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83 Days Until The Season Begins

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Cam Lewis
8 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today for No. 83, let’s talk about Ales Hemsky, a spectacular talent whose career was cut short because of injury.
Hemsky started playing professional hockey at the age of 16 for his hometown club, HC Pardubice in the Czech Republic. He decided to travel overseas to play Major Junior hockey in Canada because he believed that it would help him get noticed for the NHL draft.
The Hull Olympiques selected Hemsky with the seventh overall pick in the CHL Import Draft and he hit the ground running in the QMJHL. Hemsky scored 36 goals and 100 points over 68 games for the Olympiques and was awarded the Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s top prospect.
The Oilers selected Hemsky with the 11th overall pick in the 2001 draft. At that time, the Oilers were a gritty, physical team that was difficult to play against, but they were badly in need of players with high-level skill who could score goals. Hemsky fit the bill perfectly.

Edmonton Journal Clipping From June 24, 2001

COUNTDOWN PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Hemsky returned to Hull for another season in the QMJHL and put together another huge performance. He scored 27 goals and 97 points over 53 games for the Olympiques and put up nine points in seven games for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors.
With nothing left to prove at the Major Junior level, Hemsky cracked the Oilers’ roster out of training camp for the 2002-03 season. At just 19 years of age, Hemsky scored six goals and 30 points and finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting for the league’s top rookie. He followed that up in 2003-04 with 12 goals and 34 points over 71 games.
After spending the 2004-05 lockout season in the Czech Republic, Hemsky put together a breakout season for the Oilers in 2005-06. He scored 19 goals and led the Oilers with 77 points playing on the team’s top line with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff.
Hemsky was also a key contributor during Edmonton’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in the spring, as he scored six goals and 17 points over 24 playoff games. Two of those goals were game-winners, with the first coming in Edmonton’s series-clinching win over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and the other coming in their first game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Western Conference Final.

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Edmonton Journal Clipping From July 26, 2006

The Oilers re-signed Hemsky to a six-year contract worth $4.1 million annually that summer, which represented the longest contract the organization had handed out since Wayne Gretzky’s 21-year personal services deal when Peter Pocklington owned the team.
Hemsky performed very well for the Oilers over the first three years of that contract. He scored 53 points in 64 games in 2006-07, 71 points in 74 games in 2007-08, and 66 points in 72 games in 2008-09. Unfortunately, the latter three years of that contract were largely derailed due to injury.
It looked as though Hemsky was on his way to a huge season in 2009-10. He scored 22 points over the team’s first 21 games of the season before being drilled from behind into the boards by Michael Handzus in a game against the L.A. Kings. The hit resulted in Hemsky having to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery and the Oilers went 17-35-5 the rest of the way in his absence.
The 2010-11 season was more of the same. Hemsky was excellent when he was healthy, as he racked up 42 points over 47 games, but he missed 35 games because of a concussion and another shoulder injury. Hemsky was shut down for the season following a win on March 1 and the Oilers won just four of their final 18 games without him in the lineup.
There was talk that the Oilers were going to trade Hemsky to a contending team during the final season of his contract in 2011-12 but they wound up inking him to a two-year, $10 million extension. It was a sensible move given the Oilers needed quality veterans around but so many injuries over the years bogged down his ability to produce.
Hemsky wound up getting traded to the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline in 2013-14 in exchange for a third- and fifth-round pick. He inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Dallas Stars in free agency but only scored 78 points over 166 games for them. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens in 2017-18 but a severe concussion ended his season after just seven games.
In May of 2020, Hemsky announced through the NHL Alumni Association that he had retired from hockey.
“The doctors were saying I shouldn’t play anymore,” Hemsky said. “It took me a long time to get peace with that. It’s hard when you do something for so long. You know you can play somewhere, but you can’t. That’s the hard part.”
Hemsky finished his NHL career with 174 goals and 572 points over 845 games. His 142 goals with the Oilers rank 16th in team history and his 477 points rank 11th on the team’s all-time scoring list.
He had a very good career but it’s difficult not to wonder just how good Hemsky could have been if not for those shoulder injuries. Regardless, Oilers fans should look back on Hemsky fondly. Not only did he boast spectacular, game-changing skill, but he truly sacrificed his body for the team.

How many days are left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season? 83! Can you guess who will be featured in tomorrow’s countdown?

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