This is Bill Hunter. Without Hunter, the Edmonton Oilers would not be the city’s most famous entity, would not impact Oiler Nation to the point where the Oiler brand and items surrounding have become an everyday activity. How much time do Oilers fans spend a week on their team? How many man or woman hours do they spend on the team instead of actually working? The mind boggles.
Back in 1972 the Oilers were not as sure a thing as bell-bottoms, flairs, long haired men (and dogs, apparently) and a downturn in bra sales. An Edmonton Journal article on April 18, 1972 from Jim Coleman gives us a rundown of the likely WHA cities that spring. Edmonton is well down the list:
Survive he did, and the new building was built in time for the glory run in the 1980’s. It was not in fact the house that Gretzky built, although the memories provided by 99 and friends in Northlands Coliseum are easily the most electric in this fan’s memory banks.
As time passes and those of us who remember the breathtaking first glance at a fetching beauty become a distant bell, let’s take a few minutes to remember the man and the small city he pulled into the National Hockey League. His footprint on our city is massive and we should remember Bill Hunter because of it.
Time is a bitch, it just is. A man who worked his ass off all those years ago to make Edmonton a big league city rarely gets a mention these days. The NHL will not honor him with a HHOF induction because he was an outcast for being a visionary. He entered the private club of old men and beat them at their own game, and then stepped aside to watch it grow.
One of the reasons the current building is having such a tough time finding a home can be highlighted by reading the story of Bill Hunter. It has to do with motivation, compromise and reading the cards dealt. There’s a lesson to be learned from the past. The Oilers are not promised to us, and Edmonton is not promised to Daryl Katz.
I wonder what Bill Hunter’s next move would be.