A Giant Walked Among Us

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.

      • RexLibris

        first off believe me when i say i know nothing, i don’t hear from people. that’s why i like twitter it is the anti-social facebook…no one talks to me, perfect.

        i assumed those “dials” she possesses (holy crap i spelled that wrong i’m sure) were you encouraging your readers to tune in 🙂

          • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

            LT. I had to go back and do a double take on the second pic. I thought it was Jodie Foster, but now that I look at it closer….

            EDIT: I’m not complaining,

            Keep bringing us the hotties,

            Keep up the good work.

            * had to have a haiku in there somewhere… 😉

  • RexLibris

    Hunter’s book, Wild Bill, has been on my to-read list for awhile. I’m too young to remember his era for the Oilers, but the impact he had was obvious by the way he was treated by media and fans who were around. Shame about the Blues, a Saskatoon rivalry would’ve been awesome.

    Speaking of books, I just finished one that I thought you might like, LT. Proofiness by Charles Seife. A good read, not immediately sports related, but with regards to the stats/no-stats debate it is very appropriate.
    The review http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/books/review/Strogatz-t.html

  • justDOit

    Bill Hunter rocks!

    Memorial Cup winner, WHA founder

    WW2 fighter pilot!

    He received a standing Ovation when the Oil debuted in the big eastern show of the NHL.

    His arena in the west end is my favourite to play in.

  • Strange coincidence: A few minutes ago I was trying to find a dentist and settled on the closest recommended guy to me in town. His name is Bill Hunter.

    I leave a message and then look at the Nation to find this post!

    Bill Hunter is, apparently, the man to see.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I go back to watching yhe Alberta Oilers in the Edmonton Gardens.Bill Hunter did alot to bring pro hockey to Edmonton.The Wha was a great league.Full of colorful characters.The NHL pales in comparison.Bill Hunter is An Oiler legend.He should never be forgotten

  • Puritania

    If/when the new arena gets made a statue or a banner or picture or something needs to be made/done to honor Mr. Hunter. The new blood won’t ever know about special people that helped shape the Oil unless we continue to recognize them appropriately.

  • Puritania

    Bravo Lowetide! Bill Hunter was the straw the stirred the drink. If it was not for his zealous boosterism I doubt the Alberta Oilers would have been part of the amazing WHA. What a fun league for a kid to watch!

    Beacuse of Bill I got to watch Bobby Hull score a hat trick in the old Gardens. I can’t remember the score but we lost. I remember Bill being quoted after the game saying that he wished Bobby would score a hat trick each time he played in the Gardens as long as the Oilers won 5 to 3.

    I agree – Bill is an Oiler legend and even more of a character than Slats.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      For Shame! Put it back in your pants.

      Every few decades someone steps up to the plate and goes to bat for the rest of us. Cal Nichol was one of those but Bill Hunter was the first. It is because of these guys and guys like them that we have a team. These were our warriors, honour them.

      If you are in it just for your own cheap thrill go cheer for the canucks.

    • positivebrontefan

      Yep, Bill passed away in 2002 at the age of 82.

      Besides being the major league promoter he also coached the team in several stints. He was also the guy who gave the team it’s Oilers name.

      He also owned and ran the Oil Kings in the sixties and was instrumental in forming the WHL junior league.

      And never forget because of Bill, Edmonton had professional hockey long before the those punk upstarts from Calgary.