With all the disappointment the Edmonton Oilers and their fans have endured these last eight years since a Game 7 loss to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final, today’s news there’ll be a 30th reunion of the 1984 Cup champion Oilers Oct.10 is a welcome breath of fresh air.
That 1984 Cup win was the first of five for the Oilers by what, at least in my estimation, represents the NHL’s last true dynasty. It was a stretch of glory fashioned by the greatest player ever to lace on skates, Wayne Gretzky, and, arguably, the greatest NHL teams ever assembled.
If you were there in 1984 – I wasn’t, having arrived in 1989 just in time to grab a notepad and caddy for Jim Matheson at The Journal during the 1990 Stanley Cup championship – I’m guessing today’s reunion takes you back to a happier time. Fans could use a little of that, no?
Absent for four of the five Cups or not, I welcome this look back, orchestrated by the Great One. While I missed most of the fun in person, I inherited the seat Gretzky used to occupy alongside Rod Phillips on the Oiler plane during the many years I covered the team. Rod is one of the great story-tellers in the game. Likewise, Matheson. I’ve heard them all.
Still, there’s nothing like being there. Lucky you.
As was the case at the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium and the Boys on The Bus Reunion here years ago, people will get another glimpse of the players that put Edmonton on the map every bit as much as the oil boom did. Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, Charlie Huddy, Dave Semenko and on and on.
It’s a day that’ll provide a respite, however brief, from the reality fans in this town have faced since that last Cup win in 1990 and the 2006 Cup final loss to the Hurricanes. There’s been a lot of lean years and disappointment since the last parade and the transition from Peter Pocklington to the EIG and, now, Daryl Katz.
As an outsider, I’ve always been taken aback by the passion of the fans here — something I’ve seen first-hand working the beat at The Journal and The Sun and in more recent years scribbling for Oilersnation and NHL.com or just hanging around the rink. From the highest of heights to the deepest of depths these past eight years. You’ve loved this team. You hate this team.
Framed in that, I hope fans take one day off from the angst and failure of the past eight years on Oct. 10 and soak it all up, take it all in. Celebrate the greatness you witnessed, as faded and in the rear-view mirror as it might be now, for 24 hours. There will be plenty of time to fuss and fret over the upcoming season. Take 24. You deserve that much, no?
BEST OF TIMES
I listened to Lowe talk about Oct.10 today. I hope he takes the same 24 hours to enjoy the day. Lowe has been all-in with this organization since 1979 as a player, coach, GM, president of hockey operations and, now, vice-chairman of the OEG. While that, understandably, isn’t a popular shout-out these days, it’s deserved.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody hates losing more than Lowe does. Nobody is more frustrated than Lowe, here for all five Cup wins, about the tough times this team has fallen on during his watch. No, what happened 30 years ago doesn’t mitigate the failures of late, but there have been better times. Lowe played a big part in those. Let’s not forget that. Let’s remember those times, for 24 hours at least.
Glen Sather, the coach, GM and architect of those teams, will be here. So will former chief scout Barry Fraser, former PR man Bill Tuele, now retired in Nanaimo, B,C., and former trainers and equipment men Barry Stafford and Sparky Kulchisky. And, of course, Matheson and Phillips, who worked their way into the writing and broadcasting wings of the HHOF chronicling the best of times – and the worst.
Take a break Oct. 10. Enjoy the day.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.