EDMONTON, AB - Glen Sather’s name belongs in the rafters among the Oilers greats who have already seen their name stitched into banner glory. It was only a matter of time, and now that time has come.
The Oilers announced Tuesday, the long-time NHL player, coach and manager will be honoured with a banner raising ceremony at Rexall Place on December 11, when the Oilers host the New York Rangers.
“The Oilers organization has been blessed with tremendous leaders, many of them in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Those great teams and players were a part of one of the great dynasties in hockey. But, I can tell you with certainty, none of that success would have happened without Glen Sather,” said Oilers Entertainment Group Vice-Chair Kevin Lowe. “Glen was a mentor, leader, protector and father figure for so many players that wore the Oilers sweater. He showed us what it meant to be champions both on and off the ice.”
Sather’s was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997. He ranks 19th all time in NHL regular season coaching wins. Eight of his 11 seasons as a coach produced winning records. With the Oilers, he won four Stanley Cups as head coach (1984, 85, 87, 88) and a fifth in 1990 as president and general manager.
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“Each one of them is very special, because they’re all different,” said Sather. “Every one of them was a different challenge and different set of issues we had to deal with. We had injuries and player changes. The lineup changed quite a bit over the years, but the nucleus of the team stuck together pretty much the entire time except for the last one that we won. The players are what make those Stanley Cup teams work the way they do.”
Sather also paid homage to the coaching and training staffs during those dynasty years of Oilers hockey. The organization pulled together to produce results. They did so learning from Sather’s spoken lessons and his confidence.
“He really instilled a belief in us,” said Lowe, who played under Sather. “A concept to believe that you’re good, to believe that you can be the best. I think back to the early days playing the likes of the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders, and he really emphasized that, ‘you guys can be every bit as good as these guys. You can be as good as the great, legendary Canadiens, and you will be.’
“It’s one thing to say that you can, but he always had a great deal of swagger and confidence and when he said, ‘you will be,’ we believed it.”
The “Sather smirk” is legendary. He exuded confidence and produced the results to back it up.
“I think you have to be real proud of yourself to be successful in anything. Whether you’re a craftsman or a carpenter or whatever field you’ve chosen to make your living in, you have to do it the best way you can do it and believe you’re doing the right thing,” said Sather. “I always told the players to believe in themselves and believe in each other. If you did that, you can be successful. Don’t give up.”
The dynasty years were a special time for Sather, the Oilers and all of Edmonton. He had a chance to visit and reminisce last October during the 1984 Stanley Cup Reunion.
“There were some days where it was complicated, but most the time it was a lot of fun,” Sather laughed. “I enjoyed all those guys. So many different personalities on the team. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of them over the years. Of course, we’ve all changed but the memories are still there, the players have shared them. Some good, some bad and some they laugh about. Some say, ‘how come you didn’t play me anymore than you did.’ A lot of great (memories came back) when we were at the reunion and saw all those players. The guys who played on that (1984) Stanley Cup team. Those were a special few days.”
After playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings, and winning a Memorial Cup in 1963, Sather returned to the City of Edmonton with the Oilers as a player-coach in 1976-77. That next season, he dropped the “player” tag and turned full-time coach. The rest is written in hockey history books. But you can see why, after years on and behind the bench here, that this city holds a special place in Sather’s heart. It’s fitting that Sather’s name will be the last raised in Rexall Place before the team moves downtown to Rogers Place beginning in 2016-17.
“It’s probably a little sad too to see the building go,” said Sather. “The next thought you have is the next generation is going to be playing in a brand new, wonderful building. It’s a great situation for the City of Edmonton to have something like that being built right in the middle of downtown.”
Sather will be the ninth Oiler to have a banner raised by the team. He will join Al Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and long-time radio broadcaster Rod Phillips in the rafters.
“It’s a big honour,” said Sather. “I’ll probably be the last one to be honoured in that building. Just to be with all those players and Rod Phillips, great players and great people, that’s certainly a lot of responsibility to live up to.”