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Prior to raising banner, former Oilers praise Sather

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON — As president, general manager and coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Glen Sather had one steadfast rule for his players.

"If you ever got into any situation, any questionable situation, make sure he was the first guy you called," Craig MacTavish, the Oilers captain from 1992-94, said. "If you did that, you had an ally, and if you didn't do that and he found out about something, then you had a real enemy. He was very loyal to his players."

Sather was the architect of five Stanley Cup championships with the Oilers (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990) and will be honored with a banner-raising celebration at Rexall Place on Friday prior to the game against the New York Rangers (9:30 p.m. ET; SNW, MSG).

MacTavish, along with former captains Al Hamilton (1972-76), Kevin Lowe (1991-92) and Kelly Buchberger (1995-99) shared some of their experiences with Sather on Wednesday.

"He was progressive in the sense that he had a good relationship with the players and maybe that was because he had a pretty unique group of players all at once," Lowe said. "Even when it came to marketing Wayne [Gretzky] and allowing him to do some of the stuff that he did; to miss practice and allow him to go on Johnny Carson and things like that. He knew it was good for Wayne, it was good for the Oilers and it was good for the NHL. I'm not so sure that many mangers would have been so progressive."

Sather was president and general manager of the Oilers when they joined the NHL in 1979 and became the coach early in the 1980-81 season. He stayed with the Oilers until joining the Rangers in 2000 as president and general manager.

"Individually, he really allowed players, starting with Wayne and going down to Paul [Coffey] and Jari [Kurri] to individually have success," Lowe said. "He really felt that was important, that those players were deserving of it, and he always recognized individual success. Even if a guy was on the fourth line, and he was having a good night and scored two goals, he would play the heck out of him to get that third goal."

Sather guided a team which featured six players (Gretzky, Kurri, Coffey, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson) who are inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sather was inducted in 2007. His banner will join the rest of the Oilers' Hall of Fame members in what is the final season for Rexall Place, the only home the Oilers have had. Edmonton will move into a new downtown arena, Rogers Place, next season.

"Glen was a very confident individual when he played; he wasn't graced with a ton of ability, but he was a pest and in your face and was always competing," said Hamilton, who was the Oilers' first captain in the World Hockey Association and played with Sather. "That was the scrappiness of him and he took that into his coaching and he took that into his managing.

"Negotiating with him was an experience. 'I hope you're not looking for a raise,' would be his opening phrase. That was his way of handling things, but underneath the surface, he was a big softy. You know when a coach has your back, you're going to play well. He had a real knack for getting the most of out of guys."

Sather stepped down as general manager of the Rangers this summer, prompting the Oilers to celebrate his achievements in Edmonton. The banner raising includes a public celebration and a gala on Thursday.

"Glen just wanted you to be a better person and a better player," Buchberger said. "When you like your boss and he's got your back, you seem to play harder for him. That's what Glen was for all of us. We knew he had us no matter what, if we got in trouble or whatever. Regardless of the way the game was going, he always had your back. If he liked you, he would go through a wall for you."

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