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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Monday

Tommy Salo


There was a time when Tommy Salo was on the verge of joining the elite legion of the goaltenders.

That was early 2000s. He had apprenticed in the minor leagues and with the New York Islanders, demonstrating that his acrobatic albeit unorthodox style could be effective in the National Hockey League. After three seasons on Long Island he moved to Edmonton and became a work horse goalie, playing 70 games a year. He showed tremendous poise, quickness and athletic ability.

Then this happened.



Of course this happened at the 2002 Olympics. Salo was backstopping the strong Swedish team that employed the torpedo offense and blitzed Canada in the qualifying round. But in the first playoff game, where you lose and you go home, Sweden could not shake the pesky Belorussians. Then Salo let in Vladimir Kopat's shot from the neutral zone.

All of Sweden was disappointed obviously. Salo unfairly became the scapegoat. Swedish fans were not quick to forgive Salo. They had long forgotten that the native of Surahammar had led Sweden to the 1994 Olympic gold medal or the 1998 World Championship.  Long forgotten was the fact that he was still an elite goaltender who just happened to get burned at pretty much the worst possible time.

It's funny how the perception of Salo's ability changed that day. He returned to Edmonton for a couple of seasons. He played inconsistently and battled some controversies but ultimately the Oilers were not that good. They sought to make changes. At the trading deadline in 2004 they move him to Colorado.

Salo's stay in Denver was short to say the least. He played 5 unsuccessful games and one more in the playoffs before leaving the NHL.

Salo returned to Sweden, playing a season with Modo and two with Frolunda before hanging up the pads once and for all in 2007.

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Tuesday

Mike Comrie



Mike Comrie had it all. He achieved the Canadian dream, playing in the National Hockey League, in his home town to boot. Not that he needed the money. He is an heir to the Brick furniture empire. Oh, and he married Hilary Duff.

But after a third hip surgery in five years, including a completely new hip joint, Mike Comrie had to hang up his skates for good. After 10 seasons and 589 games, most notably the Oilers in his native Edmonton, Comrie could no longer play the game he loved.

“I look back and I’m happy to have played 10 years in the NHL ... I’d like to have played more games healthy, for sure,” Comrie told Jim Mathieson of the Edmonton Sun.

Playing in his hometown was a career highlight.

“But I got to start things off in my hometown with my family and my friends in attendance. The first game was December 30, 2000, signed right out of junior (Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League), the game was on Hockey Night in Canada against the Montreal Canadiens. I hadn’t even had one practice with the Oilers, everything happened so fast. I didn’t have time to be nervous."

More of a shooter than a playmaker, this centerman was never the fastest or strongest or most accurate shooter. But he was a dandy of a stickhandler who had great offensive instincts. He knew where to be and when to jump into holes.

“He was a gifted player, very creative, he brought something new every game. Really good hands. He could stickhandle in a phone booth,” said Smyth. “He had a knack for the pucks around the net and was determined to get them.

Comrie played the first 192 games of his NHL career with the Oilers before he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003 over a contract dispute with then general manager Kevin Lowe. The Oilers received forwards Rob Schremp and Danny Syvret and defenceman Jeff Woywitka in return.

His stint in Philly was short, as was his next stop in Phoenix. The Ottawa Senators acquired him in 2006-07, and he contributed nicely to their march to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Comrie then moved on to the New York Islanders before a brief return to Ottawa. In 2009-10 he opted to come home again, playing with the Oilers after a rather acrimonious departure 6 years prior. Despite a long bout with mononucleosis, Comrie chipped in nicely with 13 goals in 43 games.

Comrie ended his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010-11, hoping against hope that he could find a lucky and healthy break and play along side either Sidney Crosby or Evgeny Malkin. But it was just not meant to be.

“I scored a goal on my very last shift in my last game,” said Comrie, who was limited to 21 games — he had one goal and five assists.

Comrie was a decent offensive player, scoring 20 or more goals a season — including 33 with the Oilers in 2001-02 — five times. He had 168 goals and 197 assists in 589 regular-season NHL games. He was also on Team Canada's gold medal winning team at the World Championships in Finland in 2003.

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Monday

Wayne Gretzky

Brantford, Ontario used to be best known as the place where inventor Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. However that began to change on January 26, 1961 as Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born. Brantford would soon become known as the birthplace of hockey's greatest player.

Two years after birth, Wayne took his first steps to hockey stardom. Walter Gretzky, Canada's most famous hockey dad, took the youngster down to the local rink and began teaching him how to skate. It wasn't much longer after that before novice league coaches realized that the kid was a Good One, although they had no idea he was the Great One in the making. Soon enough a young Gretzky was playing in leagues with kids 3 or 4 years older than he was.

The first major article about Gretzky found its way into the Toronto Telegram on October 28, 1971, when reporter John Iaboni was sent to cover the Nadrofsky Steelers' blossoming star.

At the end of the game an eight-year old spectator approached Iaboni and asked, "'Are you going to write a book on Wayne Gretzky? He's good you know.'"

While the book idea was a little farther off, his greatness was already shining through. Gretzky finished that season with 378 goals in 68 games.

By the age of 17, he was tearing up the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 182 points in 64 regular season games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhouds.

For most of his childhood, Gretzky had worn Howe's No. 9, in honor of his hero, Gordie Howe, then the NHL's all time scoring leader. It was Greyhounds GM "Muzz" McPherson who convinced Wayne Gretzky to wear the unconventional number 99 on his jersey, since No. 9 was unavailable.

A year before he would have been eligible for the NHL draft, 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky signed up with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA in 1978 for an unprecedented $825,000. After just 8 games, however, the hotshot prospect found himself traded to Edmonton, along with Peter Driscoll and Eddie Mio, in exchange for cash. The Racers were in deep financial trouble, and the move had to be made.

In the WHA's last season Gretzky led the Oilers to the championship finals, where they lost to the Winnipeg Jets. Gretzky finished third in league scoring with 110 points. Remember, most kids his age are in high school, and this guy was challenging for the scoring race!

Edmonton was one of four WHA franchises that were absorbed into the NHL in 1979. And in his first season in the National Hockey League, Gretzky became the youngest player ever to crack the 50-goal barrier. He equaled Marcel Dionne's 137 points. While he was deemed ineligible for the Calder trophy because of his affiliation with the WHA, Gretzky locked up the Hart trophy for the most valuable player.

In the 1981-82 campaign, Gretzky obliterated the record for goals in a season with an unthinkable 92 and points in a season with 212. No one else had ever broken the 200-point barrier, or even come close, but Gretzky would do it three more times. Even more impressive was his breach of hockey's mythical 50-goals-in-50-games barrier. Only two other players had ever achieved that milestone — Rocket Richard and Mike Bossy — and it took both the full 50 games to do it; Gretzky scored number 50 in the 39th game of the season.

Teaming up Gretzky with the Finnish finisher, Jari Kurri, on the first line and Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson on the second, combined with offensively-gifted defenseman Paul Coffey, coach Glen Sather could send waves of offense at opposing teams the likes of which the NHL had never seen. Propelled by four 100-point scorers, Edmonton tallied an unprecedented 424 goals in the 1982-83 season.

The high flying Oilers made it all the way to the 1983 Stanley Cup finals where they faced the 3 time defending Cup champs, the New York Islanders. The Oilers were about to be taught a lesson - losing in 4 straight games as the Isles made it 4 straight Cup victories.



In the next year's rematch, however, the Oilers defeated the Islanders in five games, ending one dynasty and starting one of their own. The momentum spilled over into the 1984-85 season when they demolished Philadelphia in just five games to take their second Stanley Cup.

It seemed like no one in the league could defeat Gretzky's Oilers of the mid-80s, except themselves. A wayward pass by Edmonton defenseman Steve Smith into his own net sent the team home early during the 1986 playoffs, interrupting what should have been a five-year championship dynasty, as the Oilers would redeem themselves with the 1987 and 1988 championships.



And throughout the Oilers' glory years, Gretzky kept re-writing the record books. During the 1985-86 season, Gretzky set the current mark with 215 points, including a record-shattering 163 assists. In fact, Gretzky won the Art Ross trophy as scoring leader every year between 1981 and 1987 and two more times after that.


Gretzky of course was no stranger to international hockey competition either. Representing Canada in 4 Canada Cup tournaments, the 1978 World Junior championships, the 1996 World Cup and the 1998 Olympics, but his greatest performance on any stage came in the 1987 Canada Cup.

Gretzky captained Team Canada against the mighty Soviet Union - led by the vaunted KLM line — featuring Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov. Gretzky led all scorers with 18 points while playing what he himself admitted was the best hockey of his career.

August 9, 1988 is considered by many Canadians to be the lowest day in the country's history. On that date, the Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first round picks and cash.

The major reason for the trade was the cash. Struggling financially, Oilers' owner Peter Pocklington jumped at the $15 million that Kings owner Bruce McNall showed him.

As Canada mourned, Los Angeles partied. Gretzky - and Hockey -had gone Hollywood. By the end of Gretzky's 7 1/2 season tenure with the Kings, the Great One had brought enough popularity to hockey in Southern California to blaze the trail for two more teams, the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. In reality Gretzky brought the game to such a high level in the American sunbelt that the NHL also saw teams in Dallas, Miami, Tampa Bay and countless minor league teams throughout the USA.

Gretzky's greatest moment as a King came in 1993 when he carried the Kings to the 1993 Finals. That playoffs also saw Gretzky play what he called his greatest game in NHL competition. In Game 7 of the conference finals, Gretzky scored a hat trick, including the game winner, in a 5-4 victory over the heavily favored Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the Kings couldn't continue their magic in the Finals, falling to the Montreal Canadiens.

While Gretzky never got his named etched on the Cup as a member of the Kings, he did continue to rewrite the record book. On October 15, 1989, Gretzky surpassed Gordie Howe's NHL-record 1,851 points. It took Howe 26 years to accomplish that. It took Gretzky less than 11. Fittingly the record was surpassed in Edmonton. Even Howe's record 801 goals weren't safe: Gretzky scored number 802 against the Canucks on March 23, 1994.



By the middle of the 1995-96 season, it was obvious that the Kings didn't have the talent to make the playoffs, let alone contend. Gretzky asked to be traded and received his wish. He found himself playing alongside good friend Brett Hull, on the St. Louis Blues.

Gretzky was also initially happy to be reunited with Mike Keenan, with whom he had great success in the Canada Cup tournaments. However by this time the tyrannical Keenan had gone over the edge in his drive more power, and soon turned Gretzky, like Hull and many more, against him. During one playoff game, Keenan embarrassed Gretzky in front of his teammates in between periods. Gretzky went on to tally five assists the next game, but the Blues were still eliminated from the playoffs.

Gretzky left St. Louis, largely because of Mike Keenan, as a free agent. He took his greatness to the New York Rangers, where he was reunited with his old buddy Mark Messier.

The much celebrated reunion was short lived. After just one season, Messier left for bigger bucks in Vancouver. Gretzky however stayed in New York, quietly signing an extension with the team for less than market value.

Although it wasn't a storybook script, Gretzky fulfilled a lifelong dream in 1998 when he represented Canada in the 1998 Olympics. However Gretzky was not the Gretzky of old by this point. In fact Gretzky wasn't even named as team captain. Canada ran into the best goalie in the world, the Czech Republic's Dominik Hasek, in the semifinal game. Canada finished without a medal; Gretzky finished without a goal.

During these otherwise unspectacular Ranger seasons, Gretzky hit two more major milestones. On October 26, 1997, Gretzky recorded two assists in Anaheim to raise his career total 1,851, more than Gordie Howe — the second highest total in NHL history — had points. Then in March of 1999 he scored his 1,072nd goal as a pro, surpassing yet another Gordie Howe record. Suddenly there weren't any records left to shoot for.

The man who once scored 92 goals during the 1981-82 season, however, could only manage nine during the 1998-89 campaign. And when Gretzky was sidelined by a painful neck injury, the Rangers went 6-3-3 and temporarily moved back into the playoff race. Fans bombarded call-in shows suggesting that the Great One should retire. For the first time in a career built on proving naysayers wrong, Gretzky started to listen to his detractors.

Gretzky was clearly but a shadow of his former self, yet he was still better than most. He showed moments of greatness that no one else could. In the 1999 All Star game Gretzky recorded a goal and two assists and was named as the game's MVP. In his first and only game in Nashville he showed a rare sellout crowd the wonders of Gretzky by scoring 5 assists.

No. 99 left the game after 20 seasons, taking 61 NHL records with him. Among them: 92 goals in a single season, 163 assists in a single season, 215 points in a single season, a 51-game points streak that's every bit as impressive as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game mark in baseball, 2857 career points, and 1, 072 professional goals. He won every Hart Trophy from 1980 to 1987 (and another in 1989) as the league's MVP and took home ten Art Ross Trophies as the league's scoring leader. While captaining the Oilers to four Stanley Cups, Gretzky also took home two Conn Smythe trophies as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

Until Wayne came along, we didn't know how great great could be. #99 redefined greatness. But is Wayne Gretzky the greatest athlete of the 20th century?

Needless to say, hockey fans think so! No athlete in any sport has dominated the way Gretzky has. Need proof? Then consider this:

Gretzky's 92 goals in 1981-82 topped Phil Esposito's previous record by 16, and his 212 points that season eclipsed Esposito's old mark by 60. Gretzky's 163 assists in 1985-86 surpassed Bobby Orr's standard by 61.

The Elias Sports Bureau has determined his 212 points in 1981-82 are the equivalent of 85 home runs -- 24 more than Roger Maris hit in 1961 or 14 more than Mark McGuire in 1998; a 2,941-yard NFL rushing season (Eric Dickerson holds the record with 2,105 in 1984) or 67 touchdown passes by a quarterback (Dan Marino holds the standard at 48, also in '84). Wilt Chamberlain dwarfed previous NBA scoring leaders, but arguments raged during his day as to whether he or Bill Russell was the more dominant player.

A case can be made that no one ever has done in any sport what Gretzky has accomplished in hockey. And when you consider the wider impact of one player's career upon a sport, only Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan rank with Gretzky.

In hitting 59 home runs with a livelier ball in 1921 and raising the record by a staggering 25, Ruth also drastically elevated standards of excellence and excitement. The Babe, too, was the object of a blockbuster transaction: The Red Sox sold him to the Yankees for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan. His magnetism helped baseball recover from a betting scandal and inspired the building of a stadium twice the size of others in that era. He was the dominant player on baseball's dominant team, winning four World Series and seven American League pennants.

Michael Jordan is universally hailed as the greatest athlete of the 20th century, but realistically he doesn't deserve to be on the same level as Wayne. Yes, Michael was perhaps the most gifted and talented athlete of our time, but you could easily say he wasn't the greatest basketball player let alone athlete. Wilt Chamberlain's hoop exploits dwarf that of Jordan's.

Picture Hank Aaron as not only baseball's all-time home run leader, but its single-season homer king and all-time hits leader as well. That's Gretzky's place in hockey.

When it comes to debating who is the best hockey player of all time, it generally boils down to one of three players: Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe.

Orr revolutionized the way defense could be played and established significantly higher statistical standards for excellence at that position. It can be argued that Orr carried the puck more than Gretzky and broke up a lot of rushes, making him a more effective all-around player than The Great One. But Orr's career, cut drastically short by knee injuries, produced just 915 points.

Unquestionably, Howe played the majority of his career in a much tighter checking era. But the fact that jobs were more competitive in the six-team league doesn't necessarily mean the level of play was, too. Bigger, faster, and better athletes, and the influx of European- and American-born players, and equipment advances make today's NHL just as competitive -- but higher scoring -- than the pre-expansion league.

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Mark Messier

Old time fans will unequivocally insist the greatest player of all time is Gordie Howe. Not Gretzky. Not Lemieux. Not Bobby Orr. The problem for several recent eras of fans is we never saw "Mr. Hockey." The primitive video that is archived is from late in his career. We never got to see the man who could do it all - score, pass, skate, hit, and fight. With the puck he could be as beautiful as any player from any generation. Without the puck he could be as robust and as happily nasty.

No, modern fans did not get to see that. But we were blessed to see the closest incarnation since: Mark Messier.

Messier played the game in Howe's image. Both embodied hockey in its most passionate form -- competing hard, winning at all costs and exhibiting a mean streak that only added to effectiveness. But that passion and the physical prowess never overshadowed the raw skill sets of either - the explosive speed, the uncanny creativity, the constant threat to score. Messier was very much Gordie Howe 2.0 - with Rocket Richard's piercing eyes thrown in.

While the NHL game has changed significantly on a few occasions in the league's storied history, the definition of the "ideal" hockey player never has. Gordie Howe embodied that description for the longest time. Mark Messier is the closest player to join "Mr. Hockey" as an equal in hockey's grand history.

What makes it all the more amazing is the fact that Messier was very much a long shot to accomplish anything in the NHL.

Messier was the definition of a "coach's project" when he started out. He had a few things going for him though. He was as strong as an ox and wasn't afraid to show it; he had blazing speed; and he had Glen Sather's guidance.

Mark was only 17 when he turned pro with Indianapolis of the World Hockey Association. He split 52 games between Indianapolis and Cincinnati in his rookie year, and was far from sensational. In fact he only scored one goal. There was little to suggest he would go on to become the only man named to the NHL's first all star team at two different positions, become the only man to captain two franchises to Stanley Cup championships, or become the man heralded as the greatest leader in not only hockey but in all of professional sports.

When the WHA merged with NHL, Messier was still eligible for the entry draft, and that's when Edmonton Oiler GM Glen Sather drafted the hometown boy in the second round (1979). Under Sather's guidance and confidence, Messier became a monster.

He scored a respectable 33 points as an 18 year old in his first year in the NHL, and followed that up by a 63 point campaign. But it was in 1981-82, Messier blossomed into a 50 goal scorer and the Oilers exploded into an NHL powerhouse.

Messier played under the shadow of Wayne Gretzky for many years, but one can argue that the Oilers didn't reach the top until Messier put them there. With Gretzky's wizardry and offensive firepower and Messier's physical dominance and leadership, the Oilers reached the Stanley Cup final in 1983. However Messier's shoulder was quickly injured limiting his effectiveness. The Oilers were soon blown away by the dynasty New York Islanders.

The next year the Oilers returned to the finals, and again faced the Isles. This time Messier was healthy, and the Oilers gained their first Stanley Cup and at the same time ended the Isle's four year reign as champions. In the pivotal game 3 of the series, it was Messier's spectacular goal that sparked to Oilers and they never looked back. Messier was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs most valuable player.

Gretzky and Messier and the Oilers would enjoy their own dynasty, winning 3 more Cups. After Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, Messier was named Oilers captain. He enjoyed his most productive season in 1989-90, scoring 129 points, and winning the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP. He would then lead the Oilers to a somewhat surprising 5th Stanley Cup in 7 years. Surprising only because Gretzky had left only 2 years earlier.

However, Messier's days in Edmonton were numbered, just like Gretzky ahead of him. Changing economics forced the Oilers to dismantle perhaps the greatest team of all time. At the start of the 1991-92 season Messier became known as "the Messiah" as he was traded to the New York Rangers. His leadership qualities and all around play inspired the Rangers to acquire him to fulfill a mission: to bring the Stanley Cup back to Manhattan for the first time since 1940. In doing so he became Manhattan's favorite son. Remembered as much as a Ranger as he was an Oiler, he is immortalized in sporting history like very few hockey players before him.

Even though Messier's career, and the fortunes of the Canucks, who he joined in 1997 and the Rangers, who he rejoined in 2000, would slide into decline, his legendary status would only grow with Howe-like longevity.

His stellar career that featured 694 goals, 1,193 assists and 1,887 points in 1,756 games. He surpassed Gordie Howe's once untouchable career scoring feats, ending his career as the NHL's second highest scorer all time behind his buddy Wayne Gretzky. Thanks in large part to the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Messier fell one season shy of equaling Howe's record of 26 seasons played, and finished just 11 games behind on the games played list.

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Glenn Anderson

With blazing speed Glenn Anderson became a dangerous clutch goal scorer playing on Mark Messier's right wing with the Edmonton Oilers and later the New York Rangers. He also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

Anderson was a big part of the Oilers dynasty during the 1980’s, collecting five Stanley Cup rings. He picked up a 6th ring while playing with Messier and the New York Rangers in 1994. Glenn scored a career total of 498 goals, just falling shy of the magical 500 mark. "Andy" also added 601 career assists for 1099 points in 1129 games. Included in his totals were two 54 goal seasons and 3 100 point seasons.

Anderson was a skating contradiction. He played with reckless abandon, fearlessly crashing the net, doing whatever it took to score a goal. Yet at the same time there were periods of time where he was criticized for being lazy and uninterested. His mind would drift during regular season games, but he was all business come the playoffs. In addition to his 6 Cup rings, Anderson scored 93 career playoff goals (5th best in NHL history), 121 assists for 214 points (4th best in NHL history) in 225 playoff contests. Seventeen of his playoff goals were game winners.

Glenn briefly played Major Junior Hockey in the WHL, and spent a year with the University of Denver of the WCHA. But most of his pre-NHL training came with the Canadian National Team in 1979-80. Like most players on the national team the youngster with speed to burn was a little known prospect at that point. The team however did feature future NHL standouts Paul MacLean and Randy Gregg, as well as serviceable future pros Tim Watters, Jim Nill and Kevin Primeau.

Long before NHLers participated in the Olympics, the national team of prospects represented Canada's hopes against the "amateur" powers such as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Canada played well in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, and with a little more puck luck could have staged their own Miracle on Ice. Unfortunately the record book's 6th place finish does not adequately reflect that. Anderson scored 2 goals and 4 points in thattourney.

Anderson made his NHL debut the following season and instantly drew two comparisons to big name celebrities. One was Guy Lafleur. A early newspaper report had a Oilers scout quoted as comparing Anderson to the most electrifying player in hockey at that time, although the Oilers management was quick to dismiss the comments as they didn't want to place extra pressure on the youngster. They insisted the comment referred to his skating ability.

Anderson also had an uncanny resemblance to popular Hollywood comedian Robin Williams. His teammates called him 'Mork' after the famous Williams TV character. However Anderson hated that nickname and grew a beard to shed himself of the resemblance.

Number Nine let his play do the speaking as his rookie season rolled on. He excelled and finished the year scoring 30 goals in just 58 games. The Hockey News named him as the player of the week late in the season, and his teammates stopped calling him Mork and just called him Andy.

Tim Burke of the Montreal Gazette became a big fan of Anderson's and even published an article comparing him to Rocket Richard. As if Guy Lafleur skating comparisons weren't tough enough, even being mentioned in the same breath of Rocket Richard is quite numbing.

While no one has or likely ever will come close to being what Rocket Richard was, the comparison had good merit in that Anderson would be a poor man's Richard. Anderson was a great player from the blueline in. He had a flare for scoring exciting and big goals and was at his best in big games, especially the playoffs. He played a similarly reckless style - yet no one can be compared to Richard.

Glenn took his fine rookie season to the next level in the following years. He scored a career high 105 points (38 goals and 67 assists) in 1981-82. He nearly equaled that in 1982-83 when scored 48 times and had 104 points. He also was a strong part of the Oilers fantastic first run at the Stanley Cup - scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 18 games while falling just short to the New York Islanders.

Glenn just missed the 100 point level in 1983-84 when he scored 99 points but he did set a career high with 54 goals. That spring the Oilers captured their first Stanley Cup. Anderson played a nice role in that victory - scoring 6 goals and 17 points in 19 games.

After a strong showing in the 1984 Canada Cup, Anderson got off to a slow start in the 1984-85 season. He finished the season strong but by season's end his scoring totals slipped to 81 points (including 42 goals) in 80 games. He had perhaps his strongest playoff in the spring of 1985 - scoring 10 goals, 16 assists and 26 points in 18 games as the Oilers repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Anderson, who was best known as Mark Messier's right winger although he spent a lot of time in his early career on the left side as well, missed 8 games in the 1985-86 but he equaled his career high 54 goals and added 48 assists for 102 points. However his Oilers stumbled in the playoffs and were out in just 10 games. Andy had 8 goals in those 10 contests!

Anderson scored 35 and 38 goals in the following two years, both of which saw the Oilers win the Cup. However in 1988-89 - the first year without Wayne Gretzky - Anderson fell to just 16 goals and 64 points. It was an unusual blip for Anderson, who continued to play with his usual linemate Mark Messier.

Anderson returned to his usual form in 1989-90 - scoring 34 times and collecting 72 points. The Oilers went on a bit of an unexpected playoff run and won the Stanley Cup for the 5th time in 7 years. Anderson played a big role - scoring 10 goals and 22 points in the 22 post season games.

Anderson spent 12 years for the Oilers before he was traded with star goaltender Grant Fuhr (and Craig Berube) to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Vinnie Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson and cash. The Oilers were being forced to dismantle as economic woes hit them hard. Toronto's new GM Cliff Fletcher wanted Anderson for his veteran leadership and playoff savvy.

Anderson's scoring tailed off once he left Edmonton. He only cracked the 20 goal level once and often spent more time in Europe or with the Canadian National Team than in the NHL.

Late in 1994 he was traded to the New York for Mike Gartner. Andy played thirty-five games as a Ranger and went on to win a Stanley Cup with them.

After playing with the Canadian Nats and teams in Germany and Finland, Glenn spent a brief time in St. Louis in 1995, before he left to play in Germany.

 He wanted to finish his career with the Vancouver Canucks, who were a strong contender and also Glenn's hometown. The Canucks signed him but first he had to pass through waivers. Glen Sather upset Canucks boss Pat Quinn by taking Anderson. Rumors persisted that Sather was returning a jab at Quinn who earlier in the decade snapped up the Oiler's Randy Gregg from waivers. Anderson reluctantly returned where he played 17 games in his second Oiler stint where he was then put back on waivers and claimed by the St Louis Blues.

Anderson had always expressed an interest in playing hockey in Europe, which is where he returned to in 1996-97 for one final season of hockey. Anderson's speed was a big asset for various Team Canada squads in International events. Anderson participated in the 1980 Olympics before joining the NHL. He also participated in 2 Canada Cup tournaments, 2 World Championships, and Rendez Vous '87. He had once stated he would like to have played in the Soviet Elite Leagues.

Glenn Anderson was a very nice player on a very strong team. In some ways that helped his status in the hockey world, but in other ways it kept him in the shadows and from greater individual acclaim.

After waiting several seasons, Anderson was finally rightfully inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, although his former Oilers co-horts couldn't understand why he was not inducted earlier.

"I don't even think there should be a debate about him," said Glen Sather, the Oilers architect.

"I was there for most of his accomplishments and he's achieved many more huge results than guys that are in the Hall. It kind of astounds me that every time I've seen his name mentioned that he hasn't been one of the guys who have been elected automatically."

"He was the kind of player who, the bigger the game, the better he performed. Just based on his credentials in the playoffs alone I think he's a guy who really qualifies."

Former teammate Kevin Lowe was also critical that Anderson did not share a place in the hallowed hall along side Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier much sooner.

"Those five guys, to a man, would say it's ridiculous that Anderson is not in the Hall because they all view him on the same level as themselves," said Lowe. " When I sat in that dressing room with all those great players, when I looked around the room and we were in a big game, the one guy I thought would score the big goal was Anderson, and to his credit he did.

"Maybe, to his fault, a lot of the lesser games were less important to him. He would have scored 600 goals had they been. But anyone who has won championships recognized that Anderson was one of those big-game players. He has all the stats to support it."

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Paul Coffey


The first thing everyone thinks about when the name Paul Coffey is mentioned is his skating ability. Wearing skates several sizes too small, this guy was simply amazing. In a couple of strides he was able to glide through the neutral and offensive zones faster than those dogged checkers chasing him. He was every bit as silky smooth as he was lightning quick.

Scoring exploits are also always remembered. He retired as the 10th highest scorer in NHL history, even though he was a defenseman. Coffey tallied 396 goals and 1,135 assists for 1,531 points in 1,409 regular-season games. He added 196 points, on 59 goals and 137 assists, in 194 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He eclipsed the 100-point mark five times in his career, and set the single-season goal-scoring record for defenseman with 48 goals in 1986.

Given the green light to play offensively from the blue line while skatinging alongside the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Steve Yzerman allowed him to attain such lofty career numbers. The three time Norris trophy winner and eight time All Star was a brilliant passer, often triggering transition offense with amazing and instinctive breakout passes. While everyone will remember him for his skating and his puck rushing, Coffey may have been the best first-pass defender in league history.

The Oilers drafted Coffey 6th overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. It took a little patience, but soon Coffey was a key member of hockey's last great dynasty.

"Joining the Oilers was a great opportunity for me to get a chance to play on a young team that had a lot of talent," Coffey said. "I was always a good skater, but I was not as offensively oriented as a junior as I was as a pro. That was the style Glen Sather wanted me to play. My first partner was Gary Lariviere and he gave me a lot of confidence. I had the green light every time I was on the ice. Then, working with Charlie Huddy, we took it to another level. He allowed me to play the way they wanted me to play. Charlie was a very good defenseman and we had a lot of fun playing together."

"It was exciting to be on the ice with him and watch the way he could skate," Huddy said. "The great thing was he would take a few strides and then he'd just glide most of the time. He would glide by people, which is fairly unusual. He was such a powerful skater that it was fun to watch. He could come out of our end and find guys in the middle of the ice and the pass would be right on the tape. There weren't very many times that it wasn't right on the tape.

"His ability to see the ice and make those kinds of plays was remarkable. You know, it was something different every game. You never knew what was going to happen. It was exciting for me to be part of it."

The Oilers exploits need no introduction. With Coffey on the blue line the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1984, 1985 and 1987. In 1985 he set playoff standards for all defensemen with 12 goals, 25 assists and 37 points in 18 playoff games.

Following a contract dispute, Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh after the Oilers were eliminated in the 1986 Playoffs. It was a blockbuster deal that gave Pittsburgh a top-notch offensive defenseman and Edmonton a good scorer in Craig Simpson.

"Going to Pittsburgh was a great opportunity and great challenge for me," Coffey said. "GM Eddie Johnston acquired me and that was awesome. I saw him play with the Bruins and the Maple Leafs and now I was getting a chance to play with a superstar in his own right in Mario Lemieux, but we didn't know how to win yet. I went from a team that was a perennial Stanley Cup champ to a last-place team, but one with all the right people in place. They didn't know quite how to get to first-rate status. My first week there I realized what a big challenge this was for me. I was thinking, 'What the heck have I done?' I kept my nose to the grindstone and management kept acquiring players until we had a team that could win."

Coffey would get a lot of credit in turning that franchise around, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 1991. But a lot of people forget that Coffey was actually traded prior to the Penguins successful Stanley Cup defense in 1992. Late in that season Coffey was moved to Los Angeles where he would be reunited with his old Edmonton running mates Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.

His stay in California was short, just 60 games spread over parts of 2 seasons. Before the Kings went on their magical march to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals, Coffey was traded to Detroit where he played strongly for four seasons.

Coffey became a vagabond player after that, playing in stints with Hartford and Philadelphia, Chicago and Carolina and finally in Boston in the 2000-01 season. Though he was a shadow of his former self, his experience and leadership undoubtedly proved to be valuable assets.

Coffey had his share of detractors - he did play with some awfully great players to help pad his stats, he wasn't the greatest defensive player, and outsiders labelled him as a difficult personality in dressing rooms. These suggestions may all have some merit to them, but at the same time I think are somewhat exaggerated. But for whatever reason, Coffey isn't quite considered with Doug Harvey or Ray Bourque or even Niklas Lidstrom as the best defenseman in NHL history not named Bobby Orr.

Watching Coffey speed through the neutral zone and penetrate the offensive zone and carry that puck to the net was a great treat. For me he will always be an Oiler, and I was glad to see he and the organization patched up their relationship and had his jersey #7 retired.

I will also always think of Paul Coffey as a legend of Team Canada. He starred in the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups in particular, he was also part of the 1990 world championship entry and the 1996 World Cup team.

Most people will remember Coffey's magnificent 1984 blocked pass on a Soviet 2-0n-1 break and his subsequent transition on the offense to set up Mike Bossy for the overtime winning goal. It's funny how his defensive play was considered spotty in the NHL, but with his amazing speed he was a key defender for Canada against those powerful Soviet teams in the 1980s.

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Tuesday

Jim Corsi

The Edmonton Oilers have had some great goaltenders in their existence - Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, Bill Ranford and Curtis Joseph. Jim Corsi was not a great NHL goalie, but he was one of the Oilers' first goalies.

Jim played 26 games in the Oilers inaugural NHL campaign in 1979-80 Jim shared duties with Ron Low and Dave Dryden. Jim, a Montreal native, won 8 games while losing 14 and tying 3. He let in 83 goals for a goals-against-average of 3.65. He also spent 28 games in the Central Hockey League with the Houston Apollos/Oklahoma City Stars. It was his last season of pro hockey in North America. Jim also spent time with the Maine Nordiques of the NAHL and later the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA.

While Jim wasn't the greatest goalie in the NHL, he was one of the most interesting. Jim attended Concordia University where he studied engineering he graduated magna cum laude.

Prior to his stint in the NHL, Jim showed off his athletic ability by playing with the Montreal Olympics of the North American Soccer League. He played a few games in the late 1970s.

Jim's greatest accomplishments in hockey came in Italy. He moved Italy the summer after playing in the NHL to become one of the greatest goalies in Italian hockey history. He represented Italy in 8 World Championships from 1981-1990. He was named the top goalie (B Pool) in 1986 and was a two time IIHF tournament all star. In all Jim appeared in 147 international matches for Italy.

Jim played for HC Cortina and HC Varese in the Italian hockey league.

In the new millenium Corsi became a goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres. He also became famous among hockey statistics geeks for creating "Corsi Numbers." Essentially it was a way to measure team defense, by monitoring shot differential while a player was on the ice. Shots include goals, saves, blocked shots, goal posts - any shot whatsoever. Corsi believed it was a better indicator of a team's play or a line's play than simply goals for and against.

Here's much more on Corsi and Corsi numbers courtesy The Edmonton Journal.

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Thursday

Don Jackson

One of the forgotten members of the Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup dynasty years is Don Jackson.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota born Jackson was 3rd pairing defenseman with the Oilers (often paired with Randy Gregg) from 1982 through 1986. Twice he sipped champagne from the Stanley Cup (1984 and 1985) and played in another Cup final (1983) while with the Oilers.

Jackson was physical presence on the Oilers blue line, but not to be mistaken as a goon. He fought if he had to, but mostly he provided solid defense. Unlike so many of the famous Oilers, Jackson was not particularly skilled in terms of puck or skating skills, but he could make a strong breakout pass if given some time.

Jackson actually started his NHL career with his hometown North Stars in 1977, after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. He never regularly played with the Stars, though. And he almost quit hockey to pursue a career in real estate in 1982. Had he followed through with his brief retirement from the game he would have missed out on his chance to win the Stanley Cup and play with Wayne Gretzky!

He rounded out his NHL career with the New York Rangers in 1986-87 season, but a degenerative hip condition forced him into retirement.

Jackson then stepped behind the bench in the minor leagues and later in the NHL. Twice he made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In 1995, with the Atlanta Knights of the IHL, he scaled the glass behind the bench to attack the Cincinnati Cyclone's mascot, who had infuriated the coach by making fun of him. Jackson was suspended for 10 games.

In 2000-01 he was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks just 8 games into the season. The Hawks experimented with the NHL's first European coach, a Finn named Alpo Suhonen. The two did not get along, although it is unclear if it was personality differences or more about cultural differences.

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Sunday

Risto Siltanen

When the Edmonton Oilers entered the NHL in 1979, they embraced players from Finland more so than other organizations. They had great success with Jari Kurri, and also with the likes of Matti Hagman and Risto Siltanen.

The St. Louis Blues actually drafted Siltanen in 1978, but he remained in Finland until joining the WHA Edmonton Oilers later in the year. The Blues retained his NHL rights upon the Oilers merger with the NHL, but traded him to Edmonton before the season started. Siltanen was in the lineup for the Oilers first ever NHL game.

In the Oilers early days prior to Paul Coffey's emergence, it was Siltanen who assumed the offensive dman's role. One of the earlier European imports, Risto Siltanen was a very good offensive presence from the blue line. He was an excellent skater both in terms of speed and agility. He liked to rush the puck out of the zone, as his passing game was only average. He was a terrific stickhandler, though he could be pressured into holding the puck longer than he should have. He was reluctant to give up or dump the puck out of his zone without making a play.

In three seasons in Edmonton Siltanen emerged as a defenseman who could be counted on for about 15 goals and 50 points a season - not too shabby. However he was not a notable physical player or defensive presence. He had excellence strength in his tiny frame. Teammates dubbed him a few variations of Hulk, usually "The Littlest Hulk." He really only benefited from his upper body strength when unleashing his powerful shot. He was never shy to fire that cannon, often with the offense setting him up for one-timers.

The Oilers traded Siltanen to Hartford in 1983 in exchange for Kenny Linseman. Linseman would play 2 seasons in Edmonton, helping the Oilers win their first Stanley Cup in 1984. Siltanen meanwhile would spend the better part of 4 seasons in Hartford, being named as the team's top blueliner in his first year. Ultimately though he was underrated, player barely noticed by the rest of the league.

Siltanen returned to Canada late in 1986, traded to Quebec in exchange for John Anderson. He spent the full 1986-87 season with the Nordiques before returning to Finland. Interestingly, in one of his final NHL games Siltanen's Nordiques were playing the Whalers in the playoffs. Siltanen had a monster game, registering 5 assists, tying a NHL record! He tended to have occassional big games like that. Earlier that season he scored 2 goals and 2 assists in a single game. He was also the first Edmonton defenseman to score a hat trick.

Siltanen returned to European, initially playing a season in Switzerland before spending 4 seasons with Ilves Tampere (where he set several team records) and another 4 seasons with Tuto Turku. He rounded out his career with a final campaign in Germany, retiring in 1997.

Risto Siltanen was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. His NHL career consisted of 562 careers games with 90 goals, 265 assists for 355 points. He also represented Finland at the 1981 Canada Cup and the 1983 world championships.

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Friday

Todd Marchant

Todd Marchant spent 17 season in the National Hockey League - 9 in Edmonton and 6 in Anaheim, most notably. He actually started his career in New York but after just a single game was traded to Edmonton in exchange for veteran checker Craig MacTavish.

Speed was the key to his game. Marchant was as a quick a player as there was in the NHL in his day. Offensively he was known as a strong one on one player on the rush, using his speed to to the outside of a flat-footed defender then driving to the net. He never had the hand skills to be much of a goal scoring threat. Only once did he reach the 20 goal mark in a season, though his speed generated plenty of chances.

Defensively he is used his speed and his fearless tenacity to excel on the penalty kill, where he was a threat to score, and as a strong forechecker, where he often launched his small body into larger defensemen. His grittiness and effectiveness made him frustrating to play against. He quickly settled into the third line center's role, taking big faceoffs, killing key penalties and neutralizing the opponents top players.

When all was said and done Todd Marchant played in 1195 career NHL games, scoring 186 goals, 312 assists and 498 points with Edmonton, Columbus and Anaheim.

His career highlights?

"Certainly my first game against Chicago with the Rangers, scoring a Game 7 overtime-winner against Dallas when I was with Edmonton, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 with Anaheim, playing in 1,000 NHL games - those are the kind of things that stand out for me as highlights of my career," he told AnaheimDucks.com.

As an Oiler, who can forget that goal against Dallas in 1997:



He also elaborated more on the Stanley Cup victory in 2007.

"What I will remember is my teammates and how much we had to sacrifice all year long. There were ups and downs. We had a great start, a mediocre middle and a great finish. Once we got in the playoffs, we were a different team. We just seemed to take the next step every round and every game as a group. I was sitting back after we won and thinking about how special it was for guys like Brad May, Sean O’Donnell, Teemu Selanne, Rob Niedermayer and me. We had been in the league for 13-14 years and never had a chance to win the Cup. I’ll never forget that."

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Sunday

Josef Beranek


Josef Beranek never seemed to fulfill the destiny his on-ice presence suggested. He was big, imposing player who had a good understanding of positioning, which always kept him in the action. But outside of a 28 goal campaign early in his career with Philadelphia and maybe 49 point campaign later in his career with Edmonton, Beranek never seemed like he was going to breakout.

A big reason for that was his pass-first mentality, a common trait of European players, especially in his era. He possessed a very accurate wrist shot, but often passed up scoring chances to try to force a pass to a teammate.

Beranek also maddened a few observers with his failure to keep his feet moving. That's a tough criticism because he had a long stride and good sense of where he should be so he did not often have to hustle to get into position. Yet he was a lumbering skater who could have really benefited from a more explosive first couple of strides.

Physically, Berenak did not contribute. Defensively he was underated.

A very versatile forward in that he could play any of the three positions comfortably, Beranek found lots of interested teams intrigued by his potential, but he never really found a NHL home. He played with Edmonton (twice), Philadelphia, Vancouver, and Pittsburgh (twice) before heading home to the Czech Republic in 2001 to play with Slavia Praha HC for another decade.

In 531 NHL games Beranek scored 118 goals, 144 assists and 262 points. He never won a Stanley Cup, but he was part of the Czech Republic's gold medal winning Olympic team in 1998.

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Thursday

Mike Toal

Mike Toal was part of Glen Sather's expansion plans when he created the NHL's Edmonton Oilers in the 1979 Entry Draft.


Toal was Edmonton's 5th choice, 105th overall. The Red Deer, Alberta native played the previous season as an overaged junior with the Portland Winterhawks, where he easily had his best junior season (121 points in 71 games). 


Toal was drafted in large part because of his age. He wasn't an overly sought-after prospect but with the Oilers building almost from scratch, they needed to draft overaged players in order to fill out a minor league roster more than anything.


Toal immediately played with their farm team in Houston of the CHL. He had a surprisingly good offensive season, scoring 31 goals and 75 points in 76 games. As a reward, Toal got called up for a 3 game stint but never registered a point and only had one shot on goal.


Toal was sent to the AHL's Rochester Americans to start off the 1980-81 season but struggled terribly before being sent back to the CHL this time as a member of the Wichita Wind. Toal would play two seasons with the Wind but continued to struggle to fin his form he had in Houston.


Toal retired after the 1982 season. He was drafted to fill a minor league roster spot for a couple of years, and basically that's what he did. For a brief time it looked like the 6''0" 175lb center might have been a diamond in the rough, but unfortunately it just never worked out for Mike or the Oilers.

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Friday

Kerry Ketter

At the end of the 20th century, many media outlets were debating the greatest athletes of all time.

The Vancouver Province newspaper however took a different angle however - they ranked the 50 worst athletes of all time.

For the record, British ski jumper and Calgary fan favorite Eddie the Eagle was named the worst athlete of the century. The list was made up primarily of basketball and baseball players, but named two hockey players - Morris Mott and Kerry Ketter.

Neither desevered to be there. Mott, a terrific skater and penalty killer, represented Canada in 3 World Championships and 1 Olympics where he helped the nation win a bronze medal before playing a minor role with the NHL's California Golden Seals.

Ketter, on the other hand, was just another nameless, faceless skater, who was probably as good
or as bad as hundreds of others who had a cup of coffee at the NHL. So why did they pick Ketter out of all these players to be named as the worst of all time?

The article said little of Ketter's career, but only mentioned that he "was the first expansion pick of hockey's first, obviously misguided try in the deep south, playing for the Atlanta Flames." In reality Ketter was actually picked in the 15th round of the expansion draft, so the article is far from accurate. The poorly written article also emphasized Ketter's full name - Kerry Kenneth Ketter - as if his initials were some sort of controversial political message in the deep US south.

Ketter was a big, immobile defensive defenseman. Born in Prince George BC, Ketter played his junior hockey in Edmonton. Originally a prospect of the Detroit Red Wings, Ketter spent some time in the low minor leagues of the Montreal organization before being claimed by Atlanta in 1972. Ketter spent half of one season with the Flames - scoring just 2 assists in 41 games. He wwas claimed by the expansion Kansas City Scouts a couple of years later, but was soon cut. He toiled in the minor leagues until resurfacing in Edmonton with the WHA Oilers in 1975.

The Oilers traded the replaceable defenseman to the New England Whalers in February, 1976. However Ketter didn't want to leave Edmonton, and refused to go to Hartford. He was suspended by the league for failing to report. Ketter opted to retire at this point of his career.

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Thursday

Selmar Odelein

This rawboned farm kid from Quill Lake (150 miles north of Regina) was selected by Edmonton in the  1st round, 21st overall in 1984. Selmar Odelein was delighted that he was chosen by the Stanley Cup champions but at the same time realized that it would be tough to earn a spot on the teams strong blueline that included guys like Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe and Charlie Huddy.

Edmonton's Western scout at that time, former NHL'er Lorne Davis, was the guy primarily responsible that Edmonton picked Selmar in the 1st round. Davis had watched Selmar for four years, ever since Selmar had attended a hockey school that Lorne Davis was running. Selmar's strength at that time was his good all-around play. He moved the puck well out of his zone and was capable of doing everything required by an NHL defenseman. His strongest asset was his defensive play in his own zone.

Selmar played for the Regina Canadians (SJHL) and Regina Pats (WHL) being the rookie of the year for the Pats in 1983-84. Selmar also represented Canada in the 1985 and 86 world junior championships, winning the Gold in 85.

He never managed to earn a full time job on the Oilers blueline and only played a total of 18 games for the Oilers during a three year span. He played mostly in the AHL for the Nova Scotia / Cape Breton Oilers. A severe knee injury followed by serious surgery derailed his NHL dreams.

After four years in the Oilers farm system Selmar decided that it was time to try something else, so he toured with the Canadian national team during the 1989-90 season and then looked at options of playing in Europe. He finally got a good offer from Austria and the Innsbruck team. He spend two years in Austria before heading to Great Britain where he finished his career in 1994.

Selmar never lived up to the high expectations and his NHL career was brief and disappointing. His younger brother Lyle had a lot more success in the NHL although being drafted in the 8th round, 141st overall.

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Monday

Scott Metcalfe

Scott Metcalfe is a member of the Edmonton Oilers first round draft pick flops club. Unfortunately, that's not a very good thing. Other members include Selmar Odelein, Kim Issel, Peter Soberlak, Francois Leroux, Jason Soules and Scott Allison. Not a very elite group.

The Oilers have traditionally had trouble with many of their first rounders. After strong drafting in the first 2 or 3 years in the NHL, the Oilers were forced to pick near the end of every round because of their dynastic success. While its hard to find superstars when you are constantly picking 19th, 20th or 21st in the first round, you'd think the players they drafted would have been good role players at least.

Metcalfe was never expected to be a superstar. He was drafted because he showed good grit and work ethic with decent skating and scoring ability with the Kingston Canadians and Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He was also a very responsible defensive forward for a player at the junior level. Oilers scouts figured that he could one day replace rugged Oiler third/fourth liner Dave Hunter - a very solid and capable, though underappreciated NHLer.

Obviously things never panned out for Metcalfe. He dressed for just two games with the Oilers before being traded to Buffalo. He spent 3 1/2 years in the Buffalo organization, mostly in the minors. He was recalled for 17 games over the duration of his stay with the Sabres. He scored 1 goal and 2 assists whil picking up 13 PIM.

Metcalfe would embark on a long career in the minor leagues and in Europe.

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Sunday

Don Cutts

Don Cutts was a journeyman goaltender - playing on 6 minor league teams and in Finland in his 8 year pro hockey career. He got his big break on January 12, 1980 when the Edmonton Oilers signed the native Edmontonian to a contract for the remainder of the year. Cutts appeared in 6 games - going 1-2-1 with a 3.57 GAA.

Cutts did make an impression on the Oilers that year though - more for his personality than his play. Kevin Lowe, a rookie that year, called Cutts the most unusual goaltending personality he ever met.

"The best way to describe Cuttsy would be to call him a goaltending beatnik. He looked like he had come to us directly from the Woodstock festival, and to add to that, he was a drummer on the side," remembered Lowe.

"Cuttsy prefaced every sentence with the opening 'Hey, man....' He used it for any and all occasions and was quite popular in his short time that he played with the Oilers. But we did get the impression that he meant to go to Woodstock and somebody dropped him off at the rink instead!"

Cutts' 6 game NHL appearance was by most standards unnoticable. 6 games, a losing record, an inflated 3.57 GAA. As Kevin Lowe put it - "Not bad for a drummer."

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Bryon Baltimore

Bryon Baltimore is one of only three people born in the Yukon to play in the National Hockey League. Peter Sturgeon (who played 6 games with the Colorado Rockies) and Hazen McAndrew (who played 7 games with the Brooklyn Americans) were also born in the Canadian territory.

Like Sturgeon and McAndrew, Bryon Baltimore saw action in only a handful of NHL games. The Whitehorse native, who was as strong as an ox, only got into two games, both with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979-80. However unlike Sturgeon or McAndrew, Baltimore did manage to play several years of big league hockey. While they were almost strictly minor leaguers, Baltimore played in the World Hockey Association for 5 years.

Baltimore, who attended the University of Alberta from 1970-1972 studying to become a teacher before joining the AHL Springfield Kings on a minor league contract, was signed by the defense weak WHA in 1974. He played that first year with the Chicago Cougars, where he enjoyed his best major league season - scoring 8 goals and 20 points plus 110 PIM in 77 games. He then proceeded to bounce around the WHA from 1974 through 1979 as a journeyman defenseman. He went to the Denver/Ottawa Civics the following before splitting the rest of his career with the Indianapolis Racers and the Cincinnati Stingers. In 331 WHA games, he scored 18 goals, 72 assists and 90 points.

The WHA folded for the 1979-80 season, and 4 of its member teams merged with the National Hockey League. The Edmonton Oilers claimed the little-noticed role player in a special WHA Dispersal Draft. He would spend the next two years playing for the Oilers affiliates in the CHL with Houston and Wichita, and also got called up for a brief 2 game appearance in the NHL.

A hard worker who often was banged up and bruised, Baltimore loved to relax at his cottage in Stettler Alberta when he wasn't playing hockey. That's when he was recovering from surgery though, which was more often than Bryon would have liked. He had a long list of nagging injuries over his career, most notably to his knees, wrist and groin.

Baltimore, whose wife skated with the Ice Capades, later became a player agent, representing NHL talent including Jay Bouwmeester.

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Kim Issel

The price of success for NHL teams is poor draft position in the following summer's Entry Draft. Quite often prolonged success results in poor drafting. The highly successful Edmonton Oilers went through a period of 9 years of drafting 1st round picks that didn't pan out. From 1984 through 1992, only 1988 draft pick Francois Leroux saw any considerable time in the NHL. The Oilers drafted names like Selmar Odelein, Scott Metcalfe, Peter Soberlak, Jason Soules, Scott Allison, Tyler Wright and Joe Hulbig. In 1986, the Oilers used their 21st overall pick to select Kim Issel.

Issel was a towering right winger, standing at 6'4" and almost 200lbs. A good skater for his size, Issel's downfall was he wasn't nearly physical enough for a man of his size. He shied away from physical conflicts when he had the size to dominate it. Issel played 4 season of junior hockey with the Prince Albert Raiders. He was drafted at the age of 18 after his strong play in the Memorial Cup.

Issel turned pro with the Cape Breton Oilers in 1987, scoring only twice while adding 25 assists. The following season he emerged as an AHL scoring threat. He also had his only cup of NHL tea, seeing very limited action in four NHL games. Issel returned to Cape Breton the following season and split the 1990-91 season between Cape Breton and the Kansas City Blades of the IHL.

The kid from Regina Saskatchewan left North America to play professional hockey in Europe. He played 4 seasons in Austria where he had some nice success. He briefly had stops in Italy and Great Britain before splitting much of the rest of his hockey career in either Slovenia and Germany. Unbeknownst to most NHL fans, Issel retired officially in 1999.

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Thursday

Mike Zanier

Here is a little known fact that surprises many people. On the night when the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup, Grant Fuhr was not between the pipes. In fact, he was not even dressed.

At the 52 minute mark of game three of the finals against the New York Islanders, Fuhr had to leave the game with a shoulder injury. He would be done for the series.

It did not matter, as the very capable Andy Moog took over and won games 4 and 5, and clinched the Oilers first Stanley Cup championship.

So the question now becomes - who backed up Moog in games 4 and 5 of the 1984 Stanley Cup finals?

An unknown kid named Mike Zanier dressed as the back up those two games. Zanier had never played in the NHL prior to that evening.

Zanier was the property of the Oilers after signing with them as a free agent on October 4, 1983. The Trail, BC native played for five different junior A teams in the WHL including four in one season

During the 1983/84 season he was with the Moncton Alpines, the Oilers affiliate in the AHL. The highlight of his career had to be on May 19, 1984 he found himself on the bench in game five of the Edmonton Oiler, New York Islander Cup finals. At the end of the night he was living every Canadian's dream by sipping champagne out of the Stanley Cup with fellows named Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Kurri.

Despite backing up two games in the Stanley Cup finals, Zanier did not get his name on the Stanley Cup.

Zanier went on to play a total of three games for the Oilers the following season but never was able to make it back to the show. He went on to play throughout Europe, including in Britain, Austria, Sweden, Germany, and most famously Italy. He actually represented Italy in two world championships and the 1992 Albertville Olympics.

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BJ MacDonald

BJ MacDonald is best known as Wayne Gretzky's first right winger.

BJ actually joined the Oilers in 1973 when the team was in the World Hockey Association. He spent 4 1/2 seasons with the WHA Oilers plus another 1 1/2 seasons with the Indianapolis Racers. BJ always possessed a quick and accurate shot but never really had a quality centerman to set him since his junior days.

Until 1978-79 that is.

BJ spent a lot of time on the right wing with a 17 year old phenom named Wayne Gretzky. BJ posted 34 goals and 71 points but the two really clicked in the playoffs. BJ had 8 goals and 18 points in 13 games as the Oilers nearly captured the Avco Cup championship from the Winnipeg Jets.

When the Oilers merged into the NHL in 1979, they had already been assured that they could keep Gretzky, but only would be able to keep a couple of others. One was goalie Dave Dryden, while MacDonald was also protected.

NHLers liked to slam WHA stars, including MacDonald. Vancouver Canucks scout Larry Popein went on record saying "MacDonald won't be able to score in the NHL."

A NHL rookie though major league veteran, (BJ was one of the older players on the Oilers inaugural team, and was named as an alternate captain as a result), BJ proved Popein and all doubters wrong. Teamed with Gretzky and Brett Callighen on left wing, MacDonald had the season of his life - scoring 46 goals and 48 assists for 94 points, including 13 power play goals and 6 game winners, while picking up just 3 minor penalties!

However after that great season, MacDonald would run into problems with coach/general manager Glen Sather. As in most player/management disputes, BJ was after more money, looking to cash in after his fantastic season. "Slats" disagreed with MacDonald's position, and told BJ he had to produce over a longer period of time before he would offer him the kind of money he wanted.

BJ returned the following season. Obviously he was upset about not getting a new, fat contract, but he would soon be disappointed by his position on the team. A young Finnish rookie named Jari Kurri stepped in and soon was paired with Gretzky. Kurri was a better shooter and playmaker than MacDonald, and provided Gretzky's line with a much needed defensive consciousness that BJ failed to supply. BJ was demoted to a lesser line and his scoring totals went down the drain - 19 goals in 51 games.

On March 10, 1981, BJ was traded to Vancouver, the same team that scouted MacDonald and concluded he couldn't play in the NHL. The Canucks looked foolish for saying that in 1979-80, but ultimately they were right. After 88 games over 3 seasons in Vancouver, BJ accomplished little and was soon demoted to the minors. BJ quit hockey in 1983 but resurfaced in Austria a year later.

One would have to wonder how BJ would be looked upon if he had not crossed a young Glen Sather. His days became numbered for his defiance, and if he had just kept quiet for another year or two, he could have really developed into a league sharpshooter on Gretzky's wing. Ultimately BJ's days along side Wayne were numbered as Gretzky and Kurri displayed a connection few others have in NHL history.

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Sunday

Pat Hughes

Pat Hughes, a native of Calgary, is a three time Stanley Cup champion best known as a role player with the high flying Edmonton Oilers in the mid-1980s.

Pat first made a name for himself while attended the University of Michigan. The Montreal Canadiens noticed Pat during his sophomore year, and drafted the speedy winger 52nd overall in 1975. Pat turned pro in 1976-77, but spent the first two years playing in the Montreal farm system.

By 1978-79 Pat made the Canadiens, although his ice time was limited as the rookie right wing on a deep and talent squad, the year ended on a very successful note. Pat got into 8 playoff games and got his name on his first Stanley Cup.

With the retirement on goaltending great Ken Dryden following the Cup victory, the Habs traded Hughes to Pittsburgh to find a new goalie in Denis Heron. Hughes benefited from more ice time on the much weaker Penguins, and scored 18 goals and 32 points. The pesky Hughes also helped the Penguins make the playoffs that year.

1980-81 was a frustrating year for Hughes. Playing behind Rick Kehoe, George Ferguson and Peter Lee, he struggled on the score sheet and was traded to Edmonton in exchange for Pat Price late in the season.

That move turned out to be a great thing for Pat, joining the Oilers just in time for their famous playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal was the heavy favourite, but Edmonton pulled a major upset and swept the best of 5 series 3-0. Although the Oilers didn't win another game in the playoffs, their upset victory over Montreal was a key step in their development. Hughes 5 assists in 5 games aided that cause.

Over the next three years Hughes played a nice role on the Oilers third line. In addition to his abrasive play and tight checking, Hughes chipped in nicely with some offense. From 1981-82 through 1983-84 Pat scored 24, 25, and 27 goals and 46, 45 and 55 points respectively.

The Oilers were a team known for scoring goals. With the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson they scored lots of goals. On a couple of nights at least, Pat Hughes joined that elite company with famous goal scoring outbursts.

The first game of note was against St. Louis on Jan. 11, 1983. On that night he set a NHL record (since bettered) by scoring two shorthanded goals just 25 seconds apart, bettering teammate Wayne Gretzky's record of 27 seconds, set just one season prior.

Nearly a year later, on February 3rd, 1984, Hughes lit up the Calgary Flames with 5 goals in one game, joining Gretzky (who did it three times) and later joined by Jari Kurri for the Oilers team record.

1983-84 saw the Oilers win their first Stanley Cup. Pat picked up 13 points in the 19 game playoff run and played a quiet but important role on the team's success.

The Oilers followed up that Cup victory with a second win in 1984-85, but then Hughes was involved in a three team trade with Pittsburgh and the Sabres. Pat ended up in Buffalo where it was hoped his experience with the Oilers and Canadiens would help bring along a struggling Sabres team. Hughes in turn struggled too with just 4 goals and 13 points in 50 games as the Sabres missed the playoffs.

The Sabres exposed Hughes in the waiver draft in 1986 where the St. Louis Blues picked up the 6'1" and 180 pound penalty killer. He scored just 1 goal in 43 games with the Blues, he was traded to the Hartford Whalers. He played just 2 regular season games and 3 playoff games before retiring.

In 573 NHL games Pat Hughes scored 130 goals, 128 assists for 258 points. He added 8 goals and 33 points in 71 playoff contests.

Hughes, the brother in law of Mark Napier, worked in marketing departments of both the Edmonton Oilers and Molson breweries in the hockey off-seasons. 

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