He played only 200 regular season games for the Oilers, and he was never a top line player. Ken Linseman’s unique qualities and skills made him unforgettable in every Oiler game he played. Love him or hate him, you had to be aware of The Rat.  

Last Team: Birmingham (WHA)                          
Birthplace: Kingston, Ontario (Canada)
Hometown: Kingston, Ontario
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1974-75 Kingston OMJHL 59 19 28 47 70
1975-76 Kingston OMJHL 65 61 51 112 92
1976-77 Kingston OMJHL 63 53 74 127 210
1977-78 Birmingham WHA 71 38 38 76 126
  • Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as the No. 11 overall prospect for the 1978 NHL draft.
  • Linseman was criminally charged and eventually convicted of assault for kicking an opponent’s head with his skate during his junior career.
  • Linseman challenged NHL ban on drafting underage juniors in a 1977 lawsuit that went through Canadian court system. The suit was later dropped when Linseman signed to play in the WHA, but it helped open the door for the NHL’s drafting of 18-year-olds.
  • Signed with Birmingham (WHA) as a 19-year-old underage junior in 1977, helping the team earn nickname "Baby Bulls" for its reliance on the signing of underage juniors. The WHA tried to block Linseman from signing his contract because it banned underage signings, but Linseman and his father went to court and got a restraining order that allowed him to play in the league. Because Linseman was older than 18, a judge ruled he could not be stopped from making a living as a pro hockey player.

Selected in the first round, 7th overall in the 1978 Entry Draft by Philadelphia

Courtesy Hockey Draft Central.


If you would give me two minutes of your time, please watch this video. In it, Howie Meeker gives a brilliant description of Linseman as a hockey player (he was terrific) while Linseman does what he does best–piss off the opponent. Unusual in this video? Linseman didn’t get away. 

Linesman was a helluva hockey player. Highly skilled and very gritty, he was a quality playmaker and could score goals in bunches.  He was an Oiler twice (more later), and the first time  he helped give Edmonton what might be the best 1-3 center cluster in the game’s history (Gretzky, Messier, Linseman). 


  • One Stanley Cup (1984)
  • Played on Philadelphia team that set NHL record with 35-game unbeaten streak from Oct. 14, 1979, to Jan. 6, 1980
  • Played on "Rat Patrol" line with Paul Holmgren and Brian Propp for Philadelphia from 1979-80 to 1981-82
  • Served two four-game suspensions during 1982-83 season. The second suspension resulted from a fight with Dean Kennedy during Edmonton’s Feb. 3, 1983, game vs. Los Angeles. The fight took place under the stands at Northlands Coliseum, and Linseman was suspended on Feb. 18, 1983
  • Played on line with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson for Edmonton in 1983-84
  • Scored Stanley Cup-winning goal for Edmonton in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Finals vs. N.Y. Islanders on May 19, 1984
  • An avid surfer during his playing days and continued to surf for years after his retirement.




  • Philadelphia traded Linseman, Greg C. Adams, 1982 first-round pick (David A. Jensen) and 1982 third-round pick (Leif Karlsson) to Hartford in exchange for Mark Howe and 1983 third-round pick (Derrick Smith) on August 19, 1982.
  • Same day: Hartford then traded Linseman and Dan Nachbaur to Edmonton in exchange for Risto Siltanen and Brent Loney to complete the three-way deal on August 19, 1982.
  • Edmonton traded Linseman to Boston straight up for Mike Krushelnyski June 21, 1984. 
  • Edmonton signs Linseman as a free agent, August 31, 1990.
  • Edmonton trades Linseman to Toronto for cash, October 7, 1991.


He was a scrappy, grinding, shifty centreman who could score, check, kill penalties, and irritate opponents with a mastery rarely ever seen. He also had blinking-quick speed on his skates and a mouth like Don Rickles to boot. He once noted that, in light of his style of play, he’d have felt embarrassed to win the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play.


He was a physical player in all zones of the ice, but at 5.11 and 175 he was anything but a heavy hitter. He did hit hard, though often taking a couple more strides than he should have and often using his arms and elbows to hit high. In a pre-obstruction crackdown NHL he was well versed in other uses for the hockey stick. He would slask, cross check and spear an opponent, and he was a clutch and grab specialist. 

Joe Pelletier

Early in his career, Linseman was looked upon as being a newer, nastier Bobby Clarke. He was filthy, as the video above proves beyond a doubt. Linseman was also a very effective hockey player, and I think that part of his game has been obscured by his famous antics and ‘outside the line’ activities on the ice. 

That’s a shame. He was a wonderful hockey player and a world class rat. You loved him if he was on your side, and hated him if it was the opposite. I think that’s a compliment. 


  • 15w40

    I was at the first game he ever played for the Oilers. On the first shift the puck went into the crease and Linseman went in too and kept digging and poking at the goalie way after the whistle.I looked over and Sather was literally laughing out loud. A very useful Oiler.

  • 15w40

    While I don’t miss all the hooking, grabbing and cross checking from years past, I really miss hard nosed gritty hockey. It seems the league is intent on making this a ‘skating’ league – which works on bigger ice but isn’t ideal on North American rinks. The intensity from those videos is palpaple – when was the last time you saw that in a non-playoff game? Progress isn’t always for the better…

  • oilersOne

    The reality of the situation is finally setting in! Here we sit after 16 games (about 1/3 the season) and the Oil are 6-7-3 and sitting 24th in the NHL. Last year through 27 games (about 1/3 of the season) they were 13-11-3 or the ~ equivalent of this season’s record so far and in a similar position. In 2010, at (you guessed it ~ 1/3 of the season) 9-12-4 was where they sat as well for 15th in the west and 26th overall. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it!! The problem here is that saying “we are so proud to select the first overall pick…” does not a successful rebuild make!! Tambo needs to make some moves, some good hockey moves to make this team competitive. I’m the first guy to say there is some exciting young talent on this squad but if they can’t win a game, what does it matter?? There are some great pieces but not a great team. A great team requires a carefully woven mix of role players and unfortunately Tambo has just acquired a bunch of the same guy… young, small, skilled kids. Not a team that is tough to play against but who has the wheels to skate you into the ground… smash you through the wall yet snipe 2-3 goals a night. It’s time for a trade, as Brownlee was saying earlier today “before its too late”… Or is it too late, we all know how things ended for the past two years with similar records to this at the 1/3 way point.
    SAD 🙁 Very SAD :

  • Quicksilver ballet

    5’11” and 175 lbs, we have alot of those kinda guys now. We could sure use an initiator type player of Linsemans ilk, someone who’ll come to work with a salt shaker.