The opening goal of the Edmonton Oilers 2013-14 season was scored by Lukas Gazdic and assisted by Will Acton. A first goal and assist for these two in their first NHL games. Gazdic's mom was at the game and watching from the stands but getting an even closer look was Acton's dad Keith who happens to be an associate coach with the Oilers. A father/son combo who couldn't have been happy with the final result but from a family standpoint had to be happy with what happened for the two Oilers who share the same last name.
Will Acton is quite a story in his own right. Never drafted as he spent four years at Lake Superior. From there it was off to Reading of the ECHL and Toronto of the AHL. His numbers never one to immediately grab your attention but his work ethic and effort were hard to bypass. A defensive centreman with some grit and gumption who never stopped dreaming of one day following in the skates of his father. The chances of that occurring took a turn for the better when Will signed with Edmonton as a free agent on July 5th. This happened after his dad Keith came over to the Oilers organization.
The elder Acton is well known around the NHL having been an assistant coach with Columbus last season. He's worked with the New York Rangers, Philadelphia and he spent a decade in Toronto. From 2006-2008 he worked alongside Dallas Eakins with the Leafs. Before the bench Acton spent 1023 NHL regular season games on the ice. One of his stops saw him come to Edmonton where he arrived in time to help the Oilers win the Stanley Cup in 1988. In fact Keith scored the game-winning goal in the opener of that Cup Final against Boston. Will was all of 10 months old so he doesn't remember any of it, unlike what's been happening 25 years later.
As a father of three, no matter what I do at work or in life there is nothing in the world that makes me more proud than to see my kids succeed at something. I can only imagine what is going through Keith's mind when he sees what Will has done. From a longshot to play in the NHL to getting a point on his first shift. Dad had to be extremely proud even if he wasn't going to show it. The elder Acton has been pretty quiet thru training camp about his son. Instead, letting Will do the talking with his play. It's a unique situation but could also be awkard when his son's name comes up. If it wasn't for injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner the younger Acton may not have even had this chance. If that were the case and Will was sent down to OKC, that wouldn't have been much fun for the Actons.
That's a conversation for another day to be dealt with when RNH and Gagner are healthy. As for now the father/son team on the Oilers can enjoy the moment. One to be shared by a player and a coach who are Acton out a dream for both of them.
Gene Principe is the host of Oilers broadcasts on Sportsnet West.