January 11 2013 07:07AM
Randy Gregg played just over 450 regular season games for the Edmonton Oilers, and another 130 in the playoffs. Those games represent the 'golden era' for the Edmonton Oilers: 6 Cup finals, 5 Stanleys. And the Oilers almost didn't get him.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
Randy Gregg (#4, wearing the C for Team Canada at the at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. CP Photo/ COA) was never drafted (eligible for the 1976 Amateur Draft) but was a player of note as a University of Alberta Golden Bear (played 75-79 for the U of A). Gregg had a different set of priorities and wanted a different life experience than the ones offered by junior hockey, and when he graduated from University NHL teams were lining up to sign him.
One problem. Gregg--the intelligent, independent young man who went another route--once again decided against signing with the NHL and its feeder system, opting instead to play for the Canadian Olympic team in Calgary (and working toward the 1980 Olympic dream). At that time, plenty of NHL clubs (notably the Atlanta Flames and New York Rangers) were after him, but unlike several other Oly candidates Gregg stayed the course:
- October 3, 1979 Edmonton Journal (Jim Coleman): The ice leader of the Nationals appears to be the Big Doctor. The young gentleman in question is Randy Gregg, who graduated this year from the faculty of medicine at the University of Alberta. The big doctor is quite a kid--he appears to be about 6 feet 5 inches tall, and although he isn't the swiftest skater in the world, he is very steady on his blades. He is one of those heady defencemen who can control the flow of the game.
Gregg would play for Canada at the Olympics, and then because he wanted to further study medicine he then played 2 additional seasons outside the NHL's influence in Japan (with the "Kukudo Bunnies" no less) before finally settling in to an NHL career at age 26. One final thing: Gregg's agent during negotiations with Oilers GM Glen Sather? Randy Gregg.
On a team that had so much flash and dash, it was easy to overlook the steady and effective Randy Gregg. He arrived whole, a complete and mature package which further led to fans taking the big man for granted. Further, Gregg conducted himself with such class and dignity that he rarely made the news for anything at all!
He was, as they say, a consummate professional. In the middle of his career Gregg (1986) Gregg was thinking about moving on with his other career and the Oilers had another period of worry; it was at that time that John Short wrote another of his brilliant columns (it is here).
It is not to say Gregg was incapable of emotion. The guy could take care of himself and he was a quality defender in all elements of the game. One of the few times I can recall anything unusual about his career was an exchange between he and HNIC commentator Don Cherry. Gregg missed a wide open net (Cherry: "I wouldn't want a guy with those hands standing over me with a sharp object") and Gregg responded ("as a hockey coach, Don Cherry makes a fair color man") but things quickly got themslves solved when Cherry apologized.
Gregg is about one minute in.
- 5 Stanley Cups ('84, '85, '87, '88, '90)
- Member of Canada's 1980 and 1988 Olympic teams
- He led the Bears to two national championships.
- In his final season at the U of A he was named the Canadian Intercollegiate Player of the Year.
- Claimed by Vancouver from Edmonton in Waiver Draft, October 1, 1990. He would play 21 games for the Canucks in the 1991-92 season before retiring.
Born in Edmonton in 1956, in the same hospital where he would one day intern, Randy Gregg entered the science programme at the University of Alberta when he was only sixteen, hoping one day to follow his older brother, Ron, into the field of medicine. However, it would be 13 years from the day that Gregg graduated with his medical degree until he entered his final year of residency. Over the course of that time, he had skated for Canada in the Olympics twice, been playing coach in Japan for two years, won the Canada Cup, and earned five Stanley Cup rings as a stay-at-home defenseman with Edmonton. In the meantime, he graduated to double harness, saw four children born into their home, and managed to complete all but that final year of his studies and apprenticeship.