When the Edmonton Oilers decided to trade away an aging Dave Semenko during the 1986-87 season they parted ways with one of the most popular players in club history and best enforcers to ever play the game. For those who didn’t get the chance to watch him play, No. 27 could strike the fear of god into opponents without the use his fists. More often than not, all it took was one glare to keep opposing players in check.
While the Oilers remained a difficult team to play against over the coming years, thanks in large part to the presence of Kevin McClelland and Marty McSorley. With that said, what they no longer had at their disposal was that so-called “nuclear deterrent” in the lineup. However, that all changed on February 7th, 1989 when the club went out and acquired enforcer Dave Brown from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Edmonton packaged veteran Keith Acton and a 1991 sixth round pick for arguably the toughest player in the league. Never one to be confused with a player who saw a regular duty on a nightly basis, Brown was cut from the same cloth as Semenko and arguably even more than lethal. When No. 32 decided to drop the mitts, everything else in the arena came to a halt.
Brown wasn’t Oiler for an extended period of time but still managed to leave his mark. Not surprisingly, the Saskatoon native was a huge fan favourite during his time in the Alberta capital but he was arguably an even bigger hit amongst his teammates. Be it veterans like Kevin Lowe and Mark Messier or youngsters such as Adam Graves and Martin Gelinas, the guys inside the dressing room held him in high regard.
Anyone who has played the game at the pro level will tell you just how difficult the role of designated enforcer can be. It was and still is one almost no player relished being in it was a necessary evil during the era. Having the undisputed heavyweight champion on your roster tended to get players a bit of extra space on the ice and they greatly appreciated his efforts.
Dave Brown was Semenko-like
During his two and half seasons in Edmonton, Brown was a wrecking ball. He took on all comers and demolished one opponent after another. On the rare occasion, he had a poor showing his response was immediate and swift. His two-fight showdown against Calgary Flames tough guy Stu Grimson in January 1990 was the perfect example of just this.
After being partially jumped from behind by Grimson a couple of nights earlier in Edmonton, the towering winger made no bones of what was coming in the rematch two days later. His quote at the time of “don’t go for a coffee” has become legendary in these parts, as was the pummeling that followed in front of sold-out Saddledome crowd and sealed with a well-known steely glare towards the Flames bench.
Brown made it quite clear that no one better mess with any of his teammates or there would be a price to pay. The term “jack-hammer” became the norm whenever Hall of Fame broadcaster Rod Phillips would describe a tilt with the former seventh-round pick. He was that dominant and like it or not, the Oilers were a far more assertive group when he dressed but his limitations as a player kept him out of the lineup when the games mattered most. Yet, he remained a central figure in the minds of teammates.
— Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) May 24, 2017
1990 Cup was Special for Brown
After being presented with the Stanley Cup following their series-clinching victory over the Boston Bruins in the 1990 final, Messier passed the silverware to Graves to start its traditional hand-off amongst teammates. However, that all changed when the captain noticed Brown down at ice level, as he did not suit up for the series finale. Messier promptly went back into the celebration, took the Cup back and brought it over to the bench and placed it in the hands of the veteran forward.
In what was one of the more touching moments of the evening, he was overcome with emotions after being handed the Cup and instantly being swarmed by his teammates. The player’s reaction to seeing Dave Brown hoist the Stanley Cup was arguably greater than when their captain received the trophy from John Ziegler. He may not have played a crucial role in helping the organization win its fifth championship but he most certainly had a part in it. Brown would find his way back to Philadelphia via trade the following season but his time as a member of the Edmonton Oilers remains one most fans cherish to this day.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.