Tuesday, May 19, 2009
On this date in 1984 the Edmonton Oilers would win their first of five Stanley Cups, four of which were with Wayne Gretzky as Captain.
The Oilers started life in the late, great World Hockey Association in 1972 where they would compete until becoming part of the NHL in time for the 1979-80 season. When the WHA teams were allowed to enter the NHL, the old WHA teams were permitted to protect only two goaltenders and two skaters, as the NHL teams raided their rosters in the 1979 Expansion Draft, seeking a return of players whose rights they once held. The WHA teams were also each required to pay a $6 million expansion fee for the privilege of having their team decimated. This was a far different scenario than a "merger" between the leagues, in which case the incoming WHA teams would have been able to keep their rosters intact and not pay an expansion fee.
The Oilers thus stared life in the NHL with a roster consisting of goaltenders Dave Dryden and Eddie Mio, plus skaters Bengt Gustafsson and Wayne Gretzky. Although no NHL team held Gretzky's rights, and under existing rules he would have been removed from the Oilers and placed into the Entry Draft, the Oilers were allowed to keep him but were forced to pick dead last in each round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft of incoming new players, behind even current Stanley Cup champions the Montreal Canadiens.
The WHA teams then selected unprotected players from the current NHL teams to fill out their rosters, but only after the NHL teams were allowed to protect two veteran goalies and seventeen skaters. Think about that for a second. In the best case scenario, a WHA team would get the 20th best player from any NHL team. The results were predictable, as the WHA teams all finished in the bottom eight of the standings. However, a ridiculous 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs back then, so Edmonton and Hartford did manage to qualify for the postseason, with the Oilers being swept in three games by Philadelphia.
Amazingly, within just three years, coach and GM Glen Sather had a team that included Gretzky, but also Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe and goaltenders Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog, that made it to the finals for the first time in 1983, losing to the Islanders, before winning the Stanley Cup in 1984, ending the Islanders dynasty and beginning one of their own.
Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky jersey. Interestingly, each of the four times the Oilers would win the cup with Gretzky as captain, it would be at home in their white jerseys. This run of success was prior to teams wearing a special patch during the Stanley Cup Finals, which was not introduced until 1989, so this jersey carries no additional patches - a rarity for our collection.
The Oilers would go onto win three more cups with Gretzky as Captain, in 1985, 1987 and 1988 before Gretzky's famous departure for Los Angeles. Before leaving, the Oilers would change the game of hockey, putting up astounding offensive numbers never seen before. For example, Gretzky led the league in scoring for seven consecutive years, with his lowest point total being 164, followed by 183, 196, 205, 208 and 215. Prior to that, only one player had ever topped 150 - once, as Phil Esposito tallied 152 in 1970-71.
Dasherboard: The Penguins/Hurricanes played an exciting game last night and this series looks like it could easily go six or seven games. Both goalies played very well, but Miroslav Satan could have not only put the puck behind Cam Ward on his breakaway goal, but perhaps a Chevrolet. His move froze Ward so effectively he had one of the widest open nets I've seen for some time.
Tonight it's back to the Red Wings hosting the Blackhawks. We just have the feeling that Chicago needs to take the game tonight to give themselves a chance in the series, otherwise Detroit could easily end the series in as few as five games. The Red Wings really had the look the other night of being able to answer any Chicago goal practically at will.