If there was an unsung hero among the seven Hall of Fame players that were at the heart of the Edmonton Oilers 1980s dynasty, it would definitely be Kevin Lowe. On Monday (Nov. 15), Lowe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020, joining his former Oilers teammates Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier in receiving hockey’s highest honour.
Having been eligible since 2001, Lowe had the longest wait of the “Boys on the Bus” to receive his call to the Hall. Anderson had been the most recent to be inducted, in 2008, while the other five were all elected in their first year of eligibility, beginning with Gretzky who received special exemption to enter the HHOF immediately upon his retirement in 1999.
Lowe, who played for the Oilers from 1979 to 1992, and again from 1996 to 1998, never had the gaudy stats or individual accolades of his superstar friends, but the six-time champion can match any of them Stanley Cup ring for Stanley Cup ring. So when, at last, he stood behind the podium for his induction speech at Toronto’s iconic Meridian Hall on Monday, it seemed only fitting that the blue-collar blueliner used the opportunity to shine a light on his lesser-known teammates that helped him get to this stage: Lee Fogolin, Randy Gregg, Charlie Huddy, Mario Marois and Craig Muni.
Supporting players in the story of the supporting player, they are to Lowe as Lowe is to Coffey. They’re known well to old diehards, but at least a couple of them probably had many fans asking “who?” Here’s that answer:
When a 17-year-old Lowe began his junior career with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 1976-77, his first defensive partner was the team captain, Mario Marois.
“Mario helped me learn French, I taught him English,” Lowe said in his speech. “But more importantly, he taught me that we were playing for keeps out there.”
Quebec entered the 1976-77 QMJHL season as defending Presidents’ Cup champions and finished with the best record in the regular season. The Remparts then advanced to the championship series, where they were defeated by the Sherbrooke Castors.
Following that season, Marois was drafted 62nd overall by the New York Rangers and went straight to the pros. Marois played 15 seasons in the NHL, with five different franchises, from 1977-78 to 1991-92, suiting up for 956 games and totalling 433 points and 1,746 penalty minutes.
Lee Fogolin & Craig Muni
In his first tenure with the Oilers, Lowe had only two defensive partners: Fogolin and Muni. Lowe said on Monday that he was indebted to both.
Already a veteran of several NHL seasons, Fogolin, whom Lowe called a mentor, was a perfect match when rookie Lowe joined the Oilers after being drafted 21st overall in 1979. Fogolin served as Oilers captain from 1981 to 1983 and won Stanley Cups in 1984 and 1985 before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 1987.
At that point, Lowe shifted roles, becoming the elder statesmen in a new pairing with Muni, a stay-at-home rearguard in his first full NHL season. Muni was part of Edmonton’s championship teams in 1987, 1988, and 1990.
Randy Gregg & Charlie Huddy
There are only seven players who were part of all five Stanley Cup-winning Oilers teams between 1983-84 and 1989-90: Anderson, Fuhr, Kurri, Lowe, and Messier, along with defencemen Gregg and Huddy.
During his speech, Lowe said it was an honour to patrol the blue line with the latter two, joking that, “it was very, very lonely back there.” The run-and-gun Oilers of the ‘80s, who averaged more than five goals per game for five consecutive seasons from 1981-82 to 1985-86, were notorious for abandoning any notion of a backcheck to launch an all-out offensive onslaught.
Huddy played for the Oilers from 1980-91, appearing in 694 regular season games and 138 playoff contests over that span. Gregg made his debut in the 1982 and spent the next eight seasons in Edmonton, suiting up 453 times in the regular season and for 130 playoff games as an Oiler. They are second and third, respectively, behind only Lowe for postseason games played by defencemen in franchise history.
Lowe, whose sixth championship came with the New York Rangers in 1994, summed it up perfectly at the end of his speech: “Would I trade the six Stanley Cups to get in the Hall of Fame? Definitely not. Would I get in the Hall of Fame without the six Stanley Cups? Definitely not.”
Would Lowe get the six Stanley Cups without the likes of Gregg, Huddy and all his other unheralded teammates? Definitely not.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.