An unassuming box of pucks once shared a space with a lawnmower and garden shovel. Now the contents of that box act as a primary display inside the newly unveiled Oilers Hall of Fame room at Rogers Place.
When Oilers Head Equipment Manager, Barrie Stafford, first caught wind that Glen "Slats" Sather had saved many of the record-setting pucks from his time spent as head coach and general manager of the Oilers in the 1980s, he quickly jumped in his car and drove the four hours to Banff to retrieve the box that had been safely tucked away inside Sather's garage.
From Wayne Gretzky's 1049th NHL assist, scored on February 17, 1988, tying Gordie Howe for the all-time assist record, to his 573rd NHL goal scored on December 30, 1987 against Philadelphia, each puck displayed on the wall acts as a timeless memento of a single, celebrated and historic moment in Oilers history.
Aptly named "Slats' Historical Pucks," the display case not only allows fans to view the original pucks - many taped and labelled on the bench at the time of the goal by Stafford himself - but fans can re-experience the exact moment the puck hit the net, setting off the historic red light, by pressing the corresponding button on the screen to see the original footage.
Waiting for the right opportunity, Sather told Stafford he always knew the pucks would eventually return to the team. With the move to Rogers Place, that opportunity has finally come.
"They belong to the Oilers - They belong in Edmonton," said Sather.
On Wednesday, October 12, Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) officially unveiled the Oilers Hockey Hall of Fame room inside Rogers Place. A room, which until the day of the Oilers Home Opener, had remained a secret kept only by those involved in its conception.
Working in close partnership with the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, the past year has been spent carefully designing the room and finding, curating and displaying memorabilia throughout this unique space.
The first of its kind - somewhat of an extension of the Hockey Hall of Fame at Brookfield Place in Toronto - the room acts as an exhibit to showcase the history of the Oilers and its players who stamped their mark on the team and the City of Edmonton.
Before the unveiling, pedestrians walking underneath Ford Hall along 104 Avenue were met only by large white tarps covering the windows and siding along the exterior of the Southwest side of Rogers Place.
Unbeknownst to those who passed by, behind the canvas stood cherished memories that celebrated the Oilers dynasty and their continuing legacy in Edmonton.
Joined by Wayne Gretzky, Oilers alumni and Hockey Hall of Fame legends Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson, stood together as they pulled back the white coverings to officially unveil the Oilers Hall of Fame room.
Taking a moment before posing for a photo in front of the large glass windows looking into the room, the men admired the five full-sized Stanly Cup replicas that stood proudly facing out onto 104 Avenue.
Even Lanny McDonald - a former Flames forward who battled against some of the Oilers greats in the Battle of Alberta of days gone by - admitted to getting goosebumps while watching the six Hall of Famers unwrap the windows.
"To see the unveiling of the Great Hall - we'll call it Hall of Fame West - I had goosebumps," said the now-Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"This is a fabulous day for hockey and a wonderful day for Oilers."
McDonald explained that besides a few smaller past displays in Montreal and Toronto, Edmonton is the first to have its own Great Hall to this magnitude, in partnership with the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"When we first saw the renderings of this room, we thought it was going to be good," said McDonald. "We had no idea it was going to be this great."
Viewable from 104 Avenue, sheltered underneath Ford Hall, the public is not only able to see inside this incredible space, but they are also able to watch and listen to pre and post-game coach interviews and other major media announcements, which will be conducted inside this new room.
"It was actually Kevin Lowe's idea that this could be a great piece of Rogers Place," said Bob Black, OEG Chief Project Development Officer. "The sound will be piped outside onto 104 Ave for people to stand outside and listen to those pre and post-game events and major media avails."
Furthermore, guests are invited to rent out the space for work functions, galas, or to host other special events.
The designer behind this multi-functional space, Terry Heard of Terry Heard Designers, added, "The idea is that the fans can come and stand at the windows and have an audio feed and they can witness the interviews, or hear the interviews, without having to come into the room."
With more than 20 years' of experience working on Hockey Hall of Fame projects, Heard is considered the best in the business by many. That includes Stafford.
"It's for the pre and post-game interviews, it's for the social events that can happen in here, but more importantly, it's for the streetscape - for the passerby-ers," Heard said.
The prominent royal blue carpet contrasts the silver features in the room, highlighting the elegant curvatures of the architecture and allowing for an airy, open feel to the space. Well-lit for the media, a podium sits atop a platform on the west side of the room, underneath the Oilers crest.
Directly across from the platform, on the east side of the room, rests an exact replica of the Legends Wall that is displayed in Toronto. This 'Hockey Hall of Fame Oilers Legends' exhibit includes honoured members Sather, Gretzky, Kurri, Fuhr, Coffey, Messier and Anderson. The inscription on the wall reads,
"Established in 2016, this 'Hockey Hall of Fame Oilers Legends' exhibit showcases the Hockey Hall of Fame Honoured Members whose impact on the Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty years (1984-1990) left an indelible mark on the NHL and the City of Edmonton. Future Hall of Fame inductees representing the Oilers will be featured here as a continuing legacy of the game's greatest players and builders."
With a number of large screens pointing towards the south-facing windows, fans are invited to watch media events held in the room live on both the screens and in-person.
While Heard and his team were honed in on designing this interactive, multi-functional space, others set out to find and assemble the memorabilia that would be displayed throughout the room.
The first step in curating the space is to establish the story you are trying to tell, explains Creative Director and Associate Curator with the Hockey Hall of Fame, Scott Veber.
Joined by Oilers Manager of Game-Used Inventory Dwain Tomkow, the team sought to share a story that traces and celebrates the history and heritage of the Oilers hockey club - a story that begins with the Oilers seasons as a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA).
"It starts as the first bookmark of telling the jersey story," Tomkow explained, pointing towards the well-worn orange, blue and white Al Hamilton jersey that sits in the first position inside the display case.
The jersey was sported by Hamilton during the club's inaugural season in the WHA in 1972-73. Acting as the team's first-ever captain, Hamilton's number '3' was officially retired on October 10, 1980.
Two jerseys down, sits a weathered white jersey marking the first year the team was in the NHL. Loaned by a local collector, the 1979-80 jersey was worn by rookie Kevin Lowe. As the Oilers first-ever NHL draft pick, Lowe went on to score the team's first official NHL goal during the first period against Chicago on October 10, 1979.
Aside from those artifacts loaned by local fans and collectors, the Hockey Hall of Fame has graciously loaned countless artifacts considered imperative for telling the Oilers story. Some of these artifacts will continue to be cycled out, allowing new items to be displayed inside the Oilers Hall of Fame room.
"It's been a really great collaboration with Hockey Hall of Fame to have [them] as a design partner and a curator partner," said Black. "We're really excited about some of the great pieces that we got from all stages in the history of the hockey team."
Also on display is Fuhr's 1981-82 rookie jersey, a pair of skates worn by Anderson during his stint as an Oiler, and Ryan Smyth's 2013-14 final game jersey. To complete the 'story', the last jersey worn by Connor McDavid inside Rexall Place sits at the end of the display case. The now-captain wore the alternative orange jersey during the Farewell Rexall game on April 6, 2016 - ending in a 6-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
"[The display] traces the history of the Oilers back from the WHA all the way through the dynasty years and into the present," Black said.
Standing inside the room for the first time on October 12, Gretzky added, "This is a marvelous room, a marvelous facility and tremendous arena."
Another prominent display inside the room includes an 'Oilers Dynasty Room Stall'. Taken from the dressing room of 1974-1994, this original player's stall, - with blue and orange paint slowly chipping away - smells not only of old wood, but of the blood, sweat and tears of the countless players that sat in its very seat. Signed by the dynasty players, including number 99, the stall also possesses a humble nameplate at the top that reads, "W. Gretzky."
Towards the left side of the jersey case, fans can also see the notorious Oilers Coaches Room Door (1974-2007). What once started as a joke by Coffey - who rammed the back of his stick into the door to startle the coaches and let them know it was time for the pre-game skate - soon became an undying tradition among the players after they won that first game.
The door also houses stickers from every playoff won, a tradition that started in 1983 by Oilers Public Relations Director Bill Tuele. Adding to its character, the door hosts one brush stroke of paint, acting as a reminder of the 'close call' during renovations in 1994, when a painter almost painted over the door, stickers and all. Luckily, Assistant General Manager Bruce MacGregor walked in just in time to stop the painter - a story the team still laughs about today.
But it is not just what is on the inside of this room that marks the continuing legacy of the Oilers, but also what sits right outside its windows underneath Ford Hall on 104 Avenue.
These were the words of Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) CEO and Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson, following the official unveiling of the Gretzky Statue's new home outside the Rogers Place Oilers Hall of Fame room on 104 Avenue.
Before Gretzky was joined by his family to help unveil the newly polished statue,
OEG Vice Chairman, and former teammate, Kevin Lowe expressed his gratitude towards Gretzky's contributions - both on and off the ice.
"The statue, like his time here, is truly iconic," he said.
A prominent landmark for Oilers fans, the Gretzky Statue has been affectionately used for years by fans as a meeting point before games and for photo opportunities. The statue not only acts as a tribute to the history that has already been made by the Oilers, but its new location outside the futuristic-looking Rogers Place evokes a sense of excitement for the history that is still to come for the team and the organization.
Moving from its previous home outside Rexall Place earlier this summer, the statue returned to its birthplace at Studio West in Cochrane to be cleaned and polished before its move to Rogers Place.
"We just want to make it look good and shined up for its new location," said Don Begg, the bronzesmith behind the statue.
First erected at Northland Coliseum on August 27, 1989, the 950-pound bronze statue was funded by Molson Brewery and gifted to the City of Edmonton in honour of Wayne Gretzky.
"We wanted to make sure the public has access to it," Nicholson commented on the statue's new location outside Rogers Place.
Representing a fundamental piece of Oilers history, the Gretzky Statue rests at the end of the Oilers 'Walk of Fame' - a stretch of sidewalk that starts at the corner of 104 Street and 104 Avenue and features larger-than-life graphics of legendary Oilers players on the exterior of Rogers Place.
"We wanted to depict the past - of this great franchise - and the future," explained OEG Chairman Daryl Katz.
Katz drew attention towards the large graphics on the South side of the building, which begin with a scenic rendering of a finished ICE District on the West, and ends underneath Ford Hall with an image of Connor McDavid being handed his first Oilers jersey by Katz's son, Harrison, at the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida.
Besides the Gretzky Statue's relocation, the Great One returned home in more ways than one.
"Today we're pleased to give a new home to one of Edmonton's most iconic landmarks - the statue of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky," Katz said during the unveiling a few weeks ago.
"I'm even more pleased to announce to you all today that Wayne Gretzky will be officially rejoining the Edmonton Oilers family as a Partner and Vice Chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group."
With the Oilers Hall of Fame room showcasing the legacy team - yet saving room for future legends - parallels the legacy kept by the Gretzky Statue, while Wayne Gretzky himself rejoins the organization working towards the bright future that is the Edmonton Oilers.
Gretzky commented, "I'm privileged and proud to be back as an Oiler. Edmonton's always been great to me. It's a wonderful city. I'm thrilled to be back."
From player to board member, Gretzky has now come full circle with the NHL club, offering a window into the history of what the organization has been built on.
Inviting for one and all, the establishment of the Oilers Hall of Fame room shares that history, embracing the team's humble beginnings, celebrating its historic achievements and welcoming The Great One home as the city prepares for a new era, starting at Rogers Place.
By Kelli Gustafson • View More In Depths