His skating was a marvel, his ability to jump into the offense legendary, and his accomplishments rewrote the record book. Still, Paul Coffey was never able to shake the initial criticisms in regard to the quality of his defensive play. In the end, Paul Coffey was a magnificent and flawed player rolled into one–and a wonder to observe. 


Last Team: Kitchener (OMJHL)                          
Birthplace: Weston, Ontario (Canada)
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1977-78 North York OPJHL 50 14 33 47 64
  Kingston OMJHL 8 2 2 4 11
1978-79 Sault Ste. Marie OMJHL 68 17 72 89 103
1979-80 Sault Ste. Marie OMJHL 23 10 21 31 63
  Kitchener OMJHL 52 19 52 71 130

OMJHL All-Star Second Team:
1979-80 (Kitchener)
OMJHL All-Star Third Team: 1978-79 (Sault Ste. Marie)
Miscellaneous: Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as
No. 20 prospect for the 1980 NHL draft. Sault Ste. Marie’s first pick in 1978 OMJHL midget draft. Played left wing for parts of his junior career.

courtesy hockeydraftcentral


The Edmonton Oilers had high hopes for Paul Coffey–they took him 6th overall, that was a "reach" selection based on the Hockey News pre-draft issue–and he showed flashes of brilliance from the start. Early in his Oiler career, during the 80-81 pre-season, Coffey showed just how much God-given talent he had and what he could do in a hockey game. Coffey drove deep into the opposition end on a rush, and then fell behind the other team’s net, losing possession. The other club quickly gobbled up the puck and went on the offensive. The Oilers other defender (Jim Crosson) saw the play develop at the opponent’s blueline, turned and went hell bent for leather toward his end to cover off the fast break. He took three strides toward his own end, turned to face the oncoming rush–and looked over to find Coffey at his side.

He really was that fast, and it always aided his play at both ends of the rink.  

Paul Coffey spent several years learning to "pick his spots" offensively and in this interview with Dave Hodge explains the process: 


  • Hockey Hall of Fame 2004
  • Norris Trophy: 1985, 1986, 1995
  • 1st All-Star: 1985, 1986, 1989, 1995
  • Stanley Cups: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1991
  • Most goals in a season by a defenseman: 48, 1985-86
  • Most consecutive games by a  defenseman with at least one point (28 for Edmonton from Nov. 17, 1985, to Jan. 25, 1986)
  • Most points in one game by a defenseman (8 for Edmonton vs. Detroit on March 14, 1986, shares record) 




Edmonton traded Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp to Pittsburgh in exchange for Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph on November 24, 1987.


Through twenty-one NHL seasons, Paul Coffey was named to either the First or Second All-Star Team eight times, and as the Norris Trophy winner on three occasions. He also appeared in fourteen NHL All-Star Games and represented Canada at four Canada/World Cup tournaments. Paul retired as the highest scoring defenseman in NHL playoff history and the second most proficient defenseman in NHL regular season history, sitting behind Raymond Bourque in career goals, assists, and points. In 2004, the spectacularly gifted Paul Coffey was selected to be an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. "I had a chance to see Grant get elected to the Hall last year (2003) and it’s a tremendous honour to join all of my Oilers teammates," said Coffey after being notified of his election to the Hall. "When we beat the Islanders to win our first Stanley Cup and later watched the stars from that team get into the Hall, it’s amazing to receive the telephone call that Grant, Wayne, Jari and Slats got."

Scotty Bowman, writing in The Hockey News in November 2004, stated, "Coffey was one of the most unique defensemen to ever play in the league. He was often referred to as a ‘rover.’ The biggest thing about Coffey was his tremendous speed. If he couldn’t skate like he did, he would not have been able to move up and play like he did. He was like a fourth forward on most attacks."

(courtesy HHOF)



Number 7: The shy, young Coffey. The rookie. Coffey was Edmonton’s first round pick in the spring and they expect wonders from him. So far, however, he seems bottled up, as tense on the ice as he is reticent off it. He first came to Edmonton over the summer, along with his agent Gus Badali, whom he shares with Gretzky. In the limousine that picked them up at the airport and drove them downtown, he said not a word, staring at the Edmonton skyline as if it were Babylon. At training camp he looked unsure of himself, although he is such a fluid skater that he is obviously capable at any moment of living up to his promise. He is 19, but seems much younger than Gretzky. A handsome young man with deep brown eyes, he still keeps much to himself. Badali says he could be the next Bobby Orr, but, of course, all agents say that of their defensive stock.  

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Fists are what are sometimes forgotten about Coffee. I remember him scrapping a bit too. If I was at the game with my Mom, she’d cheer. My Dad would always scold the two combatants.

  • Oilers Coffey

    Dammit Oilers4SALberta, I read, I thought, I had tea (not coffee) and then fisted. But, in all honesty, for the younger generation, he “mixed it up” enough to keep me happy. He also produced some of the best goals I’ve ever seen. But, all the tribute videos and stats, in my mind, limit our memory of Paul Coffee making a little room for himself. The opposition knew if they were to take a shot at him either one of the designated goons or Paul himself would answer the bell. Perhaps he had a little extra room out there…and with that speed, a little room resulted in the red light!

    • Oilers Coffey

      Just by a blink I got my Fist in haha!
      Paul Coffey is still one of my favorite Oilers, everything about his game I emulated. I played D because of him, acted like a 4th forward.
      He was a treat to watch skate up or down the ice, he was the best at the first pass, still is IMO!

      Great article Lowetide

  • Truth

    138 Pts – 120 PIMs, Benchmark for Justin Schultz 2014-2015?? Kidding, but I wish.

    1987 Canada Cup, powerplay line of Coffey, Bourque, Gretzky, Messier, Lemieux, and Fuhr in net. Ridiculous.

  • CaptainLander

    Always remember Ma taking me to Sport Check to get a Coffey signed picture, I also remember Pat Hughs was there and a third Oiler as well. I can’t remember who. I think I was around 6 or 7. Great player and a great memory. Sure do miss when hockey was more of a game and less a business and they actually well…played.

  • The Soup Fascist

    For me he was the most powerful skater EVER in the league (if someone says Orr I won’t argue, though). The guy literally broke the boots of his skates due to the power he generated. If I remember he went through something like nine pairs of skates a year, because he kept shredding the boots.

    @ Oilanderp. He was great in the ’87 Canada Cup, but in 1984 Canada Cup made a very nice play to break up a 2 on 1 in OT vs Soviets and ended up getting an assist on the winner by Bossy a few minutes later.

    He got ragged on a lot for his defensive play back in the day, but for my money the most exciting Oiler ever. Coffey was awesome rushing the puck.

    • Czar

      “If I remember he went through something like nine pairs of skates a year, because he kept shredding the boots.”

      Still can’t beleive he wore his skates 2 sizes smaller than his shoes.

      The guy was awesome,he took an extra minute to chat both times I met him! But did he really bang the bosses wife?? All kinds of rumors at the time of his trade.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Dear Soup Fascist,

      I’m glad you remembered his play in the ’84 Canada Cup. Please – for any of you that didn’t see it then – google it now…and know that before that play he actually had a bad rap as a defensive player! I didn’t think it was fair considering ALL the offence he was producing – but that was his reputation at the time.

      Actually, I looked it up and it’s here, enjoy!

      I’ll never forget that play. In my opinion it was the play that turned the tide in his career. Afterwards Coffey had the confidence he needed to know he could rush the puck AND get back and still play sound defensively, too. That was all he needed; that HUGE confidence boost that one play seemed to give him from that point on in his career! I don’t think I ever heard anyone say he couldn’t play defence ever again in his career…and I’m sure he was glad of that, as well!

      When I think of Paul Coffey his miraculous skating (I never did know how he did it and it always looked so ‘effortless’), and his end to end rushes always come to mind – but the one play, if you were to ask me for only one – would always be that one. Overmatched, two on one, as a seemingly “offensive defenceman only” against the undefeated Russians – in overtime to get to play in the finals. Let’s just say it was scary to watch at THAT time! Thanks Paul, if you ever see this, that was one of the happiest moments I ever had watching hockey, and I was so happy for you, too! 🙂

  • Spydyr

    Great piece,it brings back a lot of memories,everything was going really good until I heard Paul in the video say the word SYSTEM!!SYSTEM!!SYSTEM!!———-then everything went haywire.

    Yes those were the days werent they??I wonder if anyone has a book on that SYSTEM!! he was referring to that they were in the process of adjusting??

    Ideally suited for the “Edmonton Style of Play””

    “Wide open.With emphasis on offense and MORE OFFENSE”

    Sounds a lot like the NewAge Hockey System to me.Oh,wait a minute??It –IS– the NHS!It is! It is the newAge Hockey System!

    How did you like the way four Oilers straddled the blueline all sucking the defensmen into the exact right spot for Paul to operate surgiclly??keeping all the d-men in a dynamic trance–half in and half out of no-mans land for the extra millisecond??Or did you miss that??did you watch Paul pull his defense partner over to him at the beginning of the rush–he was setting the table for a system generated sequence of dynamic actions–NOT SET PLAYS–and it all started with a look over his right shoulder and a perfect pace,a decieving pace luring the opposition into seeing the d-men coming up side by side at the same speed,and tricking them into forming into a set play defence to early,ha ha ha ah.Which Paul immediatly “felt’or read,and then he….oh forget it–I am the only one seeing this stuff i think.I can tell you exactly why Paul changed the angle of his bloody skates and changed pace every time he did it,i can tell you which opponent he was shifting and moving upice when he made these tiny adjustments,which teammate he was also using as a screen and shifting and moving.hese are all basic NHS dynamic tactics.
    The Oilers system-system-system back then was based on dynamicly-dynamicly catalysed offense for 60 mins.Exactly like the NHS is designed to provide asnd maintain.NOT set plays like those used in Hybrid or more traditional systems most of todays NHL teams depend on.Watch the Oilers-Hawks game where Gagner dismantled them to learn what dynamicly catalysed offense looks like.Yes it is identical to 80s Oilers hockey and is textbook NHS.

    I couldnt help the NHS plug.Especially when every time I watch an old Oiler video the NHS core values come screaming out like ghosts at everyone via the players and commentators observations.

  • Czar

    One thing that this story doesn’t really note is that Paul Coffey was one of the first of the Whipping Boys to raise the ire of the Great Oiler Nation. As memory serves, certain gallery gods at Northlands coined the moniker “Coff-Up,” for him due to his occasional lapses with the puck (my dad still calls him that).

    I don’t remember if he lashed back at fans as infamously as Grant Fuhr did when he got some boos early in his career, but if he did, it was minimal.

    My other Coffey memory is the famous post-game interview after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final when Coffey told the CBC reporter (I believe it may have been Chris Cuthbert, but I’ll stand corrected) that he and the Oilers were at an impasse and he may have just played his last game with them (I don’t remember his exact words, but that was the jist of it).

    At the time, I’m not sure if young fans like me thought much of it – probably just a looming contract dispute, nothing more.

    But in terms of the larger-picture that public declaration of unhappiness (made in the middle of a dressing room soaked with champagne) was of monumental historical significance for the franchise: The beginning of the slow-motion exodus.

    Rightly or wrongly, Coffey took the first step out the door, and it was pretty much all by choice. That’s how a lot of us remember Coffey – the combination of on-ice excellence and off-ice drama.

    • The Soup Fascist

      He wasn’t just the fans whipping boy, he was one of Sather’s favorite targets. Some guys could take Sather’s Jedi mind melding, Coffey was not one of those guys.

      Sather never did figure out Coffey (and vice versa). Coffey was pretty thin skinned, if I remember Sather’s harsh words certainly put the two at odds. This was as much the reason for the hold out and trade as monetary reasons, IMO.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s funny you mention Coffey Blackhawks’ jerseys.

    There’s a local dude in GP who sets up a booth at every Christmas craft show and home show and whatever trade fair is going on. It’s a booth of hockey memorabilia.

    One of the items he’s always trying to sell is an autographed Paul Coffey Oilers Jersey … with the No. 77 on its back.

    Yes, that’s right. He’s an Oiler fan – probably in his mid to late 30s – and he thinks that Coffey wore 77 in Edmonton.

    I always laugh when I walk past the booth.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I know this blog is about coffey but I cant believe how terrible the barons are, just terrible. You would think that nuge ebs and hall and shultz would at least be able to get a winning environment down there but the team stinks just like the oilers stink wow.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      MMmmm,Coach Nelson reaffirmed the mission statement.Four lines need to contribute offensively.

      Maybe a singular micro-managed focus for each line will do the trick.A tactical shooting program{TSP} might do wonders.Guess we need to trust the pros they get paid for this?What the heck is a TSP anyways?

      We havent seen the current version of the Oilers yet,–we cant stink yet–you must be smelling something else??

      Do you live in Southern Alberta by chance?If you do send an e-mail to the Calgary Mayor and tell them to clean that big old saddle cause things are getting a little sour, might it be that you are smelling that greasy old saddle??

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The new Coffeey is Justin Schultz…….I just hope that we get to see this player this year!

    Fans rise up find Bettman and Fehr and let’s trade them to the NBA for a basketball.