It’s not like Dallas Eakins took a jackhammer to the Wayne Gretzky statue or scaled the rafters in Rexall Place to yank down the sacred linen lifted by the Edmonton Oilers. He’s simply decided to rid his team’s dressing room of some clutter from glory days long past. It’s about time.
While there’s likely an Oiler fan or two who’ll take the renovations that are underway in the dressing room as disrespecting or minimalizing past glories and the players who made them possible on a team that’s won five Stanley Cups, that strikes me as a bit of a reach.
Removing some old photos, plaques and various dusty odds and ends from the dressing room isn’t about turning a cold shoulder to an era when Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glen Sather and the rest of the Boys On The Bus made the Oilers the toast of the NHL. It’s Eakins way, he explains, of shifting the focus to the players here now. Of looking ahead instead of constantly back.
Even as a sportswriter old enough to have witnessed the tail-end of the days of parades on Jasper Avenue, and being of an age to put considerable value in the trappings of tradition younger folks might not, count me as on board with the renovations Eakins is undertaking.
It hasn’t taken Eakins, hired this off-season, long at all to put his stamp on this team. Some might say he’s packing a lot of brass to ask that the old plaques and photos be gathered up and moved elsewhere inside Rexall Place so fans can enjoy them. Out with the old, save those five replica Stanley Cups and some odds and ends, in with the new.
"Listen, when we walk in that door, there’s five Stanley Cups standing there," Eakins told reporters Sunday. "That’s a great piece of history. That’s the only thing that counts.
"I thought it was really important that our team be featured in that room. I’m going to do my best to make sure that there is a picture of every guy on our roster in that room somewhere. That is their dressing room. It is not Mark Messier’s dressing room, and this is no disrespect. We will definitely try and emulate the play of those teams and the success they had. I just want these guys to be comfortable with their room."
So, while photos of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov might not yet have the same cachet as much of the old stuff that’s come off the walls – really, will anybody miss the teams of the mid-1990s? – it’s not like Eakins is tossing out tradition like garage sail fodder.
HERE AND NOW
I see no issue of disrespecting tradition — one could make the case that the years since the last Cup in 1990, including seven straight seasons out of the playoffs, is a far greater affront to TBOTB. You think Eakins didn’t run all this past GM Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe?
Some new paint and new carpet doesn’t diminish what the remarkable teams of the 1980s accomplished. The engraver’s work is done. The HHOF is filled with photographs and records and tokens marking the wonderful careers of Gretzky, Messier, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson and Sather. The dressing room need not be.
Modest as it might be here and now in 2013, it’s home to a completely new generation of Oiler players. This is their place.
BELOV IN TOWN?
While there’s no official confirmation from the Oilers, a tip of the cap might be in order to reader TonyT., who said in the comments section of my previous item that he saw Russian Anton Belov at the airport this evening. I’m led to believe that is, indeed, the case. We’ll find out Monday morning at Rexall Place.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.