On August 9, 1988, the NHL was forever changed with the single stroke of a pen. The Edmonton Oilers, fresh off their fourth Stanley Cup victory in five years, signed a deal that sent Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian national treasure and the greatest hockey player ever to play the game, to the Los Angeles Kings in a multi-player, multi-million dollar deal. As bewildered Oiler fans struggled to make sense of the unthinkable, fans in Los Angeles were rushing to purchase season tickets at a rate so fast it overwhelmed the Kings box office. Overnight, a franchise largely overlooked in its 21-year existence was suddenly playing to sellout crowds and standing ovations, and a league often relegated to "little brother" status exploded from 21 teams to 30 in less than a decade. Acclaimed director Peter Berg presents the captivating story of the trade that knocked the wind out of an entire country, and placed a star-studded city right at the humble feet of a 27-year-old kid, known simply as "The Great One."
Peter Berg is a prolific talent with a taste for challenging, compelling material, whether as a writer, director, producer or actor. As a director, Berg, who Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers calls affectionately "a genuine wild man," made his debut with the cult classic "Very Bad Things," starring Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, and Christian Slater. Berg went on to direct the action hit "The Rundown," starring The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, and Christopher Walken, and the critically acclaimed "Friday Night Lights," based on the bestselling novel about Texas football by H.G. Bissinger, starring Billy Bob Thornton. The latter film was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2004 by David Ansen of Newsweek.
Berg followed up in 2007 with "The Kingdom," a Michael Mann-produced political thriller set in Saudi Arabia, starring Academy Award winners Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper, also with Jennifer Garner. Berg's latest film, "Hancock," starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman was one of the biggest grossing films of 2008.
On the television side, Berg is the creator and executive producer of NBC's Peabody and Emmy Award-winning drama "Friday Night Lights." He also wrote, produced and directed ABC's critically acclaimed drama series, "Wonderland," which delved into the lives of the doctors at a New York psychiatric hospital.
Pete recently directed the Superbowl Hulu.com commercial featuring Alec Baldwin, which both The New York Times and Time magazine named best spot of Superbowl XLIII.
My relationship with Wayne goes back to the 1990s when he invited me to play in his softball tournament in Brantford, Ontario. He wanted to get some actors in the game and I was a big hockey fan, having played it growing up in Chicago. I thought it would be a small game, but there were about 20,000 people there. First play of the game, I got a grounder at shortstop and threw out the runner and the crowd started booing me. Turns out it was Gordie Howe. I was humiliated. That began my personal relationship with Wayne. Through the years, I went to lots of Kings games, and we played lots of golf and poker together. Knowing Wayne is like knowing one of those rare human beings like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, who are so utterly dominant in their sport that it's mesmerizing to be around them. The trade to the Kings was not only a huge moment in his career, but also a very contained and interesting way to look at this incredible athlete's life. I was working in France when the deal went down. My best friend called me and said, "Gretzky's coming to L.A." His voice was trembling. Wayne F***ing Gretzky was leaving Canada and coming to our city. It felt like more than just a sports trade. It felt radical and wild and unsettling—like a country's nationalism was on the line and something big was about to happen. As a fan, it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Naturally, we scraped together all our money and bought season tickets right away. Pre-Gretzky, we used to buy five-dollar student seats in the nosebleeds and move down and sit on the glass because there were so few fans there. It immediately went from that to sellouts many nights. The Kings averaged 14,875 in Gretzky's first season and the arena held 16,005. We were in hockey heaven.
Gretzky was leaving Canada and coming to our city. It felt like more than just a sports trade. It felt radical and wild and unsettling -- like a country's nationalism was on the line and something big was about to happen. As a fan, it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Naturally, we scraped together all our money and bought season tickets right away. Pre-Gretzky, we used to buy five-dollar student seats in the nosebleeds and move down and sit on the glass because there were so few fans there. It immediately went from that to sellouts many nights. The Kings averaged 14,875 in Gretzky's first season and the arena held 16,005. We were in hockey heaven.