The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s were incredible. The team, right in the middle, of that decade is the greatest of all-time - as voted by the fans. In fact, four of the top 10 teams to go along with the NHL's Centennial celebration vote were from Edmonton.
It was quite a decade, and for any of us who were alive and old enough to remember, what a time it was in the city. They were the moments in sport that transcend into your life. A goal, a win, a playoff series victory, and ultimately the Stanley Cup, connecting the real world with the sports world.
Back in 1984-85, I was a budding broadcaster - or at least I thought I was. Fresh off graduating from St.Joseph's high school, I was intent on taking sportscasting by storm. One small problem: I couldn't get into NAIT's Radio and Television Arts program.
Instead, I took my part-time job at the Pop Shoppe and turned it into full-time. At least until RTA at the Edmonton college finally acknowledged my acceptance into their program. In fact, I remember going to an Oilers game late that season for ENN (Edmonton NAIT News), not CNN. Edmonton played Calgary and I had the chance to interview (along with other media) Mark Messier. Afterwards, I rushed home to watch ITV (which is now Global) to see Messier's post game comments. I listened to him, but was more proud and impressed that my hand could be seen holding the microphone. I figured it was my big break.
What a season it was by the Oilers… In fact, my memory of it began in training camp.
Video: 1-ON-1 | Gretzky on '85 Team
Nowadays line combinations can be easily found on social media. I always look for @EdmontonJack or @Bob_Stauffer to tweet out the forward combos. It wasn't like that in the fall of 1984. You knew Wayne would be with Jari, kind of like we generally know Leon will be along side Connor. However, unlike present day where Pat Maroon is on the other side we didn't know who would play along side Gretzky and Kurri. Here's where my detective work fell into place when I saw the Great One at a bar. I started chatting him up and eventually asked who would be on his left wing. He said Mike Krushelnyski, who had been acquired from Boston. I took him late in a draft with my buddies. Krushelnyski had 88 points and I won thanks to another assist by Wayne.
Back then there was no such term as 'Stanley Cup hangover' but there was a curiosity how the Oilers would respond after the first Cup win in 1984. They were fine, going 12-0-3 in their first 15 games. They didn't lose a game the first month of the season. It made me believe there was more to come. With no school, I worked a lot of nights and spent many of them moving pop and listening to Rod Phillips. TV games were limited, so Rod painted the pictures for us. On many cold winter week nights the Pop Shoppe was empty of customers but full of the noise of Rod's calls and my reactions to the wins and the losses. That team helped cement home my desire to go into TV, or at least try it.
It was quite a season for Edmonton who finished 49-20-11, and first in the Smythe division. Yet I still can't forget my disappointment, or maybe surprise is a better word, the team didn't hit 50 wins. Not a big deal at all, but when you're 18 it seemed like it.
There was no disappointment or surprise in the playoffs. The Oilers absolutely rolled through rounds 1 and 2, lost two games in round 3 before the final was set against Philadelphia. I admit feeling a bit edgy after the Flyers opened the Cup Final with a win. It was short lived as the Oilers rattled off four straight and grasped a second Stanley Cup.
Then it was time to party on Jasper Avenue. That was the place to go meet up with friends and strangers, all with a common bond called "the Cup." It really was a great time and it really was a great team. In fact, the greatest team of all-time - which will be honoured February 11th.