Tuesday

Gord Sherven

“What I remember most about the win was a player named Gord Sherven, who’d brought a bottle of champagne into the dressing room to celebrate the win – and then fumbled with the foil and the cork, as if he wasn't used to celebrating such unexpected victories."

- Eric Duhatshek, on Canada's upset victory at the 1987 Izvestia Cup tournament in Moscow.

Weyburn, Saskatchewan's Gord Sherven had dreams of playing with Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers. But he also had some international dreams. He had more success with the latter rather than the former.

Sherven was drafted by the Oilers in 1981. The following season he enrolled in the University of North Dakota where he studied business administration and education, as well as starring on the right wing. By 1982 he and the likes of James Patrick, Dave Tippett, Darren Jensen and Jon Casey led the Fighting Sioux to a NCAA title.

In the 1983 season he took leaves from his schooling to play for Canada at both the World Junior Championships (winning bronze) and the World Championships. His love for the international game was born.

The following year he would actually leave the University after 10 games to pursue an Olympic gold medal. But things did not work out so well for Sherven. After 49 games with the national team, a knee injury prevented him from being part of Canada's Olympic efforts in Sarajevo.

Sherven was able to join the Oilers later that same season, and even played in his first two NHL games. The rookie skated in practices with the Oilers throughout the NHL playoffs, but never saw game action again. That was unfortunate as the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup. While it was quite the thrill to experience the championship so closely, Sherven's lack of games played meant he would not get his name on the Stanley Cup.

No problem, right? Gretzky's Oilers were destined to win a few more Stanley Cups. Sherven made the team the following season, and even scored 9 goals and 16 points in the first half of his rookie season. And while the Oilers did go on to win the Stanley Cup again that spring, they somehow managed to find a way to do it without Sherven. The Oilers traded him to Minnesota in a package for veteran Mark Napier.

Sherven, who returned to classes every summer to complete his undergraduate degree, never caught on in Minnesota. he was briefly reacquired by the Oilers before a short stint with Hartford. But his career in North American pro hockey was essentially all but complete by 1987.

Sherven went on to a lengthy international career, which included club team play with many teams in Germany through to the end of the century. Three times he celebrated championships in the German league, including 1989 (Rosenheim), 1994 (Munich); 1996 (Dusseldorf). But it was his chance to play with Dave King's old Canadian national team that he is best remembered for. He finally achieved his dream of playing in the Olympics in 1988 in Calgary. He scored 4 goals and 8 points in 8 Olympic games, but Canada placed fourth in the tournament.

After retiring Sherven returned to Calgary where he became active with Hockey Canada and, oddly, the Calgary Flames alumni association even though he never played for the Flames.

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Monday

Mark Lamb

Mark may have been a Lamb, but he had the heart of a lion.

Mark was a defensive minded, gritty little center for 6 NHL teams, most notably in Edmonton and Ottawa. Mark made the NHL solely on hard work. He was a decent skater and fore checker, but other than defensive anticipation had little in terms of finesse skills. Despite being just 5'9", Lamb played much bigger than his size. Lamb eagerly went into the corner with a player much bigger than he, and often came out with the puck.

Originally drafted by Calgary, he signed as a free agent with Detroit in 1986. After 23 games in the NHL he was claimed by the Edmonton Oilers off of the waiver wire to begin the 1987-88 season. By 1989-90 he was a full time Oiler 4th liner, but exploded in the playoffs. His heart and effort showed up when it counted the most, as Lamb overachieved and the Oilers captured the Stanley Cup, their first without Wayne Gretzky. 

Despite playing a utility players' role, Lamb was able to pick up some of the scoring slack in Gretzky's absence, and chipped in a surprising 17 points in 22 playoff games! He even lined up with Gretzky's old linemates much of that spring, Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen.

That fine playoff probably kept Lamb in the NHL for the next 6 years, though he did bounce around a bit. He spent the next two years in Edmonton, but saw as much time on the injured reserved list as he did on the ice. The Ottawa Senators claimed Lamb in the 1992 Expansion draft. Lamb spent two seasons hustling in a Sens jersey, the second of which he was named a co-captain. The Philadelphia Flyers picked up Lamb at the end of the 1994 season but sent him to Montreal in the lock-out shortened season of 1995. Lamb played his last NHL game with the Habs in 1995-96.

Lamb has fond memories of his days in the NHL.

"It became a dream to play in the NHL and being a kid from southwest Saskatchewan, that was pretty much all anybody did was play hockey," Lamb said. "I was always the small guy in the hockey world also and I just wanted to prove that a small player could play."

Born in small town Saskatchewan, Lamb's other passion is the rodeo. As a kid he'd play hockey in the winter, but rodeoed in the summer.

"My family rodeoed, so I liked everything about it. I liked being outside, I liked being around the animals, pretty much everything about it."

Lamb was quite a calf roper as a child but soon took an interest in bull riding.

"My dad never really wanted me to take up bull riding but he never told me not to. It was my decision if I wanted to. He always thought it would be a lot better if I'd ride bareback horse or saddlebronc."


While Lamb last saw action in the NHL back in 1995, he had continued to play in the minors and in Europe until his career came to a close in 2000.

When all was said and done Mark had played 403 NHL games, winning one Stanley Cup. He scored 46 career goals and 100 career assists for 146 points. While those numbers would qualify as an "off year" for Wayne Gretzky back in his hey day with the Oilers, Mark was a pretty nice little player in his own right.

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Sunday

Ron Chipperfield


Ron Chipperfield is probably best known for being the first NHL captain of the Edmonton Oilers. A veteran of 5 WHA seasons, the last two of which were with the Edmonton Oilers, Chipperfield had never played a game in the NHL and was only 25 years old when he was named the Oilers captain.

The players voted Chipperfield as captain with Lee Fogolin and BJ MacDonald as alternates. Coach/GM Glen Sather was very pleased with the selection, saying "Ron is mature, sensible and will lead by example."

Chipperfield was an enthusiastic center who used his speed to dart around the ice and create plays. He was a good scorer at the WHA level, scoring over 30 goals 3 times and over 80 points twice. In addition to leading by example, Chipperfield was expected to score at a consistent rate. If he did so, he would be taking a lot of pressure off of a 18 year old rookie Wayne Gretzky. Chipperfield would center the second line and hopefully produce enough to attract some defensive care-taking on behalf of the other team, thus giving Gretzky just a little bit more room.

Gretzky went on to tie Marcel Dionne as the league's leading scorer, but Chipperfield didn't help the kid out very much. He struggled throughout the first three months of his first NHL season. At one point he went 17 consecutive games without scoring a single point. By the trading deadline Ron had chipped in with 18 goals and 19 assists, but was one of the Oilers major disappointments of their first season.

Another disappointment was they play of their goaltenders, particularly Dave Dryden. So with those two gaping holes on their roster, Glen Sather went about to fix that. On March 11, 1980 Sather sent the team captain packing to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for goaltender Ron Low. Low went on to a period of brief success with the Oilers. Chipperfield played in just 16 more NHL contests before disappearing to play hockey professional in Italy.

Sather also showed at this early stage that hockey was a business, and he had to do what was best for his team, regardless of any personal circumstances involving a player. At the time of the trade Chipperfield was on a leave of absence from the team as he was in Winnipeg with his dying mother.

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Tuesday

Raimo Summanen

The dynastic Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s had a heavy European influence. Glen Sather particularly favored Finnish hockey players and had great success bringing them into the fold - Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen first and foremost, but also the likes of Risto Siltanen, Reijo Ruotsalainen, and Matti Hagman.

So there was some unwarranted fanfare when Sather brought over Raimo Summanen, the pride of Jyvaskyla, in 1984. Jari Kurri was Wayne Gretzky's favorite target, but the dynamic duo could never find the perfect fit on left wing to complete a definite line. In the days prior to Esa Tikkanen's arrival, it was widely hoped that Raimo Summanen could step in and fill the role. The Oilers had even proclaimed as much prior to his arrival.

Talk about great pressure. But it all looked promising at first. Summanen had just come off of a strong showing at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. He and linemate Petri Skriko led all Finnish skaters with 10 points at those Olympics. The duo previously set records (along with Risto Jalo) at the World Juniors in 1982. Summanen's reputation as Finland's next big scorer raised expectations sky high in Edmonton, where fans had grown to love Jari Kurri's great exploits.

Summanen played in 2 regular season games after those Olympics, scoring an impressive 1 goal and 5 points. He added another goal and 5 points in 5 Stanley Cup playoff games, but was scratched in favor of Jaroslav Pouzar for much of the rest of the post-season as the physicality stepped up. The Oilers won their first Stanley Cup. It was a very impressive start to his NHL career.

Then it all sort of slipped away. He showed flashes of brilliance in an otherwise below ordinary career. He had good speed but did not always keep his feet moving to drive defensemen back off of the blue line. Physically he a very tentative player, shying away from the boards and corners. He could be easily muscled off the puck. He seemed to struggle adjusting to the North American game, often wandering from his position. Then again, playing with Gretzky and Kurri meant you had to throw the playbook out the window and completely improvise, which is why it was so hard to find the perfect left winger. 


To many people's surprise Summanen was demoted to the minor leagues in 1984-85, dispatched to apprentice and learn the North American game. He played his only full season in Edmonton in 1985-86, scoring 19 goals and 37 points in 73 games - low numbers on a team with 4 players who scored 48 or more goals.


After another lacklustre season in 1986-87 the Oilers dispatched Summanen to Vancouver late in the season, swapping the Finn for big bodied Moe Lemay. There were great hopes in Vancouver that the reuniting of Summanen and Petri Skriko would result in great things in Canucks-land. But Summanen would play just 19 games over 2 seasons in Vancouver.

In 1988 Raimo Summanen packed up his NHL career (151 games, 36 goals, 40 assists, 76 points) and headed back home to Finland where he continued to play for several seasons. He later became a prominent coach.

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