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GENE'S BLOG: Cup Run Memories

In his latest blog, Gene Principe shares his memories from the Oilers unbelievable Stanley Cup run in 2005-06

by Gene Principe /

Time passes but the memories don't. 

They are things you can't forget and wouldn't want to. There are moments in life and sports that are forever burned into your being, no matter how old you get or how much you see. 

Whether it's a goal, a game or a series, they just never go away. Often you not only remember what happened but exactly where you were when it happened, who you were with and how you celebrated or commiserated over the result. All of the above applies to the Edmonton Oilers and 2006.

"We're spending money like drunken sailors," was the comical quote issued by Oilers Head Coach Craig MacTavish.

Video: 2006 | Roloson, Stoll, Moreau

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GENE'S BLOG: Just Gaetan Started

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about Oilers forward Gaetan Haas, who signed a one-year extension with the club on Tuesday

by Gene Principe /

EDMONTON, AB - As he began his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland made a bunch of lesser-known depth signings. Not big news or flashy news but important additions to the team. 

During Holland's three Stanley Cup wins as GM with Detroit, the Wings had stars. Names like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom. Along with those Hockey Hall of Famers, there were names like ex-Oilers Brent Gilchrist, Kirk Maltby and others named Jamie Pushor and Mathieu Dandenault. It takes a team to win a Cup and nobody knows that better than Edmonton's hockey boss.

Last season, one player Holland inked to a deal was Gaetan Haas. It was one of those signings where you needed to dig a little deeper to find out what the player was bringing to the team. Haas is a smooth-skating, nifty forward who had spent his entire career in Europe. An older, mature player who wanted to give it a shot in the NHL and Holland was willing to give him that chance on a one-year deal.

By the time it was all done or at least when the NHL pause had arrived, the Swiss centreman had played 58 games and put up a modest total of 10 points with five goals and five assists. Not eye-popping numbers but enough for another one-year deal.

The forward's transition didn't always go in an upward trajectory but he also didn't experience many pitfalls or big drop-offs. Early in the season, he had a trip to Bakersfield, but other than that he became an almost nightly Oiler who became more and more comfortable and understanding of his role as the season stretched on. 

Video: EDM@CGY: Haas sends puck through Rittich's five-hole

Head Coach Dave Tippett also took a liking to Haas but, more importantly, felt like he could rely on the NHL rookie. That's not always an easy thing for a veteran coach to put someone new into situations with points and playoff implications on the line. The coach's confidence led to Haas feeling like he was fitting in with a team, just waiting for a spot in the postseason. 

The then 27-year-old could have easily stayed home and continued to play for many more years in the Swiss League or another European country, but he didn't want any regrets professionally. He had only been to Canada and the U.S. on three occasions before originally signing with Edmonton. Once in Miami for holidays and twice in Calgary along with Buffalo for the World Junior Championship. 

He wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination but certainly on the mature side of things when you consider by that age some players have spent as many as eight or nine years in the NHL. 

Along with a hockey experience, it was also a life experience. He was amazed at the amount of travel, the hotels he stayed in and even the food on the Oilers charter plane. It's all part of being in the NHL. He was wowed by New York City, but what got his attention the most was being an Edmonton Oiler. 

Now he stays an Oiler after being signed by Holland in what can be considered 'Haas keeping'.

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GENE'S BLOG: Frequent Flyer Points

With Sportsnet broadcasting the 1987 Stanley Cup Final in its entirety, Gene recalls his memories from the legendary series

by Gene Principe /

Right about now, if the playoffs had started when they should have on April 8, the Edmonton Oilers would be finishing up or had already finished up their opening round playoff series. Maybe it would have been the first post-season Battle of Alberta since 1991, or a Plan to beat Van against the Canucks.

Who knows what would or could have happened since the NHL season has been on pause? Either way, it would have made for thrilling, non-stop, end-to-end action and mind-blowing noise levels at Rogers Place. We don't have playoff hockey from 2020 yet, but we do have the 1987 Stanley Cup Final.

Over the next two weeks, Sportsnet will highlight Canadian teams in the playoffs, and for Edmonton on display will be the 1987 Cup Final against Philadelphia. There was very little edge when comparing the regular season records from the two teams. The Oilers had 106 points and the Flyers had 100. Edmonton was first in goals (371) and Philadelphia was fourth (310). However, the Flyers allowed fewer goals 245 (second in the NHL) while the Oilers gave up 284 (10th in the NHL).


As both teams entered the post-season, Edmonton opened up against LA and beat the Kings 4-1. The Flyers took on the NY Rangers and disposed of them in six games. Edmonton moved on to the division final and swept Winnipeg. As for Philadelphia, they were pushed to a Game 7 against the recent dynasty from the NY Islanders, but they prevailed in the win-or-go-home match.

Off to the conference finals and the Oilers needed just five games to dispose of Detroit Red Wings. It took the Flyers six games to shake the Montreal Canadiens, setting up the championship series between a pair of two-time Stanley Cup champions from Edmonton (84,85) and Philadelphia (74,75).

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GENE'S BLOG: Saying Goodbye

Gene shares some heartfelt memories of his time working with and getting to know Oilers forward Colby Cave

by Gene Principe /

I remember the day the Edmonton Oilers picked up Colby Cave off waivers from the Boston Bruins. At that time, I didn't know much about Colby. I did a little Google work, talked to a couple people and found out a little more about the newest Oilers forward.

The next day he made his debut for Edmonton against Vancouver. I did a "Cave" man opening with some props to welcome the viewers to the game and Colby to the team. The first thing I noticed about him was a great name. I ended up finding out that wasn't the only great part about Colby Cave.

I remember the first time I went and introduced myself to him. It was the morning skate before his Oilers debut against the Canucks. There was a lineup of people to talk to him. I waited 'til last and I kind of ran out of time because Colby had been so friendly with everyone else. He didn't want to end any of the conversations, instead waiting until someone else put a close to them. He still had time for me and it was my first glimpse into his ear-to-ear smile. It's one of those things that's easy to explain, but to do it justice you had to see it. A smile that lights up a room and a personality to go with it.

It was so easy to talk to Colby, whether it was on camera or just standing around his stall. He liked to chat and seemed excited any time I or others went to him. He was a people person. Easy to see and even better to feel when you were talking to him.

He's one of those kids that you wanted as a son, a brother or a friend, which you loved as a teamate. And if you had a daughter, you would definitely appreciate him as a son in law.

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Cave 11.02.19

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GENE'S BLOG: Praying for Colby plus more mailbag

Gene sends some love to Oilers forward Colby Cave while answering fan questions about his pets, his career and more

by Gene Principe /

Hope everyone is safe and sound and made it through another week of working at home, at the office or both. You might be considered lucky to be working at all considering the COVID-19 crush on the economy. However, you can't work if you can't live and that is our primary purpose right now.

With the coronavirus capturing the world's attention, you sometimes forget there are people who fall ill or might be hospitalized and it has nothing to do with this pandemic. Colby Cave is one of those people.

Shocking news revealed about the Oilers and Bakersfield Condors forward on Tuesday.

First he had been placed in a medically-induced coma and admitted to a Toronto hospital after suffering a brain bleed overnight. Then an update that he was out of emergency surgery. Doctors removed a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain. He remains in a medically-induced coma at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Wow, just hard to believe a 25-year-old pro athlete would be stricken with such a moment that threatens to take him away. It is an extremely difficult time for the entire Cave family and his wife Emily. Colby is a great kid. Big smile, engaging personality, friendly handshake and a person who achieved success the old-fashioned way... he earned it.

An undrafted player who first was a Boston Bruin and then an Edmonton Oiler. Riding the fine line between the NHL and AHL, he did what he had to in order to win, irrelevant of what team or league he was playing in.

Video: EDM@PIT: Cave drags puck across the crease for goal

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GENE'S BLOG: Poti, Patty, perfect ice and pasta

Principe's mailbag is back as our friendly neighbourhood Sportsnet host answers fan questions about favourite games he's worked, quarantine cuisine and more

by Gene Principe /

Hello, everyone in Oil Country. Another week has gone by and we continue to monitor the coronavirus. It's made the world different but hopefully you are meeting the challenge and most importantly staying healthy.

I had fun doing an Oilers mailbag last week, so why don't we try it again this week? Here we go!

@neena_newin on Twitter asks... What's been your all-time favourite game to work?

Neena, that is a great question. Covering all the wins in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs was a blast, but I think this stands out as my favourite game to work because I was actually hosting the game. The 1998-99 season was my first as the host of Oiler games. Back then it was A-Channel and it was my dream job.

Late in the season, like in the final week to 10 days, Edmonton beat the Sharks in San Jose and Tom Poti scored the OT winner. It put them into the playoffs. I was new and as I did the post-game interview with Tom the team was so pumped and kept yelling at him, "we're going to the show, we're going to the show." As an Edmonton kid, I felt like an actual Oiler and was swept up in all the excitement and it really stands out for me as a great memory.

@nreithmeier on Twitter asks... The old barn was generally regarded as having the best ice in the NHL, how does the new one compare?

Nick, interesting question and I like it. What went on at at the old building was like Leonardo da Vinci with the Mona Lisa. What they did with the ice was a work of art, from Dan Craig who started it and the countless other ice-crew experts who continued it. There is no way to replicate what happened on the corner of Wayne Gretzky Drive and 118 Avenue, but there are other great, historical paintings.

We may not know them like the Mona Lisa, but as proven by this season's NHLPA poll that ranked Rogers Place as the second-best ice in the league, the players are noticing what's happening at the corner of 102 Street and 104 Avenure. It is a hard-working group of icemakers who have crafted the right formula for success in the new building.

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: Captain Connor was voted top forward in the @NHL by his @NHLPA peers as this season's #NHLPAPlayerPoll was released! Also, @RogersPlace was selected as best visitors locker room & second-best ice in the League.

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GENE'S BLOG: Hoping this gets your stamp of approval

The first instalment of Gene's mailbag includes insight on the Harley Davidson helmet and vest given to the Oilers player of the game, dressing up as Drake and more

by Gene Principe /

Hi everyone. How are you? I hope your answer is good, fine, healthy, or even ok will do during these ever-changing times. I also hope you are doing your part to help keep the coronavirus numbers from climbing. It's proving to be a very difficult challenge but we are part of the biggest team around - Team World.

Since the last game on the NHL schedule, which happened to be Winnipeg and Edmonton, I have been laying as low as possible. Grocery store visits, checking in on my 88-year-old father and grabbing some fresh air simply to get a further break from staying home.

Now should be the most exciting time of the regular season with the build-up to the playoffs. However, as we close in on two weeks of the NHL season being paused, we anxiously await a return to the rink. Until that happens, let me post-al some answers to your questions in my weekly mail-bag segment!

@Aleexlilac on Twitter asks... Generic question, what are you up to without hockey?

Great question because I think right after "how are you?" the next thing people want to know is "what are you doing?". The answer for me is not too much these days. I alluded to the grocery store visits and hanging with my dad. I am doing some work from home. At Sportsnet we're attempting to 'Engage with Athletes'.

Simply put, we'll be checking in with players to see what they're doing, how they're feeling and what's going on in their world. I have done a couple segments (Carter Hart and Ryan Strome). The segments are easy to do. After picking a pre-determined time, the interview subject and I get sent a link from Sportsnet. We click on the link. The producer rolls and records and voila we have some up-to-date programming.

When I'm not doing that, I'm hanging out at home with my wife and three kids. My wife is a dental hygienist. Dental offices (excluding emergencies) have been shut down. Two of my kids are in university and the other is in high school. They are doing school work and tests from home. Last but not least, we're getting, like so many, a lot of family time, which means movies and board games - Scrabble and Clue, to name a couple.

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GENE'S BLOG: A Quiet (Rogers) Place

Gene checks back in to discuss the pause of the NHL season and put the call out for fan questions for his mailbag

by Gene Principe /

Today was the day 'A Quiet Place Part II' was to be released in theatres. A sequel to a movie that was eerily excellent (if you have the time right now, give it a watch). It stars John Krasinski, who famously played Jim on The Office, as the father of the Abbott family. They are forced to survive in a world of silence due to the threat of creepy, crawly and dangerous creatures that hunt by sound. Hence the movie title.

Tonight, theatres would be packed with movie-goers getting a look at the sequel, but instead it was postponed due to the coronavirus. Rogers Place would also be packed with hockey-goers, but instead the home arena of the Edmonton Oilers is a Quiet Place.

The second newest building in the NHL, next to Detroit's Little Caesars Arena, has been silent since the night of March 11. It was during Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey on Sportsnet that Edmonton was hosting Winnipeg. Before the first period was done, at least temporarily, so was the NBA season, called off after a player tested positive for the virus.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game vs WPG 03.11.20

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GENE'S BLOG: March to the Playoffs

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the Oilers stretch drive during a jam-packed March

by Gene Principe /

Alex Chiasson started his career in Dallas and ended his first National Hockey League team's night on Tuesday. 

A power-play goal with four forwards on the ice. Some "forward thinking" by Head Coach Dave Tippett and it worked. 

"I'm usually the decoy," joked Chiasson after being chosen along with Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to try and finish off Dallas. Mission accomplished. Two games, two nights, two wins.

"We just grinded it out for 60 (minutes) as they (Dallas) kept pushing," explained Nugent-Hopkins. "We didn't deflate as a team. We have to be able to win games like this."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at DAL 03.03.20

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GENE'S BLOG: Deadline Day

In his latest blog, Gene Principe looks back at the NHL Trade Deadline for the Oilers

by Gene Principe /

Imagine being at work or wanting to go to work and the boss says, "Hey Gene, maybe stay home today. We won't need you in case something happens and we can trade you to another company (team)."

OK, I guess I'll just hang out - like, over here, out of the way - and wait to see if anything happens. 

The other alternative would be me saying, "No, not going to do it. I'm staying."

That would have to be a loose example of what happened to Oilers defenceman Mike Green. 

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said something along the lines of, "We've got a deal for you and it involves Edmonton."

With his no-movement clause, Green could have said no, and had until Monday morning to decide. 

He didn't need it. By Sunday night, he wanted to be an Oiler and he was. 

It was just the start of more to come. Another trade for Andreas Athanasiou and a hat-trick of hockey deals when Tyler Ennis left the nation's capital to join the two former Red Wings. 

Help on defence, help on offence, help on a team making a playoff run. Ken Holland did it. He got it done and didn't impede the future of the team. 

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at VGK 02.26.20

(This prompts a side note to address the loss of Sam Gagner. He puts the 'pro' in professional. Tough to see, as explained by the GM, but part of the game is that it is also a business.)

Dave Tippett knows it well as a player and as a coach. Reinforcements for a team that's been a force in the West. 

"I remember my first year with the Coyotes," explained Edmonton's first-year bench boss, "and we picked up four or five players. It gave us a real boost." 

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