leafs, wouldn't he have demanded the same thing from the Rangers, where he eventually signed - with no equity in the deal?

Secondly, I don't believe NHL bylaws allows a player to hold equity in the team they play for. By rule he wasn't allowed to own a piece of team while he was still playing.

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01-26-2013, 10:05 PM
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cyris
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Longshot View Post
The "Gretzky wanted equity" stuff from Stavro is complete nonsense. Total smoke screen.

That off season Gretzky could have went to four teams: Vancouver, Dallas, Toronto or the New York Rangers.

A deal with Vancouver fell apart. Gretzky didn't really want to go to Dallas (he had already played in a southern market when he was in LA).

That left Toronto and New York. Fletcher worked out a deal that Gretzky accepted and it was kiboshed by Stavro - who was in full cost cutting mode at the time to save money to build a new arena.

The equity thing is complete BS. If Gretzky wanted equity in the Leafs, wouldn't he have demanded the same thing from the Rangers, where he eventually signed - with no equity in the deal?

Secondly, I don't believe NHL bylaws allows a player to hold equity in the team they play for. By rule he wasn't allowed to own a piece of team while he was still playing.
Lemiuex owned part of the Pens while he was playing for them towards the end of his career.
The Bruins offered equity in the team to Bobby Orr but his agent Allen Eagleson never made him aware of that part of the offer and directed him to sign with the BlackHawks likely because he was given a kick back.

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01-27-2013, 08:56 AM
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hotpaws View Post
Everyone was putting up points back then

Come again? Were we watching the same NHL in the late 90s?

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