The old expression was "Join the Army, see the world."
For Glenn Anderson, the right winger who will have his number 9 raised to the rafters at Rexall Place on Sunday, it was "grab your stick and skates and see the world." Anderson used his hockey ability to play for the University of Denver, the Canadian National Team, the Augsburger Panther in Germany, Lukko Rauma in Finland, HC Bolzano in Italy and HC La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. He played in the 1984 and 1988 Canada Cups and Rendez Vous '87 as well as 6 times in international play with Team Canada.
In between, Anderson won 6 Stanley Cups and became one of the great clutch players in NHL history. He won 5 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers from 1984-90 and another with the 1994 New York Rangers. He also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and had two stints with the St. Louis Blues.
Anderson played 16 seasons and retired from the NHL in 1996. If it were not for 2 half-hearted efforts at a comeback with Edmonton and St. Louis in 1996, he would have retired as a player who averaged more than a point a game. Anderson had 498 goals and 601 assists for 1,099 points in 1,129 games. He was plus-201 for his career.
Those credentials would likely qualify him for the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it was his work in Stanley Cup Playoffs that made him a lock. Anderson was one of the greatest playoff performers in NHL history. He had 93 goals and 121 assists for 214 points in 225 Stanley Cup Playoff games. But that's only part of the story.
When he retired, Anderson's 5 overtime playoff goals ranked second only to Maurice "Rocket" Richard's 6. Joe Sakic now has 8. His 17 playoff game-winning goals rank fifth in NHL history. Anderson ranks fifth in Stanley Cup Playoff games, fourth in points and goals, and seventh in assists.
You could say he was fortunate to play with his centre, but you could say the same thing about Mark Messier: He was fortunate to play with Anderson. Neither won a Stanley Cup without the other.
"The bottom line is championships," Anderson said. "I think it exemplifies the fact that you're a true team player and you know what it takes to be part of a team. And I think you need to win championships."
|Glenn Anderson laughs at a question after being presented with his hall ring at a ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday Nov. 10, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn) |
Anderson reflected on the coaches who helped mold him into a star player, Father David Bauer with the Canadian National Team, Marshall Johnston at the University of Denver and Glen Sather with the Oilers. He plans to cite them and others in his induction speech.
"I've had a little time to think about it. ... So I'm savoring the moments and the seconds as they go by," Anderson said. "Ever since I got the call (to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame), June 17, it's something that I'd like to soak in and remember forever."
Anderson said having his number nine raised to the rafters is a great honour, but it reflects his accomplishments with a singular team, while the Hockey Hall of Fame reflects his complete career.
"The banner being raised up in Edmonton, I think it is 2 different scenarios completely," Anderson said. "But I think my tenure is mostly with the Oilers. But I just don't want to say that my hockey career was just in the professional ranks in North America. I was very proud and honored to be part of Team Canada and wear the Canadian Maple Leaf proudly. Hopefully, I did my country justice by representing them."
Anderson opted out of Canadian juniors to play American college hockey when it wasn't seen as a route to the NHL. He said Johnston helped him see opportunities.
"I think Denver was spectacular because of the fact that back then, in the 1970s, a lot of players weren't even thinking about going to school as a backup plan for their hockey career," Anderson said. "A lot of players played in junior hockey and they had 1 dimension. They were going to get into the NHL. I was at that point where I was finally turning; where players had choices of where they wanted to go and play and have a backup plan.
"I think schooling is very important for any kid playing the game today and it was very important for me. Especially with the preparation and the discipline that you have to have for school and for sports. (Pioneers coach) Marshall Johnston was a big part of that. And I'm very, very honored to have him as my coach and one of my mentors in the game."
Anderson played one season of college and then decided to go the junior route. That lasted 7 games before he joined the national team and Father Bauer in hopes of playing in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
"My training sessions with the Olympic program, and to be an Olympic athlete at that time, as an amateur, was absolutely phenomenal.," Anderson said. "Four hours of ice time a day. From 7 a.m. in the morning till 8 p.m. at night, we were on the ice, off the ice or doing some kind of mental preparation system-wise or training-wise.
"As far as what Father Bauer did, whatever energy I had at the end of the day, basically (it was) Father Bauer's philosophy that I was always summoned over to the monastery there in Calgary and we had endless conversations about more of the human spirit and the political end of it … that the North American league is not the only league; there're other options.
|Glenn Anderson #9 of the Edmonton Oilers skates after the play during the Molson Canadien Heritage Classic against the Montreal Canadiens on November 22, 2003 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada. The Oilers defeated the Canadiens 2-0. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images) |
"If you don't happen to make it, you can fall back on schooling. He really opened my eyes to a broader picture than what a lot of people are kind of programmed and influenced by the media and by what they see from the TV, that there's only one league in the world and only one direction and they get kind of narrow-minded. He really opened my mind to a lot of different avenues."
The Oilers came together quickly in the years before their championships. They got defenceman Kevin Lowe in the first round of the 1979 Draft, Messier in the third round and Anderson in the fourth round. Paul Coffey was taken in the first round of the 1980 draft and Jarri Kuri in the fourth round. Grant Fuhr was a first-round pick in 1981 and Steve Smith in the sixth round. Jaroslav Pouzar was taken in 1982. Jeff Beukeboom was a first-rounder in 1983 and Esa Tikkanen went in the fourth round.
"You've really got to question the world scouting at that point in time," Anderson said. "Because, in our draft year, the Oilers had no (second-round) pick. And you've got in '79, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, and I went in the fourth round. Then you've got another first-rounder in Paul Coffey and then Grant Fuhr. So, the draft really pulled that team together and the players just kind of really revolved around (Wayne) Gretzky. When you are playing with the best player in the world, I mean, you start doing things you never even dreamed about doing."
They lost to the New York Islanders in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final and then won the next year. Anderson had a game-winning goal in the final series.
"It was a lot of time and a lot of effort getting to that position," Anderson said. "And it was a learned condition. It was more like a relief, we finally did it. Then once you get there -- getting there is one thing and staying on top is another. But it was more of a relief and you're just so exhausted and so content you finally did it, that there is a great relief."
But nothing lasts forever, and Anderson's time in Edmonton ended when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs with Fuhr in 1991. The team finished out of the playoffs that season, but lost the Western Conference championship in each of the next two years, first to Los Angeles and Gretzky, and then to Vancouver after Anderson was dealt to the Rangers.
"Coming from a team that won championships and going into Toronto and not really realizing what I was getting into, I definitely had my work cut out for me there," Anderson said. "But I was fortunate enough that we had a great general manager in Cliff Fletcher, and he saw the bigger picture and kind of knew what had to be done. And the time that I spent in Toronto was absolutely phenomenal because of the fact that it was like the hockey hotbed of Canada.
"You're under the spotlight and it's the toughest ticket anywhere in the hockey world. I was very lucky and fortunate to play on the teams that I did play on in St. Louis, New York, Edmonton and Toronto because as a kid growing up, the one game that you get to see on a regular basis is Hockey Night in Canada with the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens."
Anderson wasn't with Toronto in the 1994 playoffs, he'd been traded to the Rangers for Mike Gartner at the trading deadline. He was, as they say, the final piece of the puzzle and played on a powerful line with Adam Graves and Messier. They beat the New Jersey Devils in a memorable, 7-game Eastern Conference Final and the Canucks in 7 games to capture his sixth Stanley Cup.