BLOG: Hemsky cemented Oilers legacy during '06 Cup run
"I think every series, the fans were getting louder and louder," former Oilers forward Alex Hemsky said
EDMONTON, AB - The Pardubice Prince, after arriving in Edmonton as a first-round pick in 2001, was Oil Country royalty for the 11 seasons he spent in copper, blue, and orange colours.
Former Oilers forward and Czech-born winger Ales Hemsky called quits on his professional career on Friday, leaving behind an on-ice legacy draped prominently in the colours of his most-tenured club and native country.
"I can't complain," Hemsky said, speaking with Bob Stauffer and 630CHED's Oilers Now on Tuesday. "I played everything I could - I've been in the Stanley Cup Finals, played in national teams for the Olympics and World Championships, even in the Czech Republic during lockouts. I've seen it all, so I can't complain."
The 36-year-old suited up in 845 NHL games over 15 seasons - 652 of them in Edmonton, where he recorded 142 goals and 477 points to rank eighth on the Oilers all-time points list. For his home nation of Czech Republic, he drew big praise from names like Jaromir Jagr while winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics and competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
But the Czech's coronation came during the conquest of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he contributed 17 points (6G, 11A) in 24 games as the Oilers reached the Cup Finals and fell within one game of claiming the holy grail over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Oilers faced plenty of trials and tribulations to get there, with Hemsky delivering the final blow in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Presidents' Trophy winners the Detroit Red Wings with a goal that will live long in the annals of Oilers history.
"I didn't do much those first five games," Hemsky said. "We were down 2-0 and knew if we went back to Detroit, it would be really tough. We just bared down and we all believed in it. That was the big thing - we had a good team and we all knew we could do it."
"We had a lucky one on the power play kind of bounce over my feet or something, I don't know I don't even remember, but the winning goal I just tried to beat four guys. It didn't really work out, but [Sergei Samsonov] made a great pass and I had an open net."
Belief in the Oilers dressing room persisted into the Second Round, where they overcame a 2-0 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks to move on and claim the Western Conference title with help from the boisterous support of the Oil Country faithful during a triple-overtime triumph in Game 3 at Rexall Place.
"We came back and the fans were behind us all the way," Hemsky said. "I think every series, the fans were getting louder and louder. We started believing more and more, and the fans and everybody else started to believe more.
"We just fed off each other and won that game in the third overtime, but that was a huge turning point. We knew we had the team and all the pieces to go far."
Hemsky's impact on the Oilers embodied itself in that Stanley Cup run, with his importance to the club during the era being encapsulated in the words of his first bench boss in Craig MacTavish.
"There wasn't a more important player for me during my whole tenure as coach of the Oilers than Ales," Stauffer said, reading a quote from former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish in a tweet sent by 630CHED Inside Sports host Reid Wilkins. "He might not be alone at the top, but I don't see anyone above him."
"He didn't always like the day to day rigours of playing an 82-game schedule, but when the game was on the line he was at his best. Great player that made a huge impact on our team."