Peter Pocklington and Howard Ballard Nearly Completed Crazy Deal

Published on February 15th, 2024 7:00 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Bizzare near trade that took place in the 1980s NHL. Did you know that the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs nearly traded cities in 1980?

That's right - the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Pocklington, and the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Howard Ballard, nearly pulled the trigger on an insane deal that would have seen the team change CITIES.

The Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky included, would have packed their bags for Toronto, while the Maple Leafs would have headed for Edmonton.

Peter Pocklington would have been the new owner of the Maple Leafs, and Howard Ballard would have owned the Edmonton Oilers.

Pocklington would have also paid Ballard $50 million in cash.

According to Pocklington, the deal was moving along until Ballard elected to back out of the deal - presumably because he found a new source of cash that would allow him to remain as the owner of the Maple Leafs.


The deal seems laughable now, as the Maple Leafs are the most valuable team in the NHL.

Back in 1980, however, things were completely different.

The Oilers were playing in a bright, shiny new stadium, and their attendance was amongst the highest in the league.

The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, were playing in a crumbling old stadium, and fan interest in the club was near all-time lows. The team was absolutely terrible, and then seemed to be no prospects that would help lead the team to glory.


Ballard reportedly needed cash, and he'd have his team playing in a new stadium with high fan interest.

Pocklington, on the other hand, knew that the Toronto market just wanted a winner, and fans would quickly return if they got the opportunity to watch Wayne Gretzky in person.


In the end, Ballard decided not to do the deal, much to the chagrin of Peter Pocklington, who saw dollar signs with the potential move of Wayne Gretzky to the Toronto area.

This was one of the most bizarre near "trades" in the history of the NHL.

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