During the time Fernando Pisani laced them up for the Edmonton Oilers, he was never the team’s best player. Never their best forward, never their best right winger. Why then, do we miss him so?
Because of the character of the man and the splendid way he played the game. I believe the reason we loved Fernando Pisani as an Oiler can be summed up in that one stunning goal he scored in Raleigh those years ago: turning to forecheck and force the play as the puck left the opposition zone, using that big brain and moving laterally along their blue and, cheating only a little while remaining stealth and looking for a turnover, and then pure skill with a quick and deadly stick to intercept the pass before it went offside. A few quick strides and then glory!
It is possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Pisani out of St. Albert, a bedroom community to the Alberta capital. The club drafted a few St. Albert Saints over the years (Mark Messier, Mike Comrie, others) and Pisani continued the tradition in the 8th round of the 1996 entry draft.
Although he was picked deep in the 1996 draft, Pisani was regarded as a top recruit for the NCAA (ranked #8 by the Hockey News) and settled on Providence.He played 4 years in college, and then turned pro at the turn of the centry with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
It took awhile for Fernando to get noticed; Jim Harnock mentioned him at HF in April 2002, saying he had established himself as a legit pro hockey player. By June 2003 people were gushing:
Guy Flaming: March (2003) was a great month for Oiler rookies. The emergence of Fernando Pisani was as fortunate as it was unexpected. Quite often a player excels in the AHL but not at the highest pro level. Pisani, another Edmonton product playing at home, had become a fixture with the parent club since early in 2003 and had earned his way into the lineup in place of Dan Cleary. Fernando scored twice against Anaheim early in March and then notched his first career hat trick against the Washington Capitals. It was the first three-goal performance by an Oiler since 2001. Pisani had another two-goal night on April 3rd versus the San Jose Sharks.
It took 2 and a half seasons for Pisani to make his way to the NHL after turning pro, but once he forced his way to the NHL he quickly became a much relied-upon 2-way winger for the Oilers under Craig MacTavsh. Pisani on the ice represented calm waters. He helped introduce men like Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres to the NHL, much like Shawn Horcoff did in 2010-11 with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
After that wonderful Stanley Cup run, Pisani had some health issues (described in the commercial above) and at one point it sounded as though his hockey career was over.
Incredibly, he found a way to recover his NHL career and flourish. It is one of the truly inspirational stories in team history, and one we’ll remember a long time.
As a player, Fernando Pisani represented Edmonton more than any forward in recent history. He’s from the area, he played most of his hockey career within a few miles of Edmonton, he’s a hard working guy who put in a full day’s work without bitching and he proudly wore his city and his heritage. He was mentor to a generation of Oiler kids, and he was a coach’s dream, never balking at the opportunity to help the latest wayward soul the GM brought in.
And when life gave Fernando Pisani a sock in the jaw, he went after it the samw way he forechecked the hell out of those Hurricanes in Raliegh that fateful night.
And we’ll never forgot that moment, or the man. Fernando Pisani.