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IN DEPTH: '85 ALL-STARS

AN ORAL HISTORY

A

head of the National Hockey League's Greatest Team Celebration - in which the 1984-85 Oilers were chosen by National Hockey League fans as the greatest NHL team of all-time - EdmontonOilers.com is producing a series of oral histories, reliving stories from the campaign by those who lived it.
 
This is an oral history of the 37th NHL All-Star Game in Calgary, AB. The event took place on Feb. 12, 1985, at the Olympic Saddledome. 

The '84-85 Oilers were well-represented at the occasion, as eight players suited up for the Campbell Conference: forwards Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri and Mike Krushelnyski; defencemen Paul Coffey and Kevin Lowe; as well as netminders Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr. Glen Sather manned the bench as Campbell Conference Head Coach opposite of Wales Conference Head Coach and New York Islanders bench boss Al Arbour.

All interviews below were conducted by EdmontonOilers.com unless otherwise cited.

FEBRUARY 12, 1985

OLYMPIC SADDLEDOME

During the pre-game ceremonies and player introductions, boo birds targeted at the Oilers flew. At the time, the Battle of Alberta was fierce. Both teams lacked remorse for the other as well as each respective fanbase. If there was a chance to heckle the opposition, it was taken. Kevin Lowe was the first Oiler welcomed onto the ice.

Al Trautwig (host, USA Network) (via): Alright. They booed Wayne Gretzky. Three players tripped upon introduction - that must be a record of some kind. We had a hockey puck from space and the president of the League wearing a sheriff's badge. It could only happen here, in Calgary. John Wayne would've loved it.

Grant Fuhr (goaltender, Edmonton Oilers): A lot of us went down on the same flight. It was fun having a bunch of us down in Calgary, especially at that time because the Battle of Alberta was in full bloom.

Kevin Lowe (defenceman, Edmonton Oilers): I was the first to go for the Oilers. The boos were surprising when they happened but certainly not unexpected. All in good humour, I think. 

Paul Coffey (defenceman, Edmonton Oilers): We knew we were going to get booed by the Calgary fans but we didn't know they'd put something there for us to trip over (laughing). 

Andy Moog (goaltender, Edmonton Oilers): It was like spotlights on your face and it kind of blinded you. It was hard to measure the first step onto the ice. You were walking off a mat onto the ice and it was hard to measure. We had cowboy hats on, too.

Kevin Lowe: Wearing the hats was a nice twist. Not a lot of guys wore helmets. 

Andy Moog: We skated out the end zone and up to the blueline and we weren't received warmly, let's just put it that way. The Oilers weren't received warmly. I don't think we expected anything less. 

Kevin Lowe: I noticed they didn't boo quite as bad for Mike Krushelnyski, Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr. I think I got one of the louder boos.

Paul Coffey: We think they probably planned it. That's what you'd expect at least.

Andy Moog: That was certainly the heart of the Battle of Alberta. During those years from 1982-83 all the way through to the early '90s. That was the Battle of Alberta. That's when it raged the fiercest. There was no love lost. Every time you had a chance to stick it to the Flames, you tried to stick it to the Flames and vice versa.

Kevin Lowe: Let's put it this way: It was weird playing with the Islanders on the '84 Canada Cup. But it was even weirder sitting beside a Flame at the All-Star Game. Even going back to the Flames' first year in the League. The Battle pretty much started right away.

Paul Coffey: That's what makes this game beautiful and made it beautiful. When you went into opposing rinks, you got booed. Politeness wasn't an option back then.

Grant Fuhr: That was also the fun part: They hated you for the right reasons.

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Andy Moog: I was so over my head. I was so overtaken by the environment. It wasn't just the game. You'd go to lunches and you'd be sitting there having lunch with Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito or Gordie Howe. That was as much of the All-Star Game experience as anything else was. These legends were around and some of us were 23 or 24-year-olds, so you were a little bit gaga over the whole environment and presentation of the All-Star Game.

Grant Fuhr: Yeah, we were all still kids. Everybody was there with open eyes and wanting to play well. When you're with your peers, you want to play well.

Paul Coffey: You have to remember that back then, it wasn't the media deal it is now. As players, you could relax, have fun and meet guys from different teams. 

Grant Fuhr: Actually, it was pretty cool. As a kid, you'd grow up watching the guys you'd see there before you were even in the League. To actually be on the same ice playing with and against them for an All-Star Game was pretty cool.

Paul Coffey: My first NHL All-Star Game was in DC, in 1981-82 and I ran into Bill Barber. I kind of ran him over just because of nervous energy. He said, "Hey kid, it's an all-star game," and I said, "Sorry about that." It was physical and that's what made it great.

Andy Moog: At that time, there was still a sense that this was a game. This wasn't an exhibition, this wasn't a performance; it was a game.

Paul Coffey: It was always an East vs. West thing. You wanted to beat them. We represented the West and they had the best in the East and you wanted to win.

Grant Fuhr: There was always a little competition between East and West. The games were competitive. You knew if you weren't good it could be a 9-8 game really quick.

Andy Moog: There were still confrontational situations, there were still puck battles and things of that nature so I sensed it was a hockey game and approached it that way.

Kevin Lowe: The intensity was so much greater than what you see now. You were there to win. That's just how we were all wired. We played hard. No one would go out and try to hurt anybody but guys finished checks and guys drove to the net. Glenn Anderson ran Fuhrsy into the net trying to backcheck. There was lots of pride in which conference was better. The East had won all those Cups and then finally we won a year before.

Grant Fuhr: It wasn't just that they were physical, it's just we played good hockey. Yeah, it was offensive but we played offensive in Edmonton anyway. That was the fun part: It wasn't so much of an exhibition as actually, guys played fairly hard. But at the same time, it was still fun.

Paul Coffey: That's what people pay to see. It's different now, more of a show, which is great but back then you were playing for something.

Andy Moog: That started to drip away as the '80s and '90s came on.

"CALGARY DID A HELL OF A JOB"

37TH NHL ALL-STAR GAME

Oilers Gretzky, Kurri and Coffey joined Calgary Flames defencemen Paul Reinhart and Al MacInnis as Campbell Conference starters. Despite Fuhr ending the 1984-85 regular season with a record of 26-8-7 in 46 games played, Moog got the starting nod in net. He was 19-5-2 in 26 games leading up to the All-Star Game. 

Tied 2-2 halfway through the second period, Fuhr took over the crease for Moog. Mario Lemieux went on to score twice and add one assist to earn Most Valuable Player in helping the Wales Conference beat the Campbell Conference 6-4. Among the Oilers, Krushelnyski led the way offensively with three assists, while Gretzky tallied once.

Andy Moog: I think there were three or four of us voted in on the starting team for the Western Conference. I was having a really good start to that year. I think I had won 20 games by the All-Star break on a rotation basis with Grant. So, you could imagine what my winning percentage was. There was no love lost between Edmonton and Calgary or Slats and Calgary. [Flames goaltender] Reggie Lemelin was having an unbelievable year as well and Slats chose Grant over Reggie, ticking everybody off in Calgary. I think that was the second thing that made everybody upset about our presence in Calgary, was that Slats got to pick the players.

Kevin Lowe: It was surprising Mess wasn't there but I think he was injured. That was the only omission. Both goalies had incredible stats though. 

Andy Moog: I think Grant was hurt at the start of the season and he didn't get on track right away. So, Slats started leaning on me a little more early in the season and then it balanced out at the end. 

Paul Coffey: The only unfortunate thing for Andy was back in the day, Slats never played favourites. Grant would play, Andy would play, Grant would play, Andy would play. Andy probably deserved to start, he probably had more wins.

Grant Fuhr: We would do the half and half where I'd start, he'd finish, he'd start, I'd finish. It wasn't like it was a whole lot different. That was the fun part. That was part of what made our team good: two good goalies. Andy made me better and hopefully, I made him better.

Paul Coffey: There were no streaks or nothing until playoff time when Glen felt we needed to go with one goalie and get him hot. That's unfortunately why Andy didn't get his time until later on when he went to Boston and proved what a great goaltender he was. But he probably deserved to start, he probably had more wins. He made his call to play in the playoffs. We won another Cup, so you can't argue with that.

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Grant Fuhr: Obviously, there are easier ways of doing it [getting warmed up before stepping in cold at an All-Star Game] but at the same time, it's an All-Star Game, so your adrenaline is going to take over. That's what's fun about being in them, you don't have to worry about whether you're hot or cold. When you get in there, just because of the situation, you're going to be ready to go.

Paul Coffey: Having seven other teammates there representing the Oilers was fantastic. I guess the reason why we all couldn't be there was because other players in the League, deservedly so, should have been there as well. Any time you get your coach and that many players representing an All-Star event is incredible and shows you how good the team was.

Kevin Lowe: Coff, Gretz and Jari speak for themselves. I don't know if Kruise [Krushelnyski] had 50 [goals] that year but he was up in the top five or 10 in scoring. For me, I don't know. I certainly wasn't in the top scoring for defencemen. They recognized the contributions by defensive players back then.

Paul Coffey: We looked at it from Wayne on down. When we got picked for an All-Star team and game, we were representing our whole team. We were representing the guys back home that didn't make it and we had to carry the flag with pride. 

Kevin Lowe: We were just at the beginning of the whole thing [dynasty years]. We wanted to win everything, regardless whether it was the All-Star Game, the Cup, the regular season or all the individual trophies. At that point, we had back-to-back Finals, lost in the Finals then won the Cup. So, in our minds, we were just starting.

Grant Fuhr: But you just played. You didn't worry about results or anything. Once the game was over, you just let it go. It was fun just getting to know the rest of the guys. You always played against them and competed against them but to actually get the chance to go out, meet them a little bit and spend some time with them was fun.

Paul Coffey: We played hard every single night and I guess the rest is history. That's why we got voted the best team of all time which is a huge, huge honour. There are some great teams out there and I guess the long and short of it was we're very pleased and honoured it was us.

Andy Moog: I got back to Edmonton after it was over and we had a day or two before the first game. I just tried to recapture everything and remember everything. There was so much going on, you couldn't hold or retain any of it.

Kevin Lowe: Calgary did a hell of a job.

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Editor's Note: This week's In Depth was pieced together by EdmontonOilers.com. Special thanks to the Oilers Alumni and Oilers Director of Alumni Relations Barrie Stafford.