11

Top 100 Oilers: Kelly Buchberger (27)

When it comes to players who turned modest talent, the willingness to work harder than anybody else and do whatever it took into a career in the NHL, Kelly Buchberger set the bar higher than just about anybody I can think of. There is no other way to characterize Bucky, who played 1,182 regular season games in The Show, 795 of those with the Edmonton Oilers.

Buchberger, a longshot ninth-round draft day afterthought by the Oilers in 1985, played his entire career like he’d snuck into the rink and was waiting for an usher to figure out he didn’t belong there, grab him by the collar and strip the jersey off his back at any moment. Along the way, Buchberger became the ninth captain in franchise history and sipped from two Stanley Cups as a do-whatever-it-takes role player with the Oilers.

Kelly Buchberger

Right Wing
Born Dec 2 1966 — Langenburg, SASK
Height 6.02 — Weight 210 [188 cm/95 kg]

Drafted by Edmonton Oilers

Round 9 #188 overall 1985 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

ATOI

1987-88

21

EDM

19

1

0

1

-1

81

10

10.0

1988-89

22

EDM

66

5

9

14

-14

234

57

8.8

1989-90

23

EDM

55

2

6

8

-8

168

35

5.7

1990-91

24

EDM

64

3

1

4

-6

160

54

5.6

1991-92

25

EDM

79

20

24

44

9

157

90

22.2

1992-93

26

EDM

83

12

18

30

-27

133

92

13.0

1993-94

27

EDM

84

3

18

21

-20

199

93

3.2

1994-95

28

EDM

48

7

17

24

0

82

73

9.6

1995-96

29

EDM

82

11

14

25

-20

184

119

9.2

1996-97

30

EDM

81

8

30

38

4

159

78

10.3

1997-98

31

EDM

82

6

17

23

-10

122

86

7.0

1998-99

32

EDM

52

4

4

8

-6

68

29

13.8

11:49

1999-00

33

TOT

81

7

13

20

-36

152

76

9.2

16:05

1999-00

33

ATL

68

5

12

17

-34

139

56

8.9

16:21

1999-00

33

LAK

13

2

1

3

-2

13

20

10.0

14:43

2000-01

34

LAK

82

6

14

20

-10

75

66

9.1

14:26

2001-02

35

LAK

74

6

7

13

-13

105

39

15.4

10:21

2002-03

36

PHX

79

3

9

12

0

109

32

9.4

9:59

2003-04

37

PIT

71

1

3

4

-19

109

34

2.9

10:21

12 yrs EDM

795

82

158

240

-99

1747

816

10.0

11:49

3 yrs LAK

169

14

22

36

-25

193

125

11.2

12:40

1 yr PHX

79

3

9

12

0

109

32

9.4

9:59

1 yr PIT

71

1

3

4

-19

109

34

2.9

10:21

1 yr ATL

68

5

12

17

-34

139

56

8.9

16:21

Career

1182

105

204

309

-177

2297

1063

9.9

12:17

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S%

ATOI

1986-87

20

EDM

3

0

1

1

0

5

0.0

1989-90

23

EDM

19

0

5

5

2

13

0.0

1990-91

24

EDM

12

2

1

3

-3

25

16.7

1991-92

25

EDM

16

1

4

5

2

32

8.3

1996-97

30

EDM

12

5

2

7

-1

16

26.3

1997-98

31

EDM

12

1

2

3

0

25

7.7

1998-99

32

EDM

4

0

0

0

-4

0

0.0

10:06

1999-00

33

LAK

4

0

0

0

-1

4

0.0

8:56

2000-01

34

LAK

8

1

0

1

-1

2

20.0

9:58

2001-02

35

LAK

7

0

0

0

-3

7

0.0

8:48

Career

97

10

15

25

-9

129

12.2

9:27

NOTABLE

When I think of bust-ass guys who accomplished more with less as members of the Oilers, I think of Buchberger and Jason Smith, who also wore the captain’s C here. They’d do whatever it took to win because they had no other choice. While Buchberger was a NHL caliber skater — his ability to skate bought him more time than your garden variety grinder gets — it was his work ethic and dogged determination to compete that is his story.

If that meant taking an ass-kicking from Bob Probert, Buchberger was willing to do it. If it took dropping the gloves with Dave Brown, well, let’s get after it, big boy. Overmatched? No big deal. During his days as an Oiler, his entire career, for that matter, Buchberger was never afraid to pay the price, to shed sweat and blood to get the job done. As a member of the Kings, he got KO’d by Anson Carter, of all people.

Then, there was the night here in Edmonton, as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, when Buchberger wanted to tangle with Georges Laraque. It was probably my imagination, but it seemed like almost everybody in the building, including those in the press box, shouted, “No, Bucky, don’t,” in unison. Whether it was playing a bit part behind Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier or assuming a leadership role after the Boys on the Bus were sold off piece by piece, Buchberger played the game the same way.

THE STORY

“It just shows you what heart, determination and unselfish play can do for a career in terms of longevity,” former teammate and long-time friend Craig MacTavish said of Buchberger. “He’s surpassed everybody’s expectations in terms of what he’s got out of himself. That’s his story.

“The thing that stands out when I think of Bucky and his career is regardless of his accomplishments, the Stanley Cups, he viewed his contribution based on what he did on a nightly basis. He wanted to justify his position in the lineup every game, and it’s that type of work ethic and mental toughness that has distinguished him in his career.”

While Buchberger made other stops in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Pittsburgh when his playing days here were done, he returned to Edmonton as coach of the AHL Road Runners and served as an assistant coach with the Oilers with a carousel of head coaches. He remains a part of the organization in hockey-ops today. While some younger fans might remember Buchberger only as a coach, and one who seemingly had nine lives here during some difficult days, he was much more than that. Glue guy. Cup champ. Winner.

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.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Leaking5w-30

    At first I was surprised to see him listed so high. But he earned it. And honestly if I was going to put a team of ex oilers together he would be in it. He’s the perfect forthliner. Skate, kill penelties, and kick ass. Oh and he’s a one time 20 goal scorer.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    My dad’s favourite Oiler from the day he arrived until the day he left. I remember going out and getting a Buchberger jersey the year after he scored 20 goals and I think my dad ended up wearing it more than I did.

    Robin alluded to it in his write-up but it’s worth saying again that Buchberger’s wheels were very close to world-class. No, not McDavid world-class, but only a cut or two below. I can remember the Oilers power-skating instructor in the late 1980s or early 1990s (a woman whose name escapes me) noting that Buchberger’s skating ability was on-par with Mark Messier’s; in fact, if you watched their legs, as they skated, there wasn’t a lot of difference between their stride and the power it produced. So yeah, his skating ability absolutely kept him in the league for as long as he did, along with his work ethic.

    Good choice for this spot in the list.

  • Bucky was part of the jersey retirement of Dave Manson up in Prince Albert. I had not heard him speak to that point and he was amazing, very funny guy with a ton of anecdotes about Charlie. Essentially he roasted Dave and it was awesome.
    Hendricks kind of reminds me of Bucky with one of the variables in their differences being the pussification of the current game. All in, all the time, skill be damned.

  • OldOilerFan

    I’m surprised Robin, you didn’t mention his OT winning goal against Dallas in that thrilling come from behind victory we had in the playoffs. That was a notable for sure.

  • WhoreableGuy

    I remember as a kid going into the Sears restaurant in Red Deer and ordering their “Buck Burger” and my Oiler friends getting a kick out of that.

    I was at Game 3 in 1997 when the Oilers came back from a 3-0 deficit with 4 minutes to go. Buchberger scored the OT winner after a nice drop pass from Mats Lindgren (who then got rocked). Place went bananas.

    • dangilitis

      A family friend took me to that game. My first oilers game. We stayed even though people started filing out with 5 to go. I was hooked ever since.

      I will also say that one of the highlights of my young adulthood is that I got to have drinks with Bucky at his home. I told him that story and how memorable it was for me, and his response was, “ya, we got so hammered that night!”

      Amazing, humble, hardworking guy, deserves all the credit here