Long May You Run

If you’re an Oiler fan with trunks of memories still to come, tonight’s Hockey Canada "red and white" game at Rexall Place is a chance to formally join the party.

The thing about following a team that is most satisfying is seeing them grow into what their potential suggests is possible. For old timey Oiler fans like me–who remember the WHA Oilers as being an also-ran–the 80s Oilers represent a "once in a lifetime" experience. Trunks of memories? God yes, to the point where I’m certain we drive the younger fans crazy.

No matter how high these current kids fly, it’s going to be worth following along. Tonight, Edmonton has an opportunity to see RNH for the first time since Steve Tambellini called his name. A welcome for the kid along with a healthy dose of reality: along with being drafted #1 by the Oilers comes tremendous expectations.

Taylor Hall had swagger, a little of the Mark Messier/Glenn Anderson in him. Right from the start, Hall had that confidence that can sustain a player through tough times (Taylor Hall had a pretty slow start to his rookie NHL season). I don’t think Oiler fans were worried a lot about Hall after that hellacious hit he took in the Mem Cup (followed by a goal just a few minutes later).Hall is already developing into a leader, and with his talent and drive it isn’t going to be very long before the Oilers recognize it and reward the young man for those leadership skills.

Here’s a quick look at the Oiler kids who will be on display tonight at Rexall (game time is 7, leave early as parking will be a mess. CONSTRUCTION–the official slogan of Edmonton’s summer–means the LRT isn’t stopping at Rexall currently). Tickets are $12 plus service charges, etc and available at ticketmaster, and Sport Chek.

  • RNH: An outstanding talent, cerebral center with elite passing skills and the kind of vision that implies he has been touched by God. He’s the future #1 center on the Edmonton Oilers and should get plenty of icetime tonight to showcase his skills. Expect assists over goals and if you’re sitting in the bleeders it’ll be an excellent place to observe how well he says the trailers and open spaces on the ice. An electric talent.
  • Dillon Simpson: A young man who could be very important to the Oilers cluster 2015-25. Simpson has tremendous hockey genes, an played in the NCAA last season (against men much older) in his draft year. I don’t think he’s a strong candidate to make the squad, but even being there at this age is testimony.
  • Tyler Bunz: Folks, there’s a Hockeybunz (I am so sorry) about this player. The Oilers have a prospect in Bunz who is tracking very well and could end up being an NHL starter down the line. He certainly has his head on straight, and that is reflected in this article in the St. Albert Gazette.

For a lot of people reading this post, I’m old enough to be your Dad. I rarely pass out advice because I’ve learned over the years that advice is best given to those you know well enough to be certain it’ll be taken in the spirit in which it is given. I’m going to put aside my own instincts here and offer some advice to you: if you don’t remember the glory days, then go to tonight’s game.

I know it’s August, I know there are lots of other things to do and I know the parking will be a pain in the ass. I also know that you don’t get many chances to be part of the very beginning of a special career, and tonight is one of those chances.

Nation Radio hits the airwaves today at noon on Team 1260. Among the guests scheduled to appear:

  • Dustin Nielson from Team 1260 radio. He has a brand new show beginning later this month and we’ll talk about it. Also on the agenda: the WJ camp going on this week and Dustin’s impressions of the three Oiler invites. If we have time, I’ll ask him about his unusual fanbase.
  • Pat McLean from Black Dog Hates Skunks. The blogosphere’s finest actual writer and funniest commentator on life, I’ll ask Pat to discuss his blog’s beginnings, the unique and authentic quality of the subject matter, and his impressive perspective on the Oilers and hockey.
  • Todd Nelson, coach of the OKC Barons. I’ll ask the coach about his impressions of the kids who attended the Oilers development camp after the draft. He was there and got a first hand look at some of the young men who will play for him this fall. We’ll discuss the role on an AHL team in developing a big league players and ask him about some of the players who may return for a second season in Okla City.
  • Cam Charron, a unique voice who has done some interesting work in recent days. I’ll ask him about two way forwards, the value of the faceoff and we’ll talk about RNH’s future.

Questions and comments welcome as always at nationradio@theteam1260.com and we’ll hit the airwaves on Team 1260 at noon Edmonton time today. 

  • Morning Coffey

    I went to the Oilers first open scrimmage in the 1979 training camp at Clare Drake arena.

    Mark Messier was a beast that day, the guy who stood out, a blazing fast bull racing down the left side.

    I had seen him the previous year in the WHA with the Cincinnati Stingers as a 17-year old against the Oilers and he wasn’t notable. He wasn’t bad, wasn’t good, he just was doing his job.

    But after that practice in training camp, one knew there was something about the guy.

  • Morning Coffey


    I may have not been around during the hay day of the Oil, but hearing stories about the past and looking forward to the future continually affirm and strengthen my resolve as an Oiler fan.

  • Oiler Country

    Lowetide, you are a gem.

    Great article, and look forward to hearing you at noon. Want to work weekdays? In case Spec grows tired of working for a living, perhaps you could take your weekend show to the airwaves weekly?

    Just a suggestion… Hear you on the airwaves!

  • book¡e

    RNH may well be the most important player to pay attention to on the Oilers. Hall is a gem – I think we know that. We don’t know if he is going to be a 65pt player or a 100pt player in the long run, but we can probably safely guess that he will be around a point a game with ‘game breaking’ skills. Eberle, Gagner, and MP will be strong supporting characters. Omark is more uncertain, but he may also be a strong supporting character. Of course there are others who might rise to the level of ‘supporting cast’.

    RNH has the potential to join Hall as a co-leader of this team. If he rises to the top of his potential, he will make this team great. Free agents will be excited to play with RNH and Hall, making the job of the GM much easier.

    Or…RNH could become another supporting cast member whose roll on the team is debated (is he really a first line center?). Or worse, he could struggle in the NHL and be a great AHL player.

    I think we need to keep a keen eye on the trajectory of this kid, because as RNH goes, so goes the Oilers.

  • justDOit

    Stuck in Cowtown and cant’ go to the game…

    With all hype surrounding this game, and the fact that in recent years, pre-season games have started to see the airwaves, it’s kind of surprising that this isn’t being televised – or at least, web-cast.

    • RexLibris

      If you can’t make it to Edmonton for the Saturday night game, or Fort McMurray for the Sunday night game, the games will be available online through Team Canada and Fast Hockey for the price of $7 each.

      * Courtesy of ” The Copper and Blue ” *

  • RexLibris

    Very excited about what, and how, the Oilers are putting together right now with talent. I’m trying to stay within reasonable expectations (pun intended) though as I know that this rebuild could fall flat because of any number of unforeseen disasters. I also know that for every hiccup and failure there will be a mountain of trolls and Nate’s from down the QE2 and all over Canada that will enjoy rubbing our noses in it.

    I don’t think having Kevin Prendergast in town dropping Gretzky allusions is helping any though.

    All that being said, I absolutely agree with your sentiment LT that, without knowing the outcome, at the very least we are watching something special in young talented players gathering under the Oil drop, and that the product will almost certainly be very entertaining.

    I never really clued in to the Oilers when I was younger (born in ’77) but only started watching in ’89 (Damn you, Fleury!). But I was an avid fan all through the 90s and ever since, when guys like Shaun Van Allen, Joe Hulbig, David Oliver, and Jeff Norton were the notable talents. With that in mind, I will be soaking up every moment this time around.

    Therefore I offer the following quote: TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND!

  • MJM

    I definitely feel the sentiment of seeing a guy like RNH before he really becomes “big time” in the show.

    Albeit a lesser player, I had the pleasure of watching Sam Gagner in the Super Series the fall before he made the big club… and while he’s no superstar, I still like remembering what I had the chance to see before everyone else did.

  • Skidplate

    I made the trip from the city of cows for the game and a family visit. Can not wait to see these kids tonight. I also have tickets to the world juniors this Christmas and I sure hope Canada makes it to the gold medal game !!!

  • Pilgor09

    I watch the WJC every year, looking for that gem of an 18 year old that can step into a tourney of the best junior players and dominate his peers. At 19 years old, you’re expected to put in a strong showing, but when a 17/18 year old does it then he starts turning heads.

    This is why this tournament will be an early (but not definitive) indicator of how RNH will turn out. I expect him to be 1C or 2C with at least 2 points per game average, mostly assists, and a 56% faceoff percentage. The games against Latvia or Kazakhstan or whoever always skew the stats, but the team gets those games every year.

    The whole point of picking first overall is to get that dominant franchise center that takes the team to a new level, and we need to see a strong uptrend to get there. But for all we know, RNH could be playing in the NHL come December.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Those were the days, a ticket in the reds to watch the likes of Fuhr,Gretzky,Messier,Anderson,Coffey and a really young Kurri and Siltanen was only $18.00.

    The first few days of Oilers training camp in 81 were held at the old Edmonton Gardens. I remember seeing Gretz in his old polyester sweats, he was barely 170 lbs soaking wet back then. Seen Grant Fuhr the first day of camp and was a little surprised to see him hold his own. I asked Ron Low the following day what he thought of Grant and Low said no way the kid makes it his first yr.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane LT.

  • Shapeman

    when i see that pick all i see is RNH, Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi..
    plus..theres Hemsky, and Omark..
    Those could all be the superstars on offence for a modern oilers dynasty..
    And to think that Smyth, Horcoff, and Belanger being supporting cast members..wow, even Jones as a 3rd 4th liner..I think this team has a very very high peak..laugh at me now..but take me serious in a year from now…

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Take LT’s advice. I managed to get ultra lucky last year and get a set of good tickets to the first game of the year. Blind luck had me buying 2 lower bowl tickets for 95$/piece the day before G1 last year. I can now say I’ve personally witnessed the greatest 1st goal any player will ever get, Taylor Hall + Jordan Eberle’s first NHL game, and a knockout that one can only hope to witness at least once live.

    Never forget that night as long as I live.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      It was incredible on TV! Live must of felt like that first girl who held your hand! Shivers and unbelief as to how this was happening to you!

      • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

        It really felt like fate finally brought us (me in particular) to an Oilers game that was finally enjoyable and exciting. It was like it made up for the 3 games the year before that we went to in which 2 of the games were a blowout. Hell I even contracted Necrotizing Fasciitis and almost died in the days after the 3rd game we went to (NYR). I had vowed not to waste any more money on tickets until they became a contender. I feel like the hockey gods were paying me back for such a horrible experience the year before by having those tickets fall right in my lap 🙂

        • positivebrontefan

          I was at that game to. Row four about ten feet from where Ivanans career ended. Watched Eberle score that amazing first goal and all was right with the Oilers world at that point.

          The next game I went to was the Omark spinorama shootout goal. Wow!!!

          Game three for me was Halls first hattrick, I went there with my wife and two daughters and I hope they remember that night. My oldest is 7. She bleeds Oiler blue already and is a huge Hall fan.

          Game four for me last year was the last game against Vancouver where we kicked their asses 2-0 and was in a box with about eight Canucks bandwagon jumpers. Nice!!!

          I went to all the games I needed to last year. I hope to have the same luck this year. With my luck at Oilers games they should probaly pay me to go to the games. I was Four and O.

  • Prudham's

    It is a good idea to see a possibly great player in his first game at home.

    After experiencing the 80’s team and reading Game of Our Lives, by Gzowski, I realized how much more interesting and exciting the time before major success is. It’s partly the suspense of not even knowing if the team or players will be great, combined with gradually increasing indications that they might be.

    It’s the opposite of the time when a team has been good for a long time and fans around the league get tired of the same team winning.

    I am pretty happy that I went to Penticton last year, and saw what I think was Taylor Hall’s first goal in an Oiler uniform. I still remember my impression of his style (that he jumps early and doesn’t wait a long time for the headman pass. He needed someone who knew to just fire it at him immediately, and let him take over because he wanted to burn the other teams defense. I thought it would be interesting to see him play with linemates like that down the road, rather than get him to wait for a structured break out. Well, I later heard that Horcoff told him to hold up, because it doesn’t work too well in the NHL IIRC, and maybe he’s right. But it was really cool to see him then.)

  • Love Monkey

    Great advice LT. I skipped work to be there for Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi’s rookie development camp. And I did the same this year to see Nugent-Hopkins.

    Last night was fantastic! I’ll remember that for a long time, especially if he’s as good as it appears he will be.

    Having missed most of the glory years due to being an ’82 baby (the most vivid Oilers memory for people my age is Gretzky’s post-trade press-conference), if they ever do lift Stanley together, it will make the Eberle-Hall pursuit drill last summer or last night’s snipe by RNH even more special.