Marty McSorley was in Edmonton this past weekend for the Face Off for Alzheimers Pro Am. He’s still a huge fan favourite, as he went first overall in the draft. I had a long chat with Marty at the draft about a variety of topics, and then he came on my radio show to discuss suspensions, intimidation, playing tough and how players learn to compete at the NHL level.

How many times did you get suspended in your career?

McSorley I had my share. I’ll be perfectly honest; sometimes the threat of taking a suspension certainly quieted down the game, quieted down then bench and let my guys get back to doing what they did best.

Gregor: Can that happen in today’s game?

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McSorley: I don’t know. I was just talking with a gentleman here in Edmonton. I don’t know if I could do that job today. There are third and fourth line guys that would look at the tough guys and say, “Go ahead and do something.” What you used to get three or four games for, today you would get twenty, twenty-five games.

You used to be able to impose a the threat to convince guys to not go out and put the stick into Gretzky, Mario, Joe Sakic, or Stevie Yzerman, and those guys, I don’t know if you can stop that now. I think those guys are a lot more susceptible to getting hit by anybody and everybody.

Brownlee: When you say you got suspended a few times, are you talking about having your own chair at NHL Head Offices with your name embroidered on it?

McSorley: (laughing) Luc Robitaille slashed a guy in front of the net once and he was talking to the media after the league gave him three games. He said, “Well, I’m sorry,” and I said, “Excuse me for a second.”

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I took Luc aside and told him, “Luc, you look at the camera and say, ‘I meant to do it, I needed to do it, guys takes liberties with me, I’m going to do it again if it means I’m going to have to protect myself.” I told him,“You’re going to get a lot more space, use the three games to rest, you’ll get all your goals back and you’ll be rested for the playoffs.” There were times I’d say to guys, “Ok, I’m going to go out and I’m going to do something here and not everybody’s going to like it, and I hope everybody sees it on Sportscentre.” Because when you go by a team, in front of their bench, and say, “You guys better stop or somebody’s going to get hurt,” they know you mean it. Dave Semenko had a great line. He said to me once, “Every now and then we must remind them."

Gregor: How do you have that on-ice respect, that on-ice self-policing now, given the state of the game?

McSorley: You know, it’s interesting. Obviously the kids have worn facemasks and that had an impact on how guys carried their sticks and how guys hit each other, and when all the kids coming up had worn facemasks their whole lives it changes how they react to one another.

Now you’ve got it to where people can turn to the boards with no fear, meanwhile they’re still getting hit every now and then and still getting hurt. I just think you have to go back to minor hockey and teach the respect. Teach people to be responsible for how they hit and how they get hit, their own positioning. Put it back into the game. I mean, your stars are getting hit and they’re getting hit often. You know the coaches are circling three or four players on each team before the game saying, “Make sure you finish those guys. Those guys? You know, Sidney Crosby- will Sidney Crosby be able to last a whole playoffs? I don’t know. I think people take liberties. Mark Howe said it, when he went into the Hall of Fame. “I’m not sure we can govern the game from a board room in New York,” and I have to agree with him in a lot of ways.

Brownlee: Characters in the game, the make up of teams, it somehow seems pasteurized now. Maybe this version of the Oilers, to be specific to Edmonton, has a bunch of good kids, and they’re nice guys, and so on and so forth, but they are all the same. It seems to me, on a lot of championship teams, there were characters, there were a couple of bad acts, there were a whole bunch of people from the spectrum of character and personality. Do you see that in the game anymore? Are there still those characters, or are they being muffled by media relations guys?

McSorley: Well it’s interesting. I was in Calgary last weekend and the reporters there were saying the guys are scared to death to say anything. They just almost walk by. There’s so much social media. The guys in Edmonton, when we grew up during the Cup years, the media was great to them and the fans in Edmonton were great to them. They’d look the other way when the guys would have little indiscretions and different things.

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They said those are the boys being boys because they knew the guys were going to go out on the ice and play as hard as they possibly could. Deep down, they were good guys. I don’t know if those indiscretions get looked past now or they just get so over-analyzed. There’s Twitter and Facebook. I know the LA Kings, Luc Robitaille pulled some of the young guys in and said, “Listen, you can’t say this, you can’t do this, you can’t post this.” Social media has had a big effect on pasteurizing, making it bland, and scaring them a bit about being who they were. We laugh and say, if they had camera phones going back to when we were playing, what would have been out there and there’s a lot of truth to it. I don’t want to blame social media, but I do think that it has an effect on it.

Gregor: The odd player who does engage on social media becomes well-known. Is that good or bad?

McSorley: It’s sad when the voice of sports is Chad Ocho Cinco, Terrell Owens, or Jeremy Roenick. If those guys are the voice of sports, we’re in big trouble. I’d really love to hear Derek Jeter say something that’s quasi-controversial. Have Sidney Crosby say something that he’s thought through and then he really believes in, but may not be agreed upon by everyone. I think the guys are a little scared to say it now.

Brownlee: A shot at JR hey? Interesting.

McSorley: (laughing) I tease JR. I’ll see him at events and I’ll give him a, “Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak,” kind of sign with my hands. I do. I give JR a hard time and tease him. Again, if your stars come out and they say something that’s really relevant and meaningful- again, the personality of the guys, there’s so many great characters in the game, I still believe there is. I just think they’re a little timid to get it out there. I hope the young guys in Edmonton show their personalities because the people in Edmonton were certainly great with our crew of guys. They’d look the other way when need be and they would make the comment, “boys are being boys,” and allowed us to go out on the ice and do what we did.

Gregor: The Oilers don’t have a lot of guys who just have any sort of nastiness in their game. Either you have it or you don’t. Can other guys help you become more of a competitive player, or does most of that have to come from within?

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McSorley: No, I think that has to come from within. I think at the core of it, when you looked at the guys that we had; Lee Fogolin was a really tough guy. He was a tough person. Charlie Huddy took a beating and he just kept playing, nothing fazed him, he never got intimidated. There was a lot of toughness in that lineup, like Glenn Anderson, that people didn’t really associate with being tough. That team was tough and that’s who we were.

I remember having an argument with Mark Messier, I don’t believe you can make a guy into a tough person. I think his character is there when you need it most, when it’s sudden, and it happens quickly. So no, I think that competitive factor has to come from within.

I really like to watch the Oilers. I love to watch their young players play and I think some of them know how to compete. The nastiness and things, I think that you kind of know which guys around the league deliver it. I think you see it when a guy first comes into the league. Glen Sather was phenomenal with me. I’d go out and get in a big fight, something the team felt they really needed. I’d get the second half of the next power play, because Glen really appreciated it and so did the guys. The guys appreciated it and they let you know. It just enabled me to grow as a player.

Brownlee: When you look at this version of the Oilers, there is some terrific young talent, but do you see that component or nastiness?

McSorley: I think if they maybe had a couple of twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine year old guys that were good players, I mean players that all the teams in the league wanted. A couple of those guys who expected to win, it would be easy for those young guys to grab a hold of it.

These young guys, from the moment they’ve come into the National Hockey League, they’ve not been on a winning hockey team. I don’t think you can discount them yet, I think that these guys are winners at heart. I really do. I watch the way they’ll pick up the pace of a hockey game, and want to make plays, and want to improve as players. That’s a good core. That’s a good starting point for these kids. If you could surround them with two or three of those guys who’ve had some success, who could look them in the eye and challenge them, and go right out there and play right alongside them. I think it would really work wonders with these guys. I think MacT has to be looking in that area.

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It seems anyone who watches the Oilers recognizes the need to find some veterans who can play, and also mentor the kids. You can’t expect them to learn how to compete from your coach, GM or president. It has to come from guys who you battle with on the ice every night.

McSorley had some great stories at the draft, and he is considering writing a book. I hope he does.


Don’t forget to play StreakCred, the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Only $20 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.


  • Quicksilver ballet

    Marty McSorley!!!…..Now that was a tough good role player (Minus the one bad incident).

    I always liked him for working hard, being a good soldier and protecting his teammates.

    In fact, I will never forget that awesome 1986 Battle of Alberta series where he fought with many others and he ripped up Risebrough’s sweater (after Risebrough threw a sucker punch).

    I salute ya Marty for what ya did for the Oilers and I say thanks for the great memories….

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There isn’t one guy in that dressing room right now who could challenge these kids to be better. There’s only a bunch of guys that have never accomplished much of anything before.

    Bringing in players who have accomplished something before isn’t an easy thing to do. Maybe if Kevin Lowe was a Pastor, then, he may actually be able to help these kids in some way.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Hall takeout on Clutterbuck was textbook nasty,every time I see it I shudder.

    I like how Marty refers to specific ages and points in career curves,I agree,we need guys around 27-28 who are hell bent on winning and sacrifice nightly to do that and can keep up with our kids.At 27-28 you are able to play in the tall grass with the big dogs.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Marty and Kevin Mclelland were only two of the fighters…..there were just as many tough hockey players that could beat you one on one, score a goal, or just beat the crap out of you.

    Even Kevin Lowe was tough at one time and now he is a loser of a President……..

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Kevin Lowe targeted guys who didn’t fight like Al Mccinnis and hid behind tough guys if challenged by a fighter. If that is tough, I don’t agree.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The Bruise brothers they were known as back in the day. Look up Don Jackson vs Stan Jonathon on hockey fights. We do not have one single player who puts the fear of God into any one. Mike Brown is willing but does not even come close to guys like McSorley,Messier,Don Jackson,Dave Hunter, Dave Lumley or Dave Semenko.

      Semenko was the guy.

      Team toughness is a lie.
      Where are the guys on the ice willing to pay that price? On our team the one guy we thought might provide that was shipped to the minors.Ben Eager. Heck Hordichuck was willing but the teams numbers due to Peckhams stupidity ensured his being sent to the minors.

      Does that guy need to play in your top 6? We need a good #4 pairing defenceman for J Shultz. Someone who can chew up minutes. But why does he have to be a skilled dman who can transition the puck when J Shultz is on the ice? He needs to be a guy who can kill the cycle and provide grit to the lineup.

      More frakin NCAA primadona’s we don’t need. Get some guys willing to get dirty and stand up like McSorley did for his team mates.

      A couple of veteran wingers with size up front along with grit. Frak the boxcars look at the PIMS and the Corsie numbers.

      Mark Fistric, Andrew Ference,and Johnny Boychuck would add some of what we need to the backend. One of Stralberg or Bickell. Find a guy willing to do the dirty work in front of the net.
      We have way to many soft players. MacT has already shown the door to Whitney.Time to move the rest of the undesirables out the door this summer. Don’t want to be here. Then get the frak out of the way and let somebody else be part of the future of this franchise .Belly ache somewhere else.

        • Spydyr

          How many fights did Messier have in first 2 years in the NHL? It was like 30. 15 a year. No Messier wwasn’ttas not a tough guy either. Nor was Anderson. Nor Hunter or Lumley. Yet their truculence translated into a reluctance of the opponents to frak with guys like Kurri and Gretzky. BJ McDonald scored 50 with Gretzky yet he also was tough as nails. Lumley and Hunter did drop the gloves when needed.

          We also had guys like McLeland,Napier and Linesman. Pouzar and Weir. The teams toughness was throughout the lineup. From the top down.

          Can we say that now? We have 1 guy. 1. Brown. I would rather the 1 guy be the nuclear deterant. I would rather McIntyre than Brown. I want that comfort. I want that guy to go out and remind the other team. We are so soft right now .The Canadian National Women’s team is harder on the puck than we are. That is a fact. I would take Wickenheiser over MP any day of the week. She at least shows up every game. She competes. We have/had(Ben Eager) guys here who won’t even break a sweat to retrieve a puck.Our compete level was almost non existent some nights.

          I want. Need . Deserve. A team with players who are willing to throw 100% of effort into every game they play. The margin of winning is so slim that MacT said it best.Its that last 5% of effort that defines what is a winning team from a losing team. The playoffs prove that adage. I want to see the Oilers do that which they have not yet learned to do yet. Win.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I always appreciated those very tough, nasty and gritty past Oilers such as Semenko, McSorley, dave Brown, McClelland, Linseman, Lacombe, Lumley, Hunter, Jackson, Fogolin, Muni, Jason Smith, a younger Ethan Moreau, etc,…..

    As like Don Cherry has stated many times, Marty said it best (above)when he spoke of those stupid rules now in place in today’s game that fully hurt the team to protect it’s skill players.

    I have always hated the instigator rule, the rule that players can’t protect their teammates or they face such as like ten to twenty game type suspensions. I know that it was those type WIMPY LEAGUE POLITICIANS

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hey I got cut off in #11 as I tried to also add it those wipmy fans anmd even wimpy media types who complained about fighting and hardlined protection of teammates too.

    I challenge the league to finally drop that stupid instigator rule Please!!!!! bring back those 70’s and 80’s years of actual real hockey.

    • Reg Dunlop

      The rules are the rules. The league will never revert back to the way it was. It is the job of mgmt. to ice a team that can succeed under the present rules. No need for fighters. We need instigators. Players like Bieksa, jerks that chop and jab first. Players that are not intimidated, players that do not disappear when the post-whistle face washing commences. Players that hit first allowing the opposition to retaliate and take penalties. Players that understand gamesmanship. By the way, excellent comments by McSnarly. Why isn’t he in mgmt. somewhere?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Lowe ,as a player had it all . Toughness , grit , could get nasty , and fighting when necessary , backed his mates and was a superior defencesive talent as I recall ! Keegan shown much the same disposition of his dad . Sort of like Gagner showing disposition and drive of his dad . McSorley was not talented enough to get many minutes , as his talents were limited . Oilers of old were team tough and very few teams could match them in that regard . We are not anymore , and have fallen drastically from 2006 in comparison .

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Lowe could only turn one way and was very fortunate to be surrounded with superior talent and toughness his whole career. Very overated. He did block shots though. Mcsorely was actually in the top 10 in def scoring on 3 different seasons. He was better and played more than you remember.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Your kidding right ? Your comparing probably a future hall of famer to a plug in comparison . Cadillac vs. the Voltswagon ? McSorley was often used like Burns . Lowe I did not overrate as many will attest if they grew up in that era . Your the first I have ever heard that thinks McSorley was better . Thanks for the chuckle at least .

        • Reg Dunlop

          I am not comparing him with a Future HOF, I am comparing him with Lowe. I also never said he was better but was better than you stated. 3 times he was in top 10 def scoring. As well, he was a late cut of Team Canada one year. I will stand behind my critique of Lowe. Always surrounded by superior talent and toughness. He was a support player who would have been exposed on a lesser team.

  • Reg Dunlop

    If we swap our first round pic with say Buffalo , New Jersey or Philly (8,9,and 10th order ) whom might fit the player type that McSorley feel might help us ? Myers , Clarkson , Hartnell , etc. ? Expecting that type of return is unlikely , but nice if MacT. could pull it together .

  • Reg Dunlop

    It may be a rough time to be an Oiler fan but it’s a great time to be a hockey fan. Watching the Wild get curb-stomped… priceless. Watching the canucks close out the present era without winning a cup and then drifting to the bottom of the standings as the sisters age… satisfying. Our turn on top is coming, sportsfans!

  • Reg Dunlop

    Old Oilers learned fast how to compete with a dynasty club in their own rite – the Islanders . Just like the Islanders learned fast how to compete against the Leafs of that era . Both their first kick at the cat so to speak they were physically manhandled . One year later they negated that experience -neutralized it . Having superior talent on both clubs they then went on dynasty runs . They learned fast and implemented fast . Flames were no sloutch at that time either – good , talented , well coached , very physical , and may have gone on a dynasty run of their own if Oilers did not exist . Trotier (Mr. hack and wack ) taught Oilers just how nasty we had to play to excel . The Oiler Flame rivalry was EPIC for years because we were both so good . AHHHH, those were the days ! Back then we were very talented and brutally physical when required .

  • paul wodehouse

    I agree it is getting more difficult to protect stars , but reverting back is not the answer, and I doubt it is going to happen . The Lars Eller hit will become the new norm . Players will be held accountable in future for overkill and dangerous play resulting in at least major injuries to opponents . Goon hockey seems like it will not be tolerated if leading to injuries Intent to injure hits are being targeted and players will be accountable . Elbows , forearm shivers , etc. targeted as equipment and size of players has evolved . Blind siding with intent to put player out of game and bordering on intent to injure will be targeted .

    I agree with Shanahan – keep the game physical but reduce dangerous and intent to injure play . In doing so , then the skilled players will be better protected by just such action . Like it or not , that should benefit our smaller Oilers and help keep them on the ice and less time in the infirmary or injury list!

    • Spydyr

      The Gruba hit was not goon hockey – it was a play we have seen countless times that ended up badly for the recipient because he hit his face on the ice. It was not a Scott Stevens head shot special. Gryba was lining up the body on suicide pass (I agree with everyone who says the d-man who passed the puck should take more flack, that was brutal). Check out Kerry Fraser’s commentary on TSN.

      If Shanny does not us spend Abdelkader for two for his hit against the Ducks then he is full of it as the disciplinarian. Head shot but not as nasty of a result.

  • Spydyr

    Dave Semenko had a great line. He said to me once, “Every now and then we must remind them.”

    It is deathly quiet here the last few years.It has been a long time since someone on the Oilers sent a reminder.

  • Reg Dunlop

    right along the ice!
    And anyone who’s thought of Hunter – recall the night he was face to face with the Canuck, turned his stick over and did an axe chop to the guy with a wicked slash. Got a few games. “Might” get a couple – few dozen now. 🙂