The 2016 Heritage Classic will be played this weekend between the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. The alumni game is creating quite the buzz as Edmonton is set to ice a nostalgic team consisting of seven Hockey Hall of Famer’s (HHOF). Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier naturally headline the list that also includes Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Glen Sather.
Sather was the famed architect of that 1980’s dynasty that saw the Oilers win five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990, the last one without Gretzky — something many believed the Oilers wouldn’t do. After those Cup wins the Oilers would enter into obscurity, losing their stars thanks to a crumbling Canadian dollar and financial situation by then-Oilers owner, the infamous Peter Pocklington.
The seven years of hockey that followed in the World Hockey Association was great hockey. It was fantastic hockey. I think the people of Winnipeg think of the people in Edmonton as being a lot alike in so many ways. And we have that common birth of the Alberta Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets and that rivalry that existed through the last Avco Cup.
– Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets – Owner)
Though the team has few members that didn’t play on those dynamic 1980’s teams, the alumni group does include some faithful Oilers from more recent years. Ryan Smyth and Dwayne Roloson represent the 2000’s era of Oilers that many newer and younger fans can remember.
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Smyth has been an integral piece of the Oilers cultural fabric and endeared himself to fans during his 15 seasons with the Oilers. Roloson, on the other hand, was the final piece of the puzzle on a 2006 Oilers team that made a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals thanks to his brilliant performance.
Whether you were around for the 1980’s team or not there’s no questioning how incredible those teams were. The 1983-84 team was the highest scoring team in NHL history, averaging 5.58 goals-per-game. Twice within a three-year span the Oilers had three 50 goal scorers and four 100 point scorers on their roster (1983-84, 1985-86). A lot can be made about the Oilers dismal performance at the draft throughout their history but between 1979 and 1981 the team selected Lowe, Messier, Anderson, Coffey, Kurri and Andy Moog.
Talk about a dominating team. Wherever your team allegiance lies, or which Oilers era you identify with, there is no way around it…this is a celebration of Edmonton’s history.
Here is the complete list of members of the Oilers alumni team.
Glen Sather – The winningest coach in Oilers history, Sather holds a coaching record of 464-268-110 spread out over 11 seasons behind the Oilers bench. To put that into perspective, that’s 1038 points and a winning percentage of 61.6%. Sather led the Oilers to five Stanley Cups as either coach or general manager. He was a true architect of the Oilers 1980’s blueprint and drafted several HHOF’ers during his career in Edmonton.
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Ron Low – Low was a goaltender during his playing days, acquired by Edmonton in 1979-80 in a trade when he was 29-years-old. He played 67 games for the Oilers over four seasons while Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog readied themselves for full-time duties. He then joined the Oilers coaching staff, working his way up from their AHL to NHL head coach in 1994-95. Low coached the Oilers until 1998-99 and sits third in all-time wins by an Edmonton coach with a 139-162-40 record in 341 games coached. He won a Stanley Cup in 1990 as an Oilers, assistant coach.
Grant Fuhr – The winningest goalie in Oilers history with 226 wins in 423 games, Fuhr won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton while manning the crease with Moog and Bill Ranford. The eighth overall pick in 1981 had a stellar career with some incredible numbers. Fuhr holds the longest undefeated streak by a goaltender in his first NHL season with 23 straight wins. He’s also got the most points in a season by a goaltender with 14 in 1983-84. The Oilers traded Fuhr and Anderson to Toronto in September 1991 for the deal that got them several prospects including Vincent Damphousse and Luke Richardson. He was inducted into the HHOF in 2003.
Bill Ranford – Ranford was the guy Edmonton got for Moog in March 1988, and he ended up the heir apparent to Fuhr playing ten seasons with the Oilers from 1988-00. Ranford won 167 games during that stretch but most importantly put in a Conn Smythe winning performance en route to the Oilers 1990 Stanley Cup win over Moog and the Bruins. At the height of his career, Ranford backstopped Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup and won MVP honors. He was also named to the 1996 World Cup team. Ranford has won four Stanley Cups in his career, two as an Oilers goaltender and two as a goaltending coach for the Los Angeles Kings.
Dwayne Roloson – If you’re ranking these guys by wins, Roloson is fifth on the Oilers all-time wins list. Who could forget that Cinderella run in 2005-06? The Oilers came agonizingly close to winning their sixth and most unlikely Stanley Cup. Roloson was injured by an errand collision between M-A Bergeron and Andrew Ladd in game one with five minutes remaining, and the rest is history.
Paul Coffey – Coffey isn’t just the greatest defenseman in Oilers history, he’s in the upper echelon of NHL greats, ranking second all-time in goals, assists, and points for a defenseman behind just Ray Bourque. Coffey won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers before being traded in 1987 for a package that included another Oiler’s alumni roster member, Craig Simpson. To this day Coffey holds 21 NHL records and was inducted into the HHOF in 2004.
Randy Gregg – Dr. Gregg is a true Edmontonian. He not only played for his hometown team, but he also went to the University of Alberta for his medical degree and is now a practicing physician in Edmonton. A solid two-way defender for the Oilers, he infamously retired for all but six weeks after the Oilers were eliminated by Calgary in the 1986 playoffs. The Oilers won the Stanley Cup the following year in 1987, Gregg once again retired to focus on his residence but returned to help Edmonton win the fourth Cup in 1988. All in all, Gregg won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton.
Charlie Huddy – Huddy is currently an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets after serving on the Oilers coaching staff for several years. He was one of the seven Oilers to win all five Stanley Cups, but one of his more underappreciated stats is that between 1980-81 and 1990-91 he never missed a game.
Kevin Lowe – A controversial figure in Edmonton, Lowe is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) but won six Stanley Cups in his career including that make-shift Oilers team in 1994, otherwise known as the New York Rangers. Fans can say what they will, but Lowe has essentially been an Oiler his entire career since being the first ever Oilers draft pick in 1979.
Actually I’m not playing. I’ll be the cheerleader. I’ll make sure the beer is cold in the dressing room for the guys and you know everybody’s excited about it. It’s always fun to get together and I know we’ve got a pretty good roster put together so hopefully we can win the game.
– Kevin Lowe, Oilers HHOF Member
Marty McSorley – The Oilers resident tough guy, McSorley was the Oilers enforcer during two stints with the team between 1985-88 and 1998-99. He endeared himself to Oiler fans and was a punishing player that played both forward and defense. He won two Stanley Cups in Edmonton before the team traded him along with Gretzky in the infamous deal in August 1988.
Glenn Anderson – Anderson was the Oilers 69th overall pick in 1979 in that loaded draft where the Oilers also took Lowe and Messier. He was a big-game player and is one of the greatest scorers in NHL Playoff history with 214 points. Anderson won six Stanley Cups during his career and was a four-time all-star. Anderson played for Canada at two Canada Cups in 1984 and 1987. He’s got the third-most goals scored by an Oiler at 417 and sits fourth on the Oilers all-time points list.
Kelly Buchberger – Buchberger is currently the Oilers Manager of Player Personnel and oversees the Oilers AHL and ECHL affiliate rosters. Captain Buch was drafted 188th overall in 1985 and played on two Stanley Cup winning Oiler teams in 1987 and 1990. After his playing career, he briefly forayed into coaching but joined Oilers management soon after. He finished his playing career with 795 games with the Oilers and led the team with 1,747 career PIMs.
Wayne Gretzky – What is there to be said about Gretzky that hasn’t already been stated? The greatest player in NHL history won four Stanley Cups in Edmonton and scored 583 goals and 1,669 points in just 696 games as an Oiler. To put that into perspective, by the time Gretzky was a 27-year-old he could’ve retired and still be ninth on the NHL all-time points list ahead of Joe Sakic, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey. He currently holds 60 NHL records and nine Hart Trophies as league MVP. Gretzky recently joined the Oilers ownership and executive team.
Jari Kurri – The greatest European player in Oilers history, Kurri rode shotgun to Gretzky all those years and scored 474 goals and 1,043 points as an Oiler. Kurri won five Stanley Cups as an Oiler and the 1986 Richard Trophy for most goals. A nine-time NHL All-Star he’s arguably the greatest European player of his generation.
Ken Linseman – Linseman was a solid center during his career and the Oilers acquired him technically from the Hartford Whalers, not the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rat as he was known was an aggravating center but had great defensive prowess. Linseman scored 178 points in 200 games as an Oiler and was a part of their first championship in 1984.
BJ MacDonald – Famously known as Wayne Gretzky’s first linemate, MacDonald scored 137 points in 131 games with the Oilers between 1979-1981. However, MacDonald was one of the players from Edmonton’s time in the WHA and scored 242 points in 339 games. MacDonald never won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers and was traded to Toronto in 1980-81.
Craig MacTavish – One of the last players in NHL history to play in the league without a helmet, MacTavish won four Stanley Cups, three of which with the Oilers. A lot of it comes from some much-needed faith that Sather had in MacT who then scored 331 points in 701 games as an Oiler. MacT coached the Oilers from 2001-09 and became the second-winningest coach in franchise history with 301 wins in 656 games, trailing just the man that showed all that faith in him in 1985, Sather.
Mark Messier – Together with Gretzky, the Oilers had two HHOF centers on their team, and the two steered the ship in Edmonton for years. Messier won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton but famously captained the Oilers 1990 team that won after many prognosticators said the Oilers would never win another Cup without Gretzky. Messier finished his Oilers career with 1,034 points, third behind Gretzky and Kurri.
Dave Semenko – Semenko was Edmonton’s resident enforcer and the guy that kept the opposition in line when they lined up against Gretzky, Messier, Kurri and the rest of the bunch. He had 981 career PIM’s in 454 games as an Oiler and once famously challenged Muhammed Ali to a fight.
Craig Simpson – The second overall pick in the 1985 draft, the Oilers acquired Simpson after they traded Coffey to Pittsburgh. He had three 30-goal seasons in Edmonton and won two Stanley Cups. His career came to an abrupt end in December 1993 due to a back injury, and he retired as a 28-year-old. It was a promising career derailed, but Simpson became a broadcaster in 1998 and is currently with Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC).
Ryan Smyth – Arguably the most loved Oiler of all-time, Smyth embodied the hard-working Albertan spirit and was one of the few stars produced by the organization outside of the 1980’s glory years. Smyth was drafted sixth overall in 1994 and played 15 years in Edmonton and sits sixth in Oilers all-time scoring with 631 points. He came agonizingly close to winning a Stanley Cup in 2006.
Esa Tikkanen – Famous for his Tiki-Talk, Tikkanen was a thorn in the opposition’s side, but he was just as gifted talent wise. Tikkanen was an Oiler from 1986-93 and scored 436 goals in 522 games. Aside from Kurri and Ales Hemsky, he’s the highest scoring European player in Oilers history. Tikkanen won five Stanley Cups, four of which were with the Oilers.
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