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.


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.


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.


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.


Esa Tikkanen

"How many Cups you've got?" That is Esa Tikkanen's favorite question, no matter what language he's speaking.

Esa, who spoke in the multicultural tongue of Tikkanese - a combination of Finnish, Swedish and English all at once plus a few words he made up himself - has five. Not too many people can equal that.

Tik was one of hockey's most colorful characters. He was one of those guys you love to have on your team, but you can't stand playing against him. He's a pest, an aggravator and a troublemaker, yet at the same time an electric teammate who brought tons of life to a team. He shadowed the opposition's best forwards and at the same time came up with big goals himself.

He was perhaps as perfect a defensive specialist who ever played in the NHL. An aggressive forechecker with great anticipatory skills, Tik literally shadowed the opposition's superstar on a nightly basis. Not only did he successfully smother that player, but he aggravated the hell out of him too. He would do almost anything - yapping his not-always-clean mouth, using his stick in a unceremonious fashion, or physical abuse bordering on mugging charges. He hounded his assignment relentlessly. The better the name, the better Tik played. Not only did this get the superstar off of his game, but it got the whole opposition off of their game. The team became more worried about protecting their superstar and getting even with Tikkanen. Tik thrived in that role, and so did his team, who would then proceed to take apart the opposition offensively. While Tik never won the Frank J Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward, he was a finalist on 4 occasions.

Tikkanen was a good offensive player for most of his career as well. A three time 30 goal scorer, Tik play all forward positions plus the point on the power play (although he was best known as a LW). He was a good skater early in his career, but a bad knee slowed him down and eventually cost him his NHL job. Tikkanen provided grit, leadership and energy, as well as timely goals and big wins.

Esa initially took an unconventional route, for a European anyways, to start off his hockey career. He left Finland at the age of 16 to come to Saskatchewan where he played in Regina with the SJHL's Capitals. He also appeared in 2 games with the WHL's Pats He returned to Finland after that season as he was quite homesick and he dominated the Finnish junior ranks.

Tik was the 82nd overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1983 Entry Draft. However he didn't arrived in the NHL until the end of the 1985 Finnish League schedule. Amazingly his first NHL game was in the Stanley Cup finals! That is only fitting as Tik became known as a great playoff player.

Before long Tikkanen found a permanent home on Wayne Gretzky's left wing. The Gretzky-Jari Kurri combination never really had that perfect left winger until Tikkanen came along. He had the speed and offensive savvy to keep up with Gretzky and Kurri, but also was more than willing to sacrifice and do the dirty work by going into the corners and playing defensively responsible hockey.

When Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, Tikkanen, a veteran of just two years at the time, became a household name. During Kings-Oilers games and playoff series, Tikkanen became Gretzky's shadow. He was quite effective, often agitating The Great One. He also became a big part of the Oiler's post-Gretzky success. He scored 13 goals and 24 points in 22 playoff games in 1990 to help the Oilers capture the Cup despite not having Number 99.

His robust style of play was bound to catch up with him, and by 1991-92 injuries (namely his shoulder in this season) really started to bother Tikkanen, and he only played in 40 games. He was never quite the same offensive player after that, only scoring more than 20 goals once since.

Yet he remained a clutch player. Tikkanen would developed a reputation as strictly a playoff player and a poor regular season player. Because of his injuries he had slowed down considerably and didn't play full out every game. Instead saving himself for only the big games. Tik had basically become a part time player who had a knack of turning it up come playoff time. More often than not his goals came at crucial times or in crucial games. Eleven of his 72 career playoff goals were game winners.

In 1993, Tik was traded (for Doug Weight) to the New York Rangers, and, with a host of former Oilers like Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson, Jeff Beukeboom and Craig MacTavish, helped the city of Manhattan to celebrate their first Cup in over 50 years in 1994.

Tik bounced around the league wildly after the 1994 Cup, playing for 5 teams in 3 years. Tik went to St. Louis as compensation for the Blues signing of Mike Keenan, and then was traded to New Jersey. The Devils kept him for nine games before shipping him to Vancouver. Tik stayed there until last season, when the Rangers once again grabbed him for the playoff run. After the season, he signed on with Florida. Tik was shipped to Washington towards the end of the season where his veteran leadership helped take the Capitals to their first ever Conference Championship and Stanley Cup appearance. Unfortunately, the Caps lost and Tik was denied a sixth Cup.

Tik returned to the Big Apple in 1998-99, signing a one year contract with the Rangers. However by mid-season he was placed on waivers. There was a clause in his contract that would have paid Tikkanan a large amount of money had he remained on an NHL roster past the half way point of the season. Tik had only 3 assists in 32 games and was basically a mere shadow of his old self. The Rangers didn't want to pay the big bucks for the washed up player and no one else did either as Tik went through the waiver wire untouched.

Tikkanen finished his career in his native Finland with Jokerit and the with the bronze medal Finnish national team for the 2000 World Championships. The proud Finn was no stranger to international play as he represented his country on numerous occasions. He played for Finland in three World Junior Championships (1983, '84, '85) and five World Championships ('85, '89, '93, '96 and 2000). He also participated in two Canada Cups ('87 and '91). He helped Team Finland knock off Canada for the bronze medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Tikkanen tried to make a comeback with the Oilers in 2001 on a try-out contract. While Tik's knee wouldn't let him play anymore, it is somehow fitting that he was able to end his career in an Edmonton Oilers uniform.


Jari Kurri

Anyone could play along side Wayne Gretzky and score the odd goal here and there if you just kept your stick on the ice.

But it takes an extraordinary athlete to be able to excel with Gretzky that way Jari Kurri has.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to play on the wing of a superstar like Wayne Gretzky. You have to be thinking on the same level as he is, or at least close to that level. Very few players can achieve this level of hockey sense and anticipation. Only a true superstar can. A true superstar like Jari Kurri.

Jari Kurri has teamed with Wayne Gretzky to form one of sports' most dynamic duos. Montana-Rice, Kareem-Magic and Canseco-Maguire have nothing on these guys.

For most of the 1980s, hockey fans in Edmonton enjoyed the Gretzky-Kurri magic on a nightly basis - the Great One's feathery passes complementing the flying Finn's finishing touch. In fact the duo teamed up for 429 goals while in Edmonton. Not bad for what coach Glen Sather described as "a hunch" as to why he teamed the two together in the first place.

With 601 career goals and 1398 career points, Kurri retired the highest scoring European in National Hockey League history. (he has since been surpassed by Jaromir Jagr.) On four occasions he scored at least 50 goals, and tallied at least 40 three other times. The five time all star also had six 100 point seasons.

In 1984-85 Kurri established a record for goals in a single season by a right winger with 71 (since surpassed by Brett Hull, Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne) on way to a career-high 135 points. He added a NHL record-tying 19 goals (tying Reggie Leach in 1976) in 18 playoff games. He recorded four hat tricks in that playoffs, including one four goal game, to help Edmonton capture the second of five Stanley Cup titles during his playing days in the City of Champions.

Jari Kurri played his best hockey in the playoffs. He almost singlehandedly destroy the myth that European players are soft and disappear in the heat of NHL playoff competition. Jari has 5 Stanley Cup rings. He led all playoff performers in goal scoring in 4 different post seasons. The Oilers won the Cup each year Jari led the way in goals.

Overshadowed by superstar teammates Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri was described by Edmonton chief scout Barry Fraser as "by far our most complete player." An excellent skater blessed with speed and agility, Kurri always knew how to dart into openings for Gretzky's deft passes. He rarely had the puck long if he was in scoring position. His release was quick but deadly accurate.

"Jari had a great shot and he had a great ability to find holes and to find openings out on the ice," said Mike Gartner. "Playing with a guy like Gretzky for a good part of his career where Wayne could get him the puck and there weren't too many guys who were ever better at finding those holes on the ice than Jari was."

Kurri was also a strong defensive presence which allowed Gretzky to concentrate on offense. He was never considered a physical player, but was unafraid of the corners and sacrificed his body to make a play.

When #99 departed for Hollywood, some people though that Kurri's production would plummet. That was definitely not the case. In the first Gretzky-less season in Edmonton Kurri was named the Oilers’ team MVP. In the 154 Oilers regular-season games Kurri played following Gretzky's departure, he registered 195 points, well more than a point-per-game average. His 25 playoff points were third highest on the team when the Oilers captured the Stanley Cup just two season's after Gretzky's goodbye.

A contract dispute saw the seven-time all-star spend a year in Italy before rejoining Gretzky in Los Angeles in 1991. The magic was somehow never rediscovered during the regular season, but the dynamic duo almost celebrated another Cup victory together, getting the Kings to the 1993 final before falling to Montreal.

Kurri remained in Los Angeles through 1996, though his ice time and role were reduced to that of a defensive specialist. Kurri would also spend time with the New York Rangers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche before retiring in 1998.

One of the game's classiest men was a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he first became eligible in 2001. In addition to his impressive regular season totals (601 goals, 1398 points) his 106 career playoff goals in 200 career playoff games rank third all time, behind fellow Oiler legends Gretzky (122) and Messier (109). Likewise his 233 career points are third best behind Gretzky (382) and Messier (295).

"It is a great honor (to be inducted) since so few players are able to make it to this level," said Kurri. "To be the first Finnish player elected is especially gratifying.

"I had the chance to play with a great team and great players like Wayne (Gretzky), Mark (Messier), and on and on. A lot of good memories."


Bill Ranford

The Boston Bruins selected Bill Ranford with their second round pick in 1985. Despite playing solidly in 41 games in the 1986-87 season, it wasn't until he joined the Edmonton Oilers in late 1988 that he got a real chance to play.

Up until 1988-89, Ranford spent most of his time apprenticing in the minor leagues. Touted as a premier goaltending prospect, the Oilers coveted the young Brandon, Manitoba native when they were forced to deal contract hold-out Andy Moog. Moog - one of the best goalies of his era - was traded to Boston on March 8, 1988 in exchange for Ranford and left winger Geoff Courtnall. The moved helped the Oilers win the Stanley Cup that year - though Ranford backed up starter Grant Fuhr the entire way and Courtnall played a 4th line role.

Ranford again backed up Fuhr for most of the 1988-89 season, playing in just 29 games. It was beginning to look like Ranford would be destined to be backup goalie forever.

1989-90 was a different story altogether however. Fuhr suffered a serious shoulder injury that ended his season after 21 games. How would the Oilers be able to compete without their acrobatic superstar goalie? That question was quickly answered, as Ranford proved himself to equally as acrobatic and entertaining. It seemed as if Ranford's ability to raise his level of play so high infused the Oilers, giving them tremendous confidence. The Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1990, due largely to Ranford's brilliance. His 2.53 GAA in 22 post season games made him the unanimous choice for the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoffs most valuable player. And to make Ranford's second Cup championship even sweeter was the fact that it came against the man he was traded for and his old team - Andy Moog and the Boston Bruins.

Ranford was among the elite goalies in the league for the next few years after that. In 1990-91 he had the lion's share of the workload only to have Fuhr return from injuries late in the season. Coach John Muckler opted to go with Fuhr in the playoffs over the red hot Ranford. The move did not result as well as Muckler had hoped, as the Oilers were bounced from the playoffs.

1991-92 was another great season for Ranford. He regained his status as the Oilers number one goalie and almost got them back to the Cup finals, falling just short in the conference finals. And the season started off incredibly as Ranford was arguably Canada's best player in the 1991 Canada Cup. He was named MVP as Canada went undefeated en route to their 4th Canada Cup victory in 5 tries.

The Oilers fell on hard times as the mid-1990s approached. Financial restraints such as a low Canadian dollar and small market revenues forced the Oilers to trade off many of their remaining talents. Ranford remained a constant until 1996 though. His numbers would be greatly inflated over that time period, but he was spectacular and easily the best player on a weak Oilers team.

Perhaps Ranford's biggest highlight during that period was again in International Hockey. In both 1993 and 1994 Ranford was Canada's goalie at the World Championships. 1994 was especially sweet as Ranford back stopped Canada to their first gold medal finish in over 30 years.

By mid season 1995-96, the Oilers opted to trade Ranford. He was easily their biggest asset but he too became priced out of small-market Canada. The Oilers traded him back to the Bruins in exchange for a slew of prospects - Marius Czerkawski, Sean Brown and a first round pick which turned out to be Matthieu Descoteaux. Boston was desperate for goaltending help. Ranford turned in a very solid regular season for the Bruins, but was unable to get the team far in the playoffs.

Things started going downhill for Ranford from there on. He struggled with a weak Boston team in 1996-97 before being traded in a blockbuster to Washington. Joining Ranford were fellow veterans Adam Oates and Rick Tocchet while Jim Carey, Anson Carter, Jason Allison and a draft pick headed to Bean town.

Ranford never really got untracked in Washington. Soon Olaf Kolzig would emerge as the number one goalie there.

The hockey world began to write off Billy after he backed up Kolzig in Washington's thrilling ride to the Finals in 1998. Then he was released and jumped around a bit - Tampa Bay, Detroit and finally back to Edmonton where he backed up Tommy Salo for the 99-00 season - his last in the NHL.

"It was a great thrill to be able to finish my career where so many of my highlights happened" said Ranford.

Ranford did not leave any hints as to what he was going to do with the rest of his life at the time of his retirement, although he has been involved in a bar-and-grill chain restaurant in British Columbia.

Ranford also tried his glove hand at Hollywood. Ranford was asked to perform the goaltending scenes in Kurt Russell's movie "Miracle" which honoured the 1980 United States Olympic team that upset the mighty Soviets.

"Here's the weirdest thing," stated Ranford in a article for The Hockey News. "Having played for Canada on five different occasions, putting on the USA jersey was just bizarre."


Grant Fuhr

Grant Fuhr was the best goalie in the world in the second half of the 1980's. He struggled once departing from Edmonton, but late in his career resurrected his profile to elite status once again with St. Louis.

Grant Fuhr was a highly talked about junior goaltender when Glen Sather used his 1st round (8th overall) draft pick in 1981 to select him. Fuhr was labeled as a can't miss prospect and the goalie of the '80s. His 78-21-1 junior record spoke for itself. Sather knew he had to have a great goalie in order to take his team to the next level. He had Wayne Gretzky to score goals, but he needed someone to stop them.

For the first few years, there was a bit of goaltending power struggle in Edmonton. Fuhr and Andy Moog would split the work, but Fuhr became the go-to guy once the playoffs rolled along.

The playoffs was when Fuhr was at his best.

It has often been said playing goal for the Edmonton Oiler dynasty of the 1980's must have been an easy job and that even an average goaltender could have done well. While it is true that the Oilers held on to the puck the majority of the game and would often give Fuhr large leads to work with, but they were also guilty of not supporting their goalie with as much defensive help as most champions, especially in the earlier years during the regular season. During his prime, Fuhr's GAA ranged from a low of 3.43 to 3.91, which is extremely high for someone who is supposed to be the "best goalie in the world." But considering the Oilers' run and gun style and Fuhr's lack of support on many nights, those numbers are very respectable.

Fuhr's best season came in 1987-88 when he led the league in minutes played (4304), wins (40), shutouts (3.43) and then won 16 more games in the playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup. He also was named to the NHL's First All Star Team and won his only Vezina Trophy. He finished second to teammate Gretzky in voting for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

The season started with the 1987 Canada Cup. Many believe that that was the strongest Soviet national team ever assembled. Many agree that it was the greatest hockey Wayne Gretzky ever played. It also marked the emergence of Mario Lemieux as a superstar like no one before him. It was a new generation's 1972 Summit Series. It might have been the greatest hockey ever played.

And Grant Fuhr stood on his head! The Russians swarmed and swarmed but Fuhr continued to turn away shot after shot after shot. Remember right before Mario Lemieux's famous goal on a drop pass from Wayne Gretzky? There was mad scramble in front of the Canadian net, Fuhr kept the puck out. The results of the 1987 Canada Cup could very easily have been reversed had it not been for Grant Fuhr.

While Fuhr received little respect for his regular season play, he became recognized as the world's greatest goaltender because of his international play and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Spectacular sprawling saves were the norm in Edmonton during their Cup years. While most people give Gretzky and Messier the credit, it is highly unlikely the Oiler's would have been as successful as they were without the caliber of play Grant Fuhr supplied them.

Fuhr fell on hard times towards the turn of the decade. An addiction to an cocaine followed by the dismantling of the Oilers found him in Toronto. After one spectacular season he found himself backing up rookie sensation Felix Potvin the next year. He then moved to Buffalo just as Dominik Hasek evolved into the dominant goalie of the 1990s. Then he went to Los Angeles but things just didn't work out there either.

Fuhr, an excellent golfer, returned to form once he landed in St. Louis. He looked like he was 23 again, thrilling fans with his acrobatic style and is stealing games for the Blues which they have no business winning. It was great to see the living legend between the pipes back on top after most people had written him off.

So strong was Grant's play that many thought the Blues could go far in the 1996 NHL playoffs. However the Blues' playoff hopes ended when Toronto Maple Leaf's forward Nick Kypreos controversially crashed into Fuhr as the goalie was trying to cover a loose puck. Many suspected Kypreos deliberately ran the goalie with the intent of seriously shaking up Fuhr, and that's exactly what he did as Fuhr twisted his leg awkwardly. Fuhr's season was done, and so too was the Blues'.

Though he continued to play strongly in the following season, he was never able to repeat his excellence in year one in St. Louis. By the 1998-99 season, Fuhr began to show his age. Injury problems riddled Grant's performance and the Blues started looking for a replacement for the aging wonder. When they acquired Roman Turek from the Stanley Cup champion Dallas Stars, Fuhr and his big salary became dispensable.

In the summer of 1999, Fuhr's career took a dramatic turn.

Fuhr's playing rights were acquired by of all teams the Calgary Flames - the team that Fuhr had so many memorable battles with during his prime. Although its not Grant's fault, it seems so weird to see him tending the nets of the hated Flames. Can you imagine Gretzky in a Flame's jersey? Or Messier? Fuhr had to undergo knee surgery during the season, which limited him to just 23 games in what proved to be his final season.

The Spruce Grove, Alberta native finished his career with 868 games played, with a 403-295-114 record. He posted 25 shutouts and a career 3.38 GAA, though under the circumstances his inflated GAA is largely irrelevant. In the playoffs Fuhr went 92-50 with 6 shutouts and 4 Stanley Cups, good enough for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Grant also holds the records for most points in one season by a goaltender - 14 in 1983-84 (all assists).

Though it is now overly celebrated, Fuhr was the first true black superstar in the NHL. Adopted by white parents when he was just two weeks old, Fuhr generally refused to talk about race, saying colour was not an issue for him nor would he let it be for anyone else.


Dr. Randy Gregg

Randy Gregg enjoyed one of the most interesting hockey careers, and it all started almost by accident.

Though he played hockey during his childhood, he didn't consider himself to be a very good player. He played just because he loved the game, even though he was far from the best player even as a midget or juvenile.

So when Randy got accepted into medical school at the young age of 16, he promised his family that he would forget about his past time of playing hockey and concentrate on his scholastics. Only one problem. Randy showed up at the tryouts for the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team.

"I knew it would be impossible to do medicine and hockey, too. But I also knew that I'd be cut from the team long before it made any difference or before my brother found out."

But it didn't quite work that way. As Randy put it: "In a nutshell, two or three practices became ten, then twenty, then we had exhibition games, and, well, four years of university hockey later......"

And what a four years it was for Gregg. He led the Bears to two national championships. In his final season he was named the Canadian Intercollegiate Player of the Year. Randy attributed that title to the fact that he was a medical student who starred at hockey, not because he was the best hockey player in the CIAU.

Gregg likely figured his hockey days would be over once school was done, and he'd focus on his medical career. However things didn't quite work out that way. During one of his final games in his final year, Gregg was approached by Father David Bauer - the legendary hockey coach who created the Canadian National Team program. Bauer was looking for players for the 1980 Olympic Games.

"I was extremely intrigued by him" said Gregg. "He'd already identified some players that he felt might work out in the program and I was lucky enough to be one of them."

Gregg decided to postpone his medical internship and even passed on a $250,000 contract offer (over 2 years) from the New York Rangers to be a part of the Olympic program. For Randy, he had no regrets.

"I wouldn't trade any of it for anything else I could have been doing. We traveled Europe, to Japan; we were incredibly close and we had the benefit of working under a terrific coach, Clare Drake, and under Father Bauer, the team's general manager. The guys played the entire year for $4000!!"

Father Bauer played a huge role in Randy's life.

"Father Bauer's emphasis was on character development, the whole person, not just athletics. When we traveled, he'd encourage us to go to museums, art galleries, to interact with the people around us. There was very little emphasis on winning for its own sake. Which of course just made you want to win all the more for the guy."

However the team didn't win, and finished a disappointing 6th in the 1980 Olympics. But Randy was so excited about the Olympic experience that he wanted to play in the 1984 Olympics. He passed up on more professional offers and went to Japan where he played with the Kokudo Bunnies. He did this in order to keep his amateur status so he could play in the Olympics. The Olympic program as it had existed however was wiped out after the 6th place finish and replaced with a whole new program headed by Dave King.

As a result of the change in direction, Gregg began to think about returning home. When Glen Sather offered him a contract he jumped at it. Although Calgary and the Rangers also made offers, Gregg wanted to play in Edmonton, the town where he was born and raised. So after two years in Japan, Gregg flew across the Pacific and debuted in the playoffs, appearing in 4 games. Gregg's timing wasn't great in the sense that Edmonton would be upset by the Los Angeles Kings in those playoffs.

Gregg had a solid first rookie season and helped the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup finals before bowing out to the dynastic New York Islanders. But his second year was a year to remember for Randy. He had a career best 13 goals and 40 points and helped the Oilers win their first of 5 Stanley Cups in the next 7 years. In the autumn of '84, Gregg was part of Team Canada at the Canada Cup.

However Gregg's Canada Cup experience wasn't a highlight of his career. He was invited because Team Canada wanted a well rounded team and not just a lineup of superstars. Gregg not only was a big defensive d-man but he had loads of international experience. Despite this the media cried Oiler favoritism (Glen Sather picked the team) and often asked why all star Scott Stevens wasn't there and why Gregg was. Despite this, Gregg earned a Canada Cup championship, but admitted to feeling out of place in that situation.

Randy, a stubborn and principled man, retired for the beginning of the 1986 season because of a contract hold out. Remember at this time players of Randy's stature were getting paid around $125,000. Randy asked for a raise of $5000 and the Oilers refused. Randy quit and intended to move on with his medical career where he could earn comparable and perhaps better money! Gregg's retirement lasted 6 weeks before he and Sather patched up their differences, and it wasn't long before Gregg was helping the Oilers win their 3rd Cup championship in 1987.

However a funny thing happened to Randy following the 1987 championship. Having grown tired of the business side of pro hockey, he retired to concentrate on his medical career once again. He applied for the residency program in orthopedic surgery at the University Hospital in Edmonton. Two days after he was accepted, the International Olympic Committee announced the former professional hockey players would be allowed to complete in the 1988 Olympics. Of course Randy had very fond memories of his 1980 Olympic experience and quickly withdrew from his residency program and concentrated on the Olympics in Calgary.

Canada finished 4th in the Calgary Olympics but for Randy it was a disappointment. He had hoped to recapture the magic of Father Bauer but found Dave King's Team Canada to be too much like the pros. "It turned out the organization was focused almost exclusively on winning with absolutely no interest in the sort of character development we'd seen under Father Bauer."

Following the Olympics Randy rejoined the Oilers and helped them win the 1988 Stanley Cup. It was Randy's 4th Cup ring. He also played the 1989-90 season in Edmonton as well.

In 1990 Randy retired, for a third time, though this time it appeared to be for real. He founded a non profit organization called Funteam. Funteam was built in the spirit of Father Bauer, and offered an alternative to traditional kids sports organizations that focused strictly on the on ice or on field development. The Oilers figured this time Gregg had indeed called it quits and exposed him in the waiver draft. Gregg told all the other NHL teams not to select him because he didn't want to play in any city other than Edmonton and wouldn't report. Despite this, the Vancouver Canucks selected Gregg.

The Canucks were looking for a veteran d-man to help turn their fortunes around and once they selected Gregg they offered him a large amount of money. Gregg became interested in the Vancouver offer but he felt he had to stay in Edmonton to help establish Funteam. He's the kind of guy that won't back out on his commitments. Gregg told the Canucks that he may be interested next year.

The Canucks came back the following summer and offered Gregg a contract he couldn't refuse. Funteam was solidly established. And while Gregg only played in 21 games, he had the time of his life.

"It was one of the most rewarding years of my career. It was almost exclusively because of Pat Quinn (Canucks coach). He's such a great guy, an amazing man. I developed so much respect for him. It's a rarity in hockey to find a guy who can be a friend to the players, as Pat is, without losing their respect."

However his year in Vancouver also helped Randy realize his hockey days were near done and he had to move on. He retired for a 4th time, this time for good.

Randy returned to Edmonton and completed his medical internship. He soon teamed up with another doctor to create a sports medicine clinic.


Dave Semenko

Dave Semenko is best known as Wayne Gretzky's "bodyguard" but in all fairness he was much more than that. In fact he was a big part of the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty years of the 1980s.

"Sammy," a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was one of Wayne's best friends and probably the most popular guy in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room. Everybody liked Dave. He would do anything for his teammates and on many nights he was the only guy who stood up for them.

Dave wasn't the best skater around but he always worked very hard to improve on that. His main strength was when he parked in front of the opponent's goal. That's where he lived up to another of his many nicknames - "Cement." When he camped in front of the net, nobody moved him. It was like trying to move a rock.

Dave grew up idolizing Bobby Orr. Even though he wasn't nearly as talented as the great Orr was, he compensated for that with his tremendous heart.

As a junior he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings between 1974-78. Dave was selected by Houston in the 1977 WHA draft as well as by Minnesota in the NHL (25th overall). He opted to sign in the WHA, but it was with Edmonton rather than Houston, as the Aeros traded his rights to the northern Alberta city.

Semenko adjust to the professional hockey lifestyle nicely over the next two years. By the 1979-80 season, however, the WHA had folded. Even though Sammy's Oilers would join the NHL, the Minnesota North Stars still held his NHL rights, and reclaimed the heavyweight scrapper.

Glen Sather and the Oilers must have really realized Semenko's potential and impact on the young Oilers, and traded away 2nd and 3rd round draft picks to reacquire him before the start of the season. One of those draft picks turned out to be high scoring Neal Broten, but the Oilers were happy with their lovable Sammy back in the fold.

Dave wouldn't score often, just 65 times in 575 NHL games, to go with 88 assists for 153 points. Wayne Gretzky had better single season scoring campaigns than Semenko had in his entire career! But that's not why Semenko was on the team, it could be argued that without Semenko's presence, Gretzky might not have been able to quite reach the scoring levels he did.

Dave became something of a policeman on the Oilers team and on many nights was challenged by big raw-boned rookies who wanted to prove they were tough. One night, rookie Dave "Killer" Carlson challenged Dave who calmly just looked at him and said: " How did you get your nickname, Killer? Did you shoot your dog?"

Kevin Lowe called Semenko "the Gretzky of the tough guys."

"The question has often been asked, how tough was Sammy? Pat Price would tell stories about the Gassoff brothers and Lee Fogolin had a few about Battleship Bob Kelly. Slats never forgot John Ferguson, and then there was Dave Schultz and the Broad Street Bullies. But the general consensus had it that Sammy was the toughest of all. He was in a class of his own; he didn't beat guys up, he'd destroyed them. He employed a combination of sheer strength, sheer power, and sheer quickness, but mostly power. He wasted players with just two or three punches. And all this, although he never really had a mean streak in his body!" added Lowe

Dave had plenty of humour and he loved to tease his coach Glen Sather who he didn't get along with all the time.

Once Sather gave his players a training program for the off-season with push-ups, sit-ups and running among the things to do. One day he called Dave to check up on him.

"It sounds like you're in pretty good shape" said Slats.

"No, problem. I'm doing your program." replied Sammy. "The push-ups and sit-ups are ok, but the running is not going too well."

"Oh, so you have trouble with your knee again ?"

"No, that's not the problem. It's the wind, it stops me from lighting my cigarette."

When Wayne Gretzky won the 1983 All-Star MVP award he gave the car he won to Dave to show him how much he appreciated his work on the ice as well as his friendship off the ice.

"He probably had the most inaccurate image of anyone in the game. He was known as a goon or a rock-head, but the ironic thing was he was pleasant, witty and gentle. I mean, he would never hurt anyone, and it used to always surprise us when he actually would fight. You knew he had to be mad to actually get into a fight because he was such a nice person" recalls Gretzky.

But on December 12, 1986 Dave got traded. When Sather told Dave that he had traded him to Hartford the big winger couldn't keep his emotions inside him. He cried and several of his teammates cried as well. Seeing the most popular and well liked guy on the team be traded was a hard blow to the Oilers players. They lost a lot of the team chemistry from that moment on.

Dave went on to play one season in Hartford and then finished his career with a one year stint in Toronto 1987-88. Dave returned to Edmonton though and became a scout for the team.

When Wayne Gretzky's number 99 was retired on October 1,1999 Dave was one of the few guys selected to share the moment with Wayne on the ice.

Everybody loved Dave except for those who had unpleasant encounters with his fists.


Glen Sather

Everybody knows who Glen Sather is. He is the mastermind behind perhaps the greatest team in the history of the National Hockey League. He is considered one of the greatest coaches and general managers in the modern era of the NHL. He is also an astute businessman, and a self made millionaire outside of hockey.

But did you know he used to play hockey too? He wasn't exactly a great hockey player, but got into 658 NHL games and scored 80 goals and 193 points. The man who had the brains to acquire and teach names like Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, Kevin Lowe - the list is seemingly endless - was pretty much a third or fourth line plumber for nine NHL seasons. Of all the great players Sather has coached in Edmonton, Sather the player could best be compared to a Dave Hunter or a Kelly Buchberger - a useful, heart-and-soul grinder.

Born in High River, Alberta, Glen first became prominent in hockey in junior hockey when he played, somewhat ironically, in the city of Edmonton with the Oil Kings. Those Oil Kings were a power house in junior hockey. They played in 7 consecutive Memorial Cups from 1959 to 1966 - but only came away with the big prize in 1963 and 1966. Sather arrived in 1961-62 and departed after the 1963-64 season, so obviously he was part of the 1963 championship. That 1963 team coached by Buster Brayshaw had learned the lessons of the 3 previous Oil Kings teams that fell just short. They brought what was described as "the eastern style of play" in order to be successful against the eastern representatives from Niagara Falls. Some other members of that Oil Kings championship team include Pat Quinn, Bert Marshall and Roger Bourbonnais

After junior hockey, Sather graduated to the Central Professional Hockey League for three seasons before the Boston Bruins finally gave him a shot in 1967-68. He played well in a 4th line left wing role. He worked hard in a typical Boston Bruin fashion and became a favorite of the "gallery gods" - the nosebleed section of the old Boston Garden. He scored 8 goals and 12 assists in 65 games.

Sather also became a favorite of coach Harry Sinden.

"He's a handy guy to have around. If anyone gets hurt he can player either wing and he's always hustling. He's a good man on the ice killing penalties. It's true you can't call him a goal scorer but he is strong on defence," said Sinden in an interview with The Hockey News back in 1968.

Sather played a second full season for the Bruins in 1968-69, scoring 4 goals and 11 assists before the Pittsburgh Penguins selected the winger in the Intra-League draft on June 11, 1969. It was both good and bad for Sather. Good because in Pittsburgh he had a chance to further his career but bad because the Bruins went on to win 2 of the next 3 Stanley Cup championships, something that Sather would have loved to experienced as a player.

"Slats" played 1 and 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh before he was traded to the NY Rangers in exchange for Syl Apps Jr. Syl Jr. was a pretty good skill player, so the fact that he was traded in return for Slats suggests Slats comparative value even if it was a different style

Sather enjoyed his longest tenure in New York, spending parts of 4 seasons with the Rangers. He of course provided his rugged brand of hockey but other than an 11 goal, 26 point 1972-73 campaign provided little in terms of offense.

Ironically, Sather was traded to St. Louis following his best year as a Ranger, just 2 games into the 1973-74 season, Sather enjoyed his best season offensively. He scored 15 goals and 44 points in 69 games.

Despite his strong season, Sather was once again on the move in the summer of 1974, this time to Montreal where he played one season. He was traded to Minnesota for the 1975-76 season, his last in the NHL.

In 1976-77 the Edmonton Oilers of the World Hockey Association acquired Sather, perhaps the most important acquisition in Oiler history, including the day they got Gretzky. Sather filled in for one season as a hard nosed left winger before he became the coach the following season.

In his first full year as a professional coach in 1977-78 he guided the Oilers to the playoffs where they lost to the eventual Avco Cup finalist New England Whalers.

Sather played an instrumental role in the purchasing of 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky from the Indianapolis Racers. That year Edmonton finished atop the WHA regular-season standings before losing the Avco Cup finals to the Winnipeg Jets. Following the 1978-79 season, Edmonton, Quebec, Winnipeg and Hartford all joined the NHL.

Under Sather's tutelage, the Oilers became the highest scoring offensive machine in history. By 1980 he was named as the Oilers general manager as well. Already with the game's budding superstar in Wayne Gretzky, Sather had an eye for some incredible raw talent. In his first entry draft Sather chose Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Andy Moog. The following year he added first-round draft pick Grant Fuhr. Youngsters Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson also blossomed all at the same time.

Sather guided the Oilers to their 1st Stanley Cup just 5 years after joining the league and basically starting from scratch. Before you know it the Oilers became a dynasty, winning 5 Stanley Cups over the following 7 years.

Sather's coaching record is remarkable. In 842 regular season games he guided the Oilers to a 464-268-110 record. That's a .616 winning percentage! Yet somehow the Oilers were even better in the playoffs under Sather. The Oilers upped their winning percentage to .705 thanks to 89 wins in 127 games with Sather behind the bench.

Sather's status as one of hockey's top executives was heavily reinforced when he guided Team Canada to the 1984 Canada Cup championship. Later he provided experience with Team Canada's management team at the 1987 Canada Cup and served in the same capacity for the NHL during the 1987 Rendez-Vous exhibition series versus the Soviet All-Stars. He was also instrumental in the 1991 Canada Cup and 1996 World Cup Team Canada teams. He also played a role in the 1998 Olympic team.

Sather had to dismantle his own dynasty as the Edmonton Oilers simply couldn't financially afford to keep the team together. Player salaries were just beginning to skyrocket and Oilers owner Peter Pocklington couldn't afford to compete. Eventually all of the big names from the dynasty days were traded. Sather skillfully stocked up on prospects and kept the Oilers competitive. However salaries kept getting higher and higher while the Canadian dollar plummeted, making it all but impossible for Canadian teams to compete financially in the NHL. The Oilers though young and talented were too cash strapped to go the the next level.

Sather remained with the Oilers until 1999 as he served most of the 90's decade strictly as general manager and president of the Oilers. After an ownership change cramped Sather's style, Glen surprisingly left the city he practically owned. He went from small budget Edmonton to the deep pockets of the New York Rangers.

Sather's place in hockey history was forever immortalized in 1997 when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. Sather joked that he should be in the Hall as a player, not a coach. Now you know Sather was a useful player before becoming one of the all time great coaches and general managers in the history of the National Hockey League.


Lee Fogolin

Like father, like son is a phrase that fits Lee Fogolin Sr. and Jr. perfectly.

Although they played in very different eras, they played an almost similar style. Both were hard hitting defensemen who made up what they lacked in grace with an abundance of heart and leadership. Both were journeymen who specialized in the physical game and were excellent shot blockers. Poise and dedication were also commonly mentioned attributes of both player's games. Father Lee played in the rough and tumble post-World War II era with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Lee Jr. played during the high scoring, and high flying 1980s.

Lee Jr. was born in Chicago where his father spent most of his career, but grew up in rural Ontario. By 1972 he was skating for the junior Oshawa Generals and capturing critical acclaim for his exuberant play. By the time he became draft eligible in 1974, he was a top selection of the Buffalo Sabres as he was selected 11th overall.

Lee made the jump to the NHL immediately. He played somewhat sparingly, however, over his first two NHL season because of his lack of experience. Even at that early age he was considered to be the strongest man in professional hockey.

While Lee was too good to play in the minors, ultimately he was rushed into the Sabres lineup. He got caught up in the Sabres blue line depth chart and often saw little ice time and even skated as a penalty killing forward. After 5 seasons in Buffalo he was surprisingly left exposed by the Sabres in the 1979 expansion draft, and was quickly snapped up by the Edmonton Oilers.

It is in Edmonton where Lee is perhaps best remembered. He served as a team captain before handing that honour to Wayne Gretzky. He would quickly establish himself as one of the league's best defensive defensemen and most unheralded players while playing the run-and-gun Oilers team. One of the reasons the Oilers could play that all-offense system of theirs was because of players like Lee who would stay back and do the dirty work.

Lee enjoyed 8 seasons in Edmonton, including 2 Stanley Cups. Ultimately the emergence of young behemoths like Steve Smith and Jeff Beukeboom made a veteran Fogolin expendable in 1987. He was traded back to Buffalo late in the season. He would put in just 9 more games of NHL work before deciding to retire at the end of the season.

Lee Fogolin played in 24 regular season NHL games, scoring 44 goals and 239 points plus 1318 penalty minutes. In 108 playoff contests he scored 5 goals and 24 points plus 173 penalty minutes. But every player who ever played with (or for that matter against) Lee Fogolin will agree that no statistic could ever measure the value of this rock-steady defenseman.



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.



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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