Hockey players can be hot headed, arrogant, show-boaty, sloppy, and loud. They can also be kind, hardworking, dedicated, thoughtful, and sweet. And yet they can be traded for any of these traits. Or, in some cases, simply because the team needs some extra equipment. No, I’m not kidding.
Kerry Ligtenberg of the Atlanta Braves got his spot on the team in exchange for 12 dozen baseballs and two dozen bats. In minor league baseball, San Antonio Indians’ owner Homer Hammond traded infielder Len Dondero to Dallas for a dozen doughnuts in 1930. In basketball, the Utah Jazz traded Fred Roberts to the Celtics for a third-round pick and the right to play the Celtics twice in the preseason. In lower-division soccer, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers gave Walter Restrepo to the San Antonio Scorpions in exchange for hotel and travel accommodations for the whole team. No joke.
While most aren’t nearly as ridiculous as these, the trades listed below are pretty weird. But while there are some seriously stupid reasons that certain players get traded, there are others that are completely legitimate. You probably wouldn’t want to stay on a team where one of your mates was having an affair with your wife, would you? Trading one of you is probably the only way out of that. Oh, and divorce.
To be fair, general managers have a lot on their plates. We get that. They’re responsible for keeping everybody happy, including fans, coaching staff, players, and the players’ families. That’s a lot of people to have to think about. Sometimes, though, they should probably consider things a little bit longer before biting the bullet. Trading Gretzky for cash? Seriously? We’re never going to let that one go, not ever.
16 Tom Martin (From Seattle)
This is one of the most bizarre sports stories I’ve ever heard. Tom Martin was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1982 but spent most of his career in the AHL. While playing for Seattle in 1983, he was traded by the Breakers to Victoria Cougars for a bus. To add inslut to injury, it wasn't even a brand new bus. It was a used one that the Cougars had purchased in the US but not yet imported into Canada. They also acquired “future considerations,” but the bus was the big ticket since the Breakers’ vehicle had bit the dust recently.
What else can we say about this? From what I can tell, Martin didn't seem particularly bothered by this trade. And it did earn him the legendary nickname “Bussey.” “Maybe it had better wheels than I did,” he said. Ha!
14 P.K. Subban (From Montreal)
Management says that P.K. was traded because the team needed more leadership, blah blah blah. But it’s pretty obvious that Subban’s incompatibility with coach Michel Therrien and attention-seeking antics were the true reason for the trade. When your coach makes post-game comments like “…it’s disappointing that we lost because of an individual mistake,” and “It was a selfish play that cost us the game,” … well, you don’t need a Rhodes Scholar to dissect and interpret that hostility.
Therrien has also said, “We believe in attitude, we believe in discipline and we believe most of all in the team concept.” Considering Subban’s triple-low-five ritual with Montreal’s Carey Price, his celebratory bow-and-arrow moves, his highly-publicized involvement with the Montreal Children’s Hospital, it’s no surprise that coach Therrien felt the need to get rid of both Subban and his spotlight-loving personality.
13 Chris Chelios (From Montreal)
Why would you trade a player who’d won the Norris Trophy and made the All-Star Team just the year before? Corporate image, that’s why. The now-retired hockey star has since admitted that he was “young and stupid” in those days, that he and his buddies enjoyed their liquored-up nights on the town, and that he didn’t have any concern for the reputation of the franchise at all. Serge Savard was the GM at the time, but the team president was Ronald Corey, and boy, did he ever take a dislike to our boy Chris. It’s hard to blame him, really, because not only was Chelios a drama-causing party animal, he was allegedly having an affair with Corey’s own wife. Yeah.
So. It may be a coincidence that Chelios was traded to the Blackhawks just one day after he a public brawl with policemen in Madison, WI (they were trying to arrest him for public urination). Then again, it may have just been the straw that broke the Molson Breweries-owned camel’s back.
12 Brendan Shanahan (From St. Louis)
“Iron Mike” Keenan is inarguably one of the toughest, scariest coaches ever in the NHL. The reason for this trade is simply because Iron Mike didn’t like Shan the Man at all. At. All.
Shanahan was traded from St. Louis to Hartford on July 27, 1995, after having two 50-goal seasons, playing in the 1994 NHL All-Star Game, joining the 1994 NHL First All-Star Team, and just one year after his career-best 102-point season. All of this meant nothing, to Keenan, though, and he flat out told Shanahan that he “was half the player he thought he was.” It wasn’t only the coach/GM that had a hate-on for Shanny; most of the team couldn’t stand him either.
The story of Brendan’s affair with teammate Craig Janney’s wife sure didn’t help. Whether or not this situation contributed to the trade decision, we’ll never know. But Catherine Janney is now Catherine Shanahan. So there’s that.
11 Evander Kane (From Winnipeg)
Was there anyone in Winnipeg who actually liked Evander Kane when he was there? The guy did nothing but cause trouble, allegedly asking about trade possibilities within his first month of play. There was the guy in the stands in Ottawa with a sign that said “Dear Evander: Please stop walking out on your bills. Sincerely, Winnipeg servers and restauranteurs.” This was never proven, but still, it didn’t help his image. Neither did the pic of Kane holding stacks of money, his homophobic Tweet aimed at Chris Bosh, showing up in a tracksuit on game day, or the claims of assault from a Vancouver man. He was shipped off to Buffalo soon after the track suit incident, but the drama keeps coming. Perhaps the most scandalous event was when he was investigated for a possible sexual assault in 2016.
In February of 2015, he was traded to Buffalo, and I think the whole city of Winnipeg breathed a sigh of relief. The move didn’t mean he was a changed man, though. In 2016, he was investigated after allegations of a sexual assault.
10 Dion Phaneuf (From Calgary)
We’ve already talked about “Iron Mike” Keenan, and here we have another case of the coach butting heads with a player who may have equalled him in jerk-iness. Phaneuf and teammate Robyn Regehr were not buddies, to put it nicely, and their off-ice tension often appeared on-ice as well. There were reports of an actual fist fight in the locker room at one point. His teammates found him “cocky,” according to Keenan, no doubt related to his crazy lucrative contract deal. There were claims he and Jarome Iginla had issues too.
Once he moved to Toronto, though, he went from bold to “bland.” He was made team captain, he was named to the NHL All-Star Game again, he married actress Elisha Cuthbert, and in 2013 he helped the Leafs clinch a playoff spot for the first time in almost a decade. Maybe the problem really WAS Keenan?
9 Doug Gilmour (From St. Louis)
In 1988, Doug Gilmour was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, his own daughter’s babysitter. In fact, his wife, Robyne, as well as the St. Louis Blues organization, were said to have known about the abuse and therefore also named in the lawsuit. It was beyond messy. The lawyer representing the girl and her parents was indicted for accepting money from the Blues in exchange for keeping the matter quiet and not pressing charges. Well that backfired, now didn’t it.
The Blues wanted nothing to do with this scandal and practically threw him at the Flames. They denied that it had anything to do with the scandal, but nobody believes that. In the end, a grand jury decided not to indict Gilmour and the charges were dropped, but the damage had been done. He had been forced to leave the team that saw him score his career-best 42 goals, the started his professional career.
8 Chris Pronger (From Edmonton)
There were so many rumors (still are, really) swirling about why Pronger asked to be traded, most of them centering around a sex scandal with sports reporter, Christie Chorley. Some said that Pronger’s wife, Lauren, heard the talk of her husband’s exploits and demanded that he leave the city. In reality, though, it’s more likely that Pronger’s wife just wasn’t happy in Edmonton. As this article from the Edmonton Journal says, Lauren Pronger is an American and a socialite who seemed much happier in LA than she ever did up north. In fact, she barely lived in Alberta at all, spending most of her time at their home in St. Louis with the couple’s two small children.
Whatever his true reasons may have been, you can’t blame a guy for wanting to keep his wife happy. It’s definitely not the craziest motive a player has ever had to request a trade, but it’s certainly unusual.
7 Patrick Roy (From Montreal)
You could say that Roy’s problems in Montreal began when his wife had an affair with his teammate, Mathieu Schneider. It was pretty public and pretty embarrassing. And then came Mario Tremblay. Even before Tremblay was coach, the two of them were like oil and water, even getting into a pretty public argument in a coffee shop that almost came to blows. It didn’t get any better after that, either on or off the ice. Montreal fans are still feeling the pain of that infamous 1995 game when Roy was left in net for nine goals in less than two full periods. When Roy was finally called off the ice, he stalked past Tremblay and flat out told president Ronald Corey that he was done with the team.
Being traded to Colorado was the best thing for Roy, obviously. His goals-against average went down, his save percentage went up, and his blood pressure most definitely came down.
6 Dany Heatley (From Atlanta)
This one is very, very sad. On Sept. 29, 2003, Heatley crashed his Ferarri while driving 130 KPH down a two-lane road in Atlanta. His teammate, Dan Snyder, was also in the car when it crashed, and he died from his injuries six days later. In 2005, Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane, and speeding, and he was sentenced to three years of probation. As well, he was required to give 150 speeches regarding the dangers of speeding.
Heatley may have survived, but he spent most of the 2003-04 season recovering from his injuries, and even once he was back on the ice, he was never the same in Atlanta. It wasn’t long before he requested a trade, stating the need for a new environment. And nobody blamed him.
5 Steven Downie (From Colorado)
So, during preseason training, Gabriel Landeskog tripped Downie and “tweaked his knee a bit.” Having just had knee surgery, Downie was less than pleased and lashed out, nailing Landeskog pretty hard. And since the target of this hit was the youngest ever team captain in the NHL (at the time), it didn’t go over well.
This wasn’t the first time that Downie talked too loudly with his fists. During the 2007 preseason, he leaped off the ice to hit Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond in the head and was subsequently suspended for 20 games. A few months later, during a game against Toronto, Steve landed a sucker punch to Jason Blake’s eye. During the 2008 playoffs, he smoked Pittsburgh’s Petr Sykora, even though Sykora didn’t even have possession. By the time the Landeskog incident occurred, Pittsburgh had already had enough.
4 Brian Boyle (From L.A.)
Brian Boyle comes from a big Boston family with 13 kids, six boys and five girls, and they’re pretty close-knit. So when Artie Boyle saw that his son wasn’t fitting in well with the LA Kings, was expected to be an enforcer-type player when he wouldn’t “throw the first punch if his life depended on it,” he knew something had to be done. During a meeting at the Logan Airport Hilton in 2009, father Boyle asked the Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi to consider trading Brian somewhere back east. Not specifically to Boston, because “the pressure of coming to play in our hometown is ridiculous,” and because Artie wouldn’t be able to afford tickets for the whole family to attend the games! Only a few weeks later, Brian was traded to the Rangers.
I’d be willing to bet that most hockey players would be embarrassed if their father intervened like that. Boyle sure didn’t seem to let it bother him, though. His stats shot up and he had his best two seasons, points-wise, while in New York. And he could have family over for dinner. Win-win-win, right?
3 Jason Spezza (From Ottawa)
As if Dany Heatley didn’t go through enough during this time in Atlanta, there were rumors that he got into more trouble in Ottawa when he started having an affair with a teammate’s fiancé. And that teammate was Jason Spezza.
Spezza stuck it out though, and was named team captain in September of 2013 was named team Captain. During his one year in that role, however, the Sens were pretty bad. They ranked 27th in the league for goals and Spezza himself had the worst plus/minus rating on the team. The fans were mad, blamed the new captain for the whole team’s shortcomings, and Spezza couldn’t handle it. He wanted out so badly, in fact, that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause. That’s serious.
2 Mike Cammalleri (From Montreal)
Yet another instance of player drama in Montreal, Cammalleri paved his own way out of that city and off that team. “I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose.” This is what he was quoted by TSN to have said in a post-practice interview, and it was NOT well received.
It doesn’t matter if your team ranks last in every category. It doesn’t matter if your team hasn’t won a game in months. It doesn’t matter if your team’s practice is more like Disney on Ice than NHL quality. You NEVER use the “L” word! GM Pierre Gauthier claims the trade had nothing to do with these comments, but since Cammalleri was pulled out mid-game, sent to a hotel, and then informed he’d been dealt to the Flames… it’s hard to believe.
1 Wayne Gretzky (From Edmonton)
Any Oiler fan of the last 50 years will tell you that Gretzky was traded for one reason: owner Peter Pocklington needed money. That $15 million in cash was needed to boost his other business ventures. “Peter Puck,” of course, denies this, and wrote about in both a biographical book and an article in the National Post.
To the rest of the world, though, Gretzky was basically sold to the highest bidder. GM Glen Sather apparently didn’t know about the deal Pocklington had orchestrated with the Kings until it was too late. He tried to balance things out a bit by asking for Luc Robitaille be sent to the Oilers along with Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, and three first-round draft pics, but only the latter three actually happened. Gretzky wept, Canada wept, the whole freaking world of hockey wept (except for the city of LA, of course).
Just a note… In 2008, Pocklington filed for personal bankruptcy, and a year later he was charged with bankruptcy fraud. Interesting.