He arrived in a summer when Oiler fans felt they already had their "goalie of the future" and he left when the man Edmonton acquired for Moog had established himself as a top flight goaltender. In between, he was a legend. Grant Fuhr provided Oiler fans with acrobatics worthy of the Flying Wallendas.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
WHL Top Goaltender: 1980-81 (Victoria)
WHL Rookie of Year: 1979-80 (Victoria)
WHL All-Star First Team: 1979-80, 1980-81 (Victoria)
WHL Goals-Against Average Leader: 1980-81 (Victoria) (2.78 GAA)
WHL Shutouts Leader: 1980-81 (Victoria) (4 shutouts)
WHL Minutes Leader: 1980-81 (Victoria) (3,448 minutes)
WHL Playoffs GAA Leader: 1981 (Victoria) (3.00)
WHL Playoffs Shutouts Leader: 1981 (Victoria) (1 shutout)
Memorial Cup Losses Leader: 1981 (Victoria) (3 losses)
Miscellaneous: Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as
No. 10 overall prospect, No. 1 overall goaltender prospect and No. 1 WHL goaltender prospect for the 1981 NHL draft. … Coached and mentored by Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall during his minor-hockey career in Alberta.
Although the Oilers already had an up and coming goaltender in Andy Moog, the club decided to use a precious top 10 selection–#8 overall–on Grant Fuhr from Spruce Grove. He was known to Oiler fans before the draft (there had been some discussion about him) and his sparkling play in the WHL meant he was guaranteed a high spot in the draft.
As a fan, I recall thinking the Fuhr pick was a bit of a waste. There were other quality players on the board, and Edmonton already had Moog–who I (and pretty much the entire Oiler Nation) liked a lot. Fuhr didn’t get the memo, because he roared into training camp that fall and won the job as Oilers starting goaltender.
Fuhr played in the "run and gun" era of Oilers hockey, which meant games were wildly entertaining and full of breakaways and two-on-one’s both ways. Modern statistical analysis suggests Fuhr’s goaltending was average to slightly above average for the era, but watching him live was breathtaking. Grant Fuhr made highlight reel saves routinely, and early on gained the reputation for being a "money" goaltender. For this reason, Fuhr became the goaltender of record for the Oilers during the playoffs from 1984-88:
- Grant Fuhr 61 wins, 18 losses. Four Stanley’s
We can talk all day about save percentages, goals against average, angles, glove hand, consistency, injury. For Oiler fans of a certain age, Grant Fuhr walks on water because of what happened in those 81 playoff games from spring 1984 through summer 1988. Count me in as a charter member of the Grant Fuhr fan club.
- Five Stanley Cups: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990
- 403 career wins, plus 92 in the playoffs
- Hall of Fame 2003
- Vezina Trophy 1988
- First All-Star 1988
- Second All-Star 1982
- most assists by a goaltender in one season (14 for Edmonton in 1983-84)
- Fuhr was goalie of record in the would-be Game 4 of Stanley Cup Finals at Boston on May 24, 1988, when the lights went out in Boston Garden. Due to the power failure, the game was suspended at 16:37 of second period and never resumed, but all statistics counted in Stanley Cup Finals totals.
- Became first goalie in NHL history to win 16 playoff games in one season when he achieved feat with Edmonton in 1988.
As had happened to Andy Moog a decade earlier, Grant Fuhr was forced out by quality play from a younger goaltender. Bill Ranford–the hero of the 1990 Stanley victory for Edmonton–played lights out during the 1991 Canada Cup tournament and came to camp as the #1 goaltender. With no room for him and his value still very high, Edmonton traded Fuhr, Glenn Anderson and Craig Berube to Toronto for Vincent Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson and future considerations on September 19, 1991.
Over a 10-year period, Grant Fuhr led the Oilers to five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990. Without a doubt, his best year was in 1987. Fuhr was a workhorse, accumulating a league-leading 4,304 minutes played and 40 wins. He earned his sole Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender and was runner-up to teammate Wayne Gretzky for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. During the 1983-1984 season, Fuhr collected 14 points, which still stands as the single-season record for most points by a goaltender.
On October 22, he defeated the Florida Panthers to attain his 400th career win — only the sixth goalie in NHL history to reach that milestone, joining the likes of Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Patrick Roy. Prior to the 2000-01 season, Grant Fuhr announced his retirement from professional hockey. Fittingly, in Fuhr’s first year of eligibility, he was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
-Hockey Hall of Fame
With broadcasters and the press, Fuhr showed a still more remarkable facet of his personality. He would answer questions as if he had never learned the art of the "interview"–the ritual by which hockey players would phrase wordy and predictable answers to wordy and predictable questions.
Fuhr answered what was asked of him, no less but certainly no more. Asked if he found NHL play much tougher than junior A, he would not say, as the ceremony demanded,"Well, they’re faster here and they shoot harder and I’m playing against guys I used to read about and dreamed of playing against, but I just try to do my job one game at a time, and if I hang in there I think….."
Instead, he answered "no."
Note: Fuhr’s interviews became the stuff of legend for the very reason Gzowski beautifully outlined in his book. Grant Fuhr–like all goalies–marched to his own beat. Strum along or walk away, you make the call.
WHAT A GOALIE!