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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Thirty years ago today, the Edmonton Oilers started a Stanley Cup tradition

It is a tradition that has found its way throughout the years into our hearts and minds. From the EA Sports NHL franchise mode, to the Stanley Cup championships won when you weren’t even watching. Every year as the final buzzer sounds and the holiest of holy grails in sport, the Stanley Cup is handed out, one tradition remains throughout. The team picture.

This truth is unalienable. Hockey is one of the few true team sports left. It’s a game that is played over the course of an 82-game season that finishes with a hard-fought sixteen tough wins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thirty-one teams begin the journey. Then that field is whittled down to the “sweet” sixteen, then eight, then four, down to two, until one team has risen above all the rest.

The elation as a fan of that team is a fraction of the emotion felt by these players. They sweated together, they bled for each other, they agonized in defeat just the same as they shared in their success, and it was all worth it to be the team standing atop the league, triumphant.

We have all watched it at some point in our lives. Under all the pomp and circumstance, Lord Stanley’s Cup is walked out by attendant Philip Pritchard. The commissioner has some kind words to say about the final foe that just lost the game, and then it’s to the moment, handing the cup to the captain of the winning team.

It’s all a thing of beauty. The players skate around and share the moment with their teammates and the fans (home and away).

Before 1988, that was pretty much it for the public fun. The players would head back to the locker room and shower each other with some bubbly and all kinds of celebration would ensue.

But on that beautiful day back in 1988, the one, the only Wayne Gretzky decided to do something a little different.

The great one placed the cup near centre ice and the team started to collect around him. Wayne didn’t stop there though, ever the captain he is, he made sure that the entire team staff and trainers were included too. The whole team collects and surrounds the silver prize that they all worked to get to and the flashbulbs ensue.

The Oilers started something that day that has continued every year since then and undoubtedly will continue forever. A raw, pure representation of the elation and excitement that the winning team and their staff.

The legendary Bob Cole can be heard in the video above immediately recognizing that this was the start of a special moment for teams going forward. A moment in time where almost everyone involved in the winning of the championship is immortalized. If only for a moment.