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NHL Centennial

Wayne Gretzky picks favorite playoff game

Great One fondly recalls clinching Stanley Cup with Oilers on May 19, 1984

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

Not only was there a seismic shift in dynasties from the New York Islanders to the Edmonton Oilers in 1984, but it came with one essential teaching moment.

For the Oilers.

Wayne Gretzky and his teammates were one period from winning their first championship, leading the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final 3-1. The Oilers led the Islanders 4-0 after two periods in Game 5 and started picturing the on-ice celebration in Edmonton.

"We had a pretty good cakewalk through two periods 4-0," Gretzky told NHL.com. "We spent 10 minutes in the locker room thinking about how we were going to pick up the Cup and where we were going to skate with the Cup and how we were going to celebrate. Before we knew it, one minute into the third period it was a 4-2 game.

"We hung on obviously to win, but we learned a really valuable lesson. It is 60 minutes long. The joy and jubilation we had there for 10 minutes in between periods quickly halted on a serious note at 4-2."

Gretzky scored twice in the game, and the Oilers clinched the first of their four championships in five seasons.

Though Gretzky had an NHL-high 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in the 1984 playoffs, teammate Mark Messier won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP after he had 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists).

The Islanders were attempting to win their fifth consecutive Stanley Cup championship. Gretzky and his teammates dethroned the reigning champions on May 19, 1984, at Northlands Coliseum.

"Just lifting the Stanley Cup the first time … no question my favorite playoff game ever," Gretzky said. "We had no way to compare it to anything because nobody had ever lifted the Stanley Cup.

"When we were kids we saw it or maybe had a picture with it. But nobody ever picked up the Stanley Cup. It's one of those things you don't do until you win the Stanley Cup. We didn't know what to expect."

Gretzky said there were many things racing through his mind in the final minutes of Game 5 when it became clear the Oilers would win.

"First and foremost, probably disbelief that this is really going to happen to us," he said. "We've dreamt about this our whole lives and we've talked about it the whole time we've been professional players. We had gone down that road the year before, unfortunately to lose to a better team."

The Oilers had been swept by the Islanders in the 1983 Final.

"From losing the fourth game in '83, to getting back, to get back to Game 5 in '84 really made it all worthwhile," Gretzky said.

Gretzky said he thought about the joy of the parents and grandparents on hand. Oilers coach and general manager Glen Sather made it a priority to make sure family members were around to enjoy the playoff moments, considering them part of the organization.

"The one thing about the Stanley Cup is that, as parents, we all live our lives through our kids," Gretzky said. "And for Doug Messier and Walter Gretzky and Jack Coffey … all the parents and grandparents that were around, maybe in some ways it was more exciting for them than it was for us."

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