Who is Peter Pocklington?
He’s been revered.
He’s been reviled.
He’s been shot.
He’s been convicted.
Yet, he remains resolute.
But, really, who is Peter Pocklington?
A Canadian-born free-enterpriser considered both famous and infamous for the adventures that make up his amazing life and turbulent times, he has been described as either a fiend or a friend; generous, or curmudgeonly.
His is a story of triumph and failure, of tenacity and antagonism. From his childhood to his entrepreneurial ventures in his teen years… to the building of his empire in boomtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where deals were sketched out on restaurant napkins and sealed with a handshake…
… from signing a 17-year-old phenom named Wayne Gretzky and forging the storied Stanley Cup winning team, the Edmonton Oilers, to the trade that rocked the global hockey world and shocked a nation…
… being kidnapped and shot… vying for the leadership of a political party which could have resulted in making him the leader of a nation, but ended instead with him as “kingmaker” to Canada’s 18th prime minister Brian Mulroney…
… to fighting to save his crumbling empire before admitting defeat and leaving his homeland for the U.S. … his tumultuous skirmishes in American business which culminated in bankruptcy, his arrest by the F.B.I. and a felony conviction.
At the end of the book, Peter Pocklington is still standing, bloodied but unbowed.
Why two books?
The Pocklington biography was first brought to market as a 294-page, 20-chapter hardcover book by Fenn Publishing Company of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2009. That publisher categorized it as a “hockey book” and applied the title: I’d Trade Him Again: On Gretzky, Politics and the Pursuit of the Perfect Deal.
A paperback version with an added 21st chapter was published by Fenn the following year, with the same title. Both books are now out of print following the closure of the publishing company.
When Fenn Publishing ceased operating in 2011, the publishing rights reverted back to the authors. They chose to self-publish the book in 2012 in both paperback and e-book formats, and retitled the book to more accurately reflect its content. The Puck Talks Here: The amazing life & turbulent times of Peter Pocklington covers his life experiences in business, sports, politics as well as his personal life.
A smaller book titled I’d Trade Him Again: Wayne Gretzky & Peter Pocklington can accurately be described as a “hockey book” as it includes only the seven chapters that describe the Edmonton Oilers building years, the Gretzky trade and the relationship between these two men during that period.
The Puck Talks Here is available in digital and paperback formats.
I'd Trade Him Again: Wayne Gretzky & Peter Pocklington is available in digital, paperback and audiobook formats.
The seven chapter headings that appear in italics below appear in both books. The remaining 14 chapters are also part of The Puck Talks Here.
Part 1: Peter and Eva Pocklington go for dinner at their favourite restaurant, little suspecting that, by the time the evening is over, Peter will own part of a hockey team and Eva’s jewellery collection will be short one ring.
Part 2: Owning the Oilers is the realization of a dream that began in London, Ontario, where the young Peter Pocklington grew up. Before the age of 30, Peter was well on his way to amassing a fortune.
Part 3: The World Hockey Association provides the foundation Peter Pocklington needs to build a first-class hockey organization — and to charge Glen Sather with the responsibility for forging a championship team.
I'd Trade Him Again: Wayne Gretzky & Peter Pocklington is available in audiobook format.
Part 4: ‘Hockey’s newest superstar. He’s 11’ Peter Pocklington says he probably paid too much to acquire the rights to Wayne Gretzky. So why does he do it, especially after the Winnipeg Jets had already cast doubt on the kid’s worth? “Why do I do a lot of things?” he asks. “If your mind is open and you’re ready to take the risk, what’s the downside?”
Part 5: ‘Whatever your passion, you have to go for it’ Pocklington’s business empire grows in both size and stature, while he clings to the parts of his life that are most important to him: his wife, his family, his friends, and the occasional friendly game of backgammon. Yet in the end, it’s his ownership of the Oilers that gets him that elusive reservation at a popular restaurant.
Part 6: ‘Holy mackerel, these guys have potential’
Q: Dear Hockey Nut, who is the best right-winger in hockey?
A: Without a doubt, it’s Peter Pocklington.
Part 7: ‘I thought I was bullet proof, until I was shot’ Peter Pocklington thinks he leads a charmed existence. Fate and a Yugoslav immigrant with a gun, an attitude and a plan are about to prove him wrong.
Part 8: ‘I was Don Quixote, tilting at windmills’ Despairing for his country given the “socialist” policies of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and inspired by the prospects for the Progressive Conservative Party to form the next government, Peter Pocklington embraces politics and declares himself a candidate for the PC leadership.
Part 9: Peter Pocklington’s life and career have known only success and acclaim. Then, in the span of one year, his good fortune takes a turn for the worse. Peter’s critics — with a measure of justification — say he is the one to blame. He begs to differ.
Part 10: ‘There is a difference between sports guys and other business guys’ If Peter Pocklington was living a charmed life, the charm is beginning to run out by 1986. He is beset with financial woes that, at first blush, are not of his making: a supplier governed more by ideology than economics, a hostile union and a duplicitous government.
Part 11: ‘I was captured by bandidos for three days. That was fun’ Peter Pocklington makes a name for himself as the owner of a professional hockey team, but he is also the proprietor of one of the most successful franchises in the history of minor-league baseball. Then there is his love of speed.
Part 12: ‘George Bush fished here with his pal, Peter Pocklington’ Peter makes many friends in Edmonton, but he also makes them easily in places that are, figuratively if not literally, a world away. These friendships become not only the stuff of memories, they afford Peter the luxury of being a benefactor for the city he loves to calls home.
Part 13: The trade. The sale. The sellout. The deal to move Wayne Gretzky to sunny California is viewed many different ways by Canadian hockey fans — few of them positive. So why do it? What’s to be gained? To hear Peter Pocklington tell it, a lot.
Part 14: ‘All good things have to come to an end, I guess’ Wayne Gretzky may lose his composure when it’s announced he is leaving Edmonton for the Los Angeles Kings but, in the end, he is the only one who keeps his head.
Part 15: When Peter Pocklington first pondered the idea of selling Wayne Gretzky, his friends told him he’d be in for a rough ride. He quickly discovers they didn’t know the half of it. Meanwhile, Wayne Gretzky begins to second-guess himself, while Glen Sather is faced with the task of rebuilding a championship team.
Part 16: Wayne Gretzky has been traded to Los Angeles and the Oilers face the task of winning without him. Competitive fires ensure other leaders step to the fore, yet even so, the owner soon recognizes he cannot keep hockey’s best team together.
Part 17: The Oilers can no longer afford their stable of stars and have parcelled them off to teams that are eager to have them and have the resources to pay them. Yet the players who replace the stars inspire little but indifference from the public. Soon, Peter Pocklington is faced with a decision: make a go of it in Edmonton or seek out another market for his team.
Part 18: ‘Losing the Oilers was like having my heart torn out’ For the first time in a decade, the Oilers can look to the future with optimism. So, too, can Peter Pocklington. But that optimism is short-lived. It soon becomes apparent his bank doesn’t share that optimism and is ready to take the steps to put Peter out of business.
Part 19: ‘You can’t live in the past’ The time comes for Peter Pocklington to say goodbye to the Oilers and to the city he has called home for close to three decades. Yet, while a new life in California beckons, so does the old game he has come to love and the desire to do it all once more, with feeling.
Part 20: Peter Pocklington had left Canada for what he hoped would be greener pastures in the United States. Yet he eventually discovers that America’s take-no-prisoners capitalism is difficult for even an ardent free-enterpriser like him to stomach.
Part 21: ‘It’s not what you achieve in this life; it’s what you overcome’ An early morning knock on the door lands Peter Pocklington in a California jail cell and on the front pages of newspapers across Canada. But the experience fills him with not only the resolve to restore his reputation, but also an appreciation for the friends who pledge to help him overcome what may be his greatest challenge of all.
So I said, “Yeah, yeah I feel good.” So he said, “Okay, I’ll give you 10-to-1 odds on a hundred bucks.” All right. Again, what are you going to say? No?
Anyway, one of my teammates beside me said, “Hey Peter, can I have the same bet?” And Peter looked right at the kid and said, “Yeah, absolutely.” And the kid went, “Well, how many points?” And Peter said, “Same bet, right?”
And the kid went, “Hold on a sec, I’ve got 15 goals. I can’t have the same bet as Gretz.” And Peter looked at him and said, “Fifteen goals! Why do we still have you here?” And he walked away.
The whole room just fell over laughing. And I’m thinking, did he really mean that or was that just his way of saying, “You better get going”? I couldn’t figure it out. But I did get the three goals and the seven points that night.
From the foreword by Wayne Gretzky
Peter never interfered with the team, but every now and then he’d come into the locker room, and he’d talk to the players. Well, he came in one day — I’ll never forget this as long as I live — and he said, “How are you feeling, Wayne?” I said, “I’m feeling good.” I’m getting dressed for the warm-up and he said, “You think you can get three goals and seven points tonight?” What do you say when your owner says this?
Read more of Gretzky’s foreword in either The Puck Talks Here or I’d Trade Him Again: Wayne Gretzky & Peter Pocklington
From The Puck Talks Here
“This guy cocked a chrome-plated .357 Magnum and held it to my head. ‘Do as I tell you,’ he said, ‘or I’m going to kill you.’ My blood instantly ran cold. But I also realized, quickly, thank God, that if I didn’t take control of the situation, I would soon be dead. I paused for 10 seconds or so — though it seemed much longer — then said, ‘Fine,’ and led the gunman back into the kitchen.
“Eva had her back to me, talking on the phone. She turned and saw me standing by the door, a gun to my head. She screamed and dropped the phone. It fell hard, clanging as it hit the tile floor. She picked it up and put it back on its receiver.
“The stranger told us to sit, but I wasn’t about to let him tell me what to do. I screwed up my courage — or ignored my fears; I’m not sure which — and told him no.
“ ‘Obviously you’re here for money,’ I said, “ ‘so the first thing I want you to do is uncock the gun, or we don’t talk.’
I looked into the gunman’s eyes. They were beady as blazes. He was upset that I would dare tell him what to do, but when I pointed out that if anyone was hurt, there wouldn’t be any money, he quickly changed his mind.
He uncocked the weapon and put it on the table. He also put down the bag he was carrying, then pulled a knife from it, along with some wire.
Read more in The Puck Talks Here: The amazing life & turbulent times of Peter Pocklington