January 01 2011 10:31AM
Every once in awhile, something so unique, so unusual, arrives at your door and forces you to take notice. The Band (above) was like that, their first two albums are as pure as mountain water. The early 80's Oilers were like that too, forcing a nation to take urgent bathroom breaks for fear of missing two or more goals while lollygagging.
The current group of Oilers is just getting started, we don't know if they're truly special or just the latest rage. There are going to be some stops along the way that remind us of the 79-83 Oilers and tonight is one of them. The Oiler kids may never raise the Stanley, but for the other side the theme is "No Country for Old Men."
The Band honed their sound in bars and clubs throughout the eastern part of the continent. Most of them came from southern Ontario and it gave the group a unique mixture of influences specific to time and place. You are where you come from, and country, blues, working class and hard times are reflected in their wonderful music. The Band sounds as fresh today as they did the moment the needle hit vinyl the first time.
The 80's Oilers were a happy combination of luck, skill and timing. When the WHA merged with the NHL, the established teams also had older, veteran rosters. The upstart clubs (like the Oilers and Minnesota North Stars) were youthful speed burners who could pass the old men coming and going. Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita retired in 1980; Phil Esposito, Jean Ratelle, Terry Harper, Gerry Cheevers and Ron Ellis in 1981; Dave Keon, Rogie Vachon, Jean Pronovost and Don Luce in 1982.
The summers of 1980-82 would see the (almost) complete wiping out of the pre-1967 NHL player. Wayne Cashman, Carol Vadnais and Serge Savard survived until 1983, but those Oiler kids and many like them ended an era in a proverbial heartbeat.
The current Oiler kids will be on display against an older group tonight. Among the 30+ players Calgary may play are Craig Conroy (39), Steve Staios (37), Brendan Morrison (35), Miikia Kiprusoff (34), Jarome Iginla (33), Ales Kotalik (32), Tom Kostopolous (32), Corey Sarich (32) and Olli Jokinen (32). Niklas Hagman and Alex Tanguay (both 31) and Robyn Regehr (and old 30, D is a tough position) who rounds out the group of 12.
Among the Flames best players in their 20's are Rene Bourque (29), Jay Boumeester, Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan (all 27).
They're a savvy bunch and should be favored to win tonight. However, they're going to face a young group of forwards who can pass them like a house on the side of the road. The Oilers have too many kids and not enough actual NHL players, and the Flames have too many veterans and not enough quality youth.
One group could be special and owns the future, the other fades with each passing day.