TOP 100 OILERS: BRETT CALLIGHEN (77)

BRETT CALLIGHEN

Whether you started watching the Edmonton Oilers during their WHA days or when they entered the NHL in 1979-80, if you saw Brett Callighen play, you’ll remember him as the speedy and rambunctious left winger who went from being an undrafted college player to riding shotgun for a teenager named Wayne Gretzky.

Callighen’s story, though, is that of a player who came and went far too quickly, the result of eye and shoulder injuries that limited the native of Toronto to 160 games over three NHL seasons with the Oilers – a span in which he produced 145 points – on the heels of 180 games with the WHA version of the team. If only. . . 

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BRETT CALLIGHEN #18

NUMBER:

18

BIRTHDATE:

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May 15, 1953

BIRTHPLACE:

Toronto, ON, Canada

BY THE NUMBERS

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SEASON

TEAM

GP

G

A

P

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+/-

PIM

S

S%

1976-77

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

29

9

16

25

48

1977-78

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

80

20

30

50

112

1978-79

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

71

31

39

70

79

1979-80

OILERS

59

23

35

58

-1

72

159

14.5

1980-81

OILERS

55

25

35

60

13

32

127

19.7

1981-82

OILERS

46

8

19

27

16

28

87

9.2

1982-83

HC LUGANO-SWISS

1983-84

WIENER EV-AUSTRIA

23

26

13

39

38

1985-86

ADIRONDACK RED WINGS-AHL

11

0

2

2

6

NHL TOTALS

160

56

89

145

28

132

373

15.0

CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS

SEASON

TEAM

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

1976-77

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

5

4

1

5

7

1977-78

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

5

0

2

2

16

1978-79

EDMONTON OILERS-WHA

13

5

10

15

15

1979-80

OILERS

3

0

2

2

0

1980-81

OILERS

9

4

4

8

6

1981-82

OILERS

2

0

0

0

2

NHL TOTALS

14

4

6

10

8

NOTABLE

A defenceman who converted to forward, Callighen broke into the WHA with the New England Whalers in 1976-77. He was in his third season with the Oilers when Gretzky arrived from the Indianapolis Racers via trade early in the 1978-79 season. When the Oilers joined the NHL in the merger with the WHA, Callighen was the Great One’s left winger with Blair MacDonald on the right side – they were tabbed the GMC Line.

In Callighen’s first NHL season, he had 58 points, including 23 goals, after 59 games when he was struck in the left eye by Brad McCrimmon’s stick in a game against the Boston Bruins in February of 1980. He’d miss the rest of the season. Having developed a cataract in the eye, Callighen had surgery the following November.

Callighen was limited to playing the final 55 games of 1980-81, a season in which he produced 60 points, including 25 goals, on a line with Gretzky and Jari Kurri despite lingering vision problems with his eye and adjusting to wearing a face shield for the first time.

THE STORY

The 1981-82 season would be Callighen’s swan song with the Oilers. Early that season, he sustained a broken clavicle and stretched shoulder ligaments in a game against the Calgary Flames. While Callighen got into 46 games, he never fully overcame his eye injury and shoulder issues. In a line-up now laden with young talent, Callighen’s role was diminished.

Callighen was just 29 when he called it quits and walked away, a decision that saw him bid Edmonton farewell just before the Oilers began their run of Stanley Cups. “No regrets or remorse,” Callighen told Jim Matheson of The Journal back in 2008.

While Callighen never managed to overcome his injuries and extend his too-short playing career, I’m happy to say that he won a battle with prostate cancer about 10 years ago. Callighen is a player agent based back home in Toronto with a company that includes former Oiler Ron Chipperfield.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

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