SAIL ON, MURRAYFIELD RACER

Glen Sather: “Edmonton had a rivalry with Calgary for years and we never made any deals with them. I heard they were going to pick up a Scottish player—Tony Hand—in the last pick of the draft. I knew it because our scouts had been talking to their scouts. We ended up picking him one pick ahead of Calgary just to piss them off.” Source: Behind the Moves

It’s an incredible story and one Oilers fans have been following for a long time. From a distance, Tony Hand’s scoring records are beyond fantastic, bordering on the impossible. Let’s start with the facts, beginning with the gem told by Sather above. Edmonton may well have been in competition with the Flames for Hand, but Calgary’s pick in the final round of the 1986 draft came before Edmonton’s, who in fact chose the young man from the Murrayfield Racers with that last pick.

hand draft

Dave Lambert of The Hockey News has a wonderful story on Hand that I highly recommend. If you know the story, it’s a walk down memory lane and if you don’t, well, prepare to be amazed. Source

A few years ago, I went in search of a ‘feats of strength’ list of Hand’s accomplishments and gave up after a few days due to exhaustion. The guy was ridiculous. In the interests of time, I’ve borrowed his career and single-season accomplishments from Elite Prospects. Perhaps you can review when you have a free afternoon. Source

elite hand

The story of Tony Hand, for Oilers fans, revolves around the idea that there’s simply too much. Too much offense to ignore—no matter the league—to discount the possibility that he could have played in the NHL. I may have said, “He’s playing in the British league, those numbers don’t mean a thing!” and maybe you would have believed me the first or even the second time he scored over 200 points in 35 games. Somewhere along the line, though, one of us would have (and did) ask the question about Hand and his tremendous offensive ability.

Hand played (very little) in North America, pummeling the WHL senseless in three games (eight points). The story holds that Edmonton offered him a contract but that he was homesick and decided to take it out on Britian’s goaltenders for 30 years. And that he did.

My personal memories of Hand go all the way back to his first training camp with the Oilers (this would have been 1986) and hearing Rod Phillips rave about him on CFRN Radio during pre-season play-by-play. Rod Phillips is the best play-by-play man who ever lived, and I will freely admit that he could make a snail crossing the road sound exciting (especially if that snail was an Oiler), but 30 years later this fan can still remember Rod’s being stunned by young Hand’s ability.

Sail on, Murrayfield Racer, we barely knew you. I think we all missed out on something very good with how things turned out, but it appears your journey in life brought you incredible riches anyway.

Enjoy your retirement, sir. And if you do make a comeback, for crying out loud give the kids a chance this time!