Wayne Gretzky stood front and center during the Edmonton Oilers' glory days, which began 30 years ago with their Stanley Cup Final win against the New York Islanders that sparked a run of five championships in seven seasons.
The Oilers made their share of appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the years after the trade of Gretzky and the dynasty's end following a 1990 Cup triumph against the Boston Bruins, even coming within a win of a sixth title in 2006, when they lost Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
But the franchise hasn't tasted a postseason game since and has spent the past eight seasons perennially near the bottom of the NHL standings. As the 1984 Oilers get set to reunite Oct. 10 at Rexall Place, the day after Edmonton's season opener against the Calgary Flames, Gretzky would like to see the hoopla surrounding the event have a positive effect on the current players.
"Hopefully this will be a rub off on the new team with us being there for the home opener and having the excitement of the fans," Gretzky told the Oilers website. "Hopefully we can pass that legacy onto the new players."
With the retirement of Ryan Smyth, there's no one left on the 2014-15 Oilers who played in the 2006 Cup Final run and got to experience the frenzy of an Edmonton fan base which recently has become starved for success.
Gretzky raved about the unique relationship between the Oilers and their fans over the years.
"The difference with fans in Edmonton is you feel like you know the fans and they're your friends," Gretzky said. "The fans and the people in Edmonton always made it comfortable for the players."
Gretzky actually played more NHL seasons after leaving Edmonton (11, for the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers) than he did with the Oilers (nine), but as he gets set to celebrate the 30-year reunion of the franchise's first Stanley Cup it's a return to the roots where The Great One began.
His memories of the 1984 Oilers, who stopped the powerhouse Islanders in their drive for a fifth consecutive Cup, have remained strong over time.
"It's a really special group," Gretzky said. "We beat a really great hockey club, a dynasty team that taught us how to win from the previous year.
"When anyone scored, we all felt like we all scored. We were such an unselfish group."
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