Today will mark another first of sorts for Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. A broken collarbone forced the 2015 first overall pick from taking part in his first NHL All-Star Game during his rookie campaign but that will change this afternoon in Los Angeles.
As the league’s leading scorer and most dynamic player, there is a chance the 20-year-old phenom could play a starring role in the 62nd mid-season classic. As a precursor to what may be a moment to remember for Oilers fans everywhere, we give you the Top Three Moments in Edmonton Oilers All-Star Game history.
— Gretzky Facts (@GretzkyFacts) July 27, 2015
1) 1983 (Uniondale): Gretzky’s Four Goal Explosion
After two periods of play at the 1983 All-Star Game, it looked as though Wayne Gretzky was going to be held in check for a fourth consecutive year at the mid-season classic. In his previous three appearances, No. 99 had one goal and all of two points. Not exactly the type of production you would expect from the best player in the world in this sort of game.
In the grand scheme of things, it meant nothing but you got the sense it was starting to eat at the kid. Well, it may have taken eleven periods to happen but the explosion everyone was waiting for came to fruition during those final twenty minutes in Uniondale…and what an outburst it was.
— Ryan McKenna (@IslesProf) October 22, 2014
Detroit Red Wings great Ted Lindsay was the only player to register a hat-trick in All-Star history and that was in 1950. Gretzky scored four times in just under thirteen minutes and turned what was a one-goal game into a 9-3 laugher. After struggling to create much of anything with fellow Oiler teammates Jari Kurri and Mark Messier, Campbell Conference head coach Roger Neilson decided to start playing the trio with Paul Coffey on a regular basis and the results speak for themselves. The four combined for ten points and in the blink of an eye, the 22-year old accomplished what he set out to do.
— slaterandsons (@Slaterandsons) July 22, 2014
“This year I really wanted to play the best I could,” said Gretzky. “It helps when you play with your teammates…they knew where I was going to be and I guess they wanted me to get the goals. I was very fortunate and lucky.” Funny, pretty sure if we were to ask all his Oilers teammates they would say the same thing about No.99 on a daily basis. Even with the higher scoring and less defensive minded All-Star games recently, the exhibition Gretzky delivered on February 8, 1983, remains the gold standard to this day.
2) 1986 (Hartford): Fuhr Steals the Show
In 1986, coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups and three consecutive trips to the Finals, the Oilers looked poised to earn a third straight championship. Gretzky was in the midst of breaking his own single-season scoring mark with a ridiculous 215 points. Paul Coffey fell one-point shy of Bobby Orr’s points record for a defenceman (139) but eclipsed the Boston Bruins legend with a mind-boggling 48 goals. Jari Kurri was on his way to a league-best 68-goal campaign, while Glenn Anderson would put together a 54-goal and 102 point season.
If you think this Senators thing is stupid, 5 outta 6 Campbell Conf starters in the 1986 All-Star game were Oilers! Oh wait, they were good.
— Michael Parkatti (@mparkatti) January 5, 2012
In fact, the Oilers finished the year with three of the NHL’s top four scoring leaders, four players north of the 100 point barrier and their fifth straight season of 400 plus goals (426). As usual, Edmonton was well represented at the All-Star game but it was a little different this time around.
After sending eight players and Glen Sather to the game in 1985 (Anderson, Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Gretzky, Kurri, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier and Andy Moog), the addition of veteran rearguard Lee Fogolin upped that number by one in Hartford. Not surprisingly, with that many players in the game, one of the Oilers stole the show but, considering the stage, it wasn’t who you think it would be.
📷 1986 NHL All-Star MVP Grant Fuhr being interviewed after the game https://t.co/kbeQWaEX3r
— Jen (@NHLhistorygirl) February 18, 2016
On an evening in which the Campbell Conference dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Wales Conference, it was Fuhr who was awarded MVP honours. The Oilers netminder stopped all 15 shots he faced in just over 31 minutes of action and after struggling in his previous three All-Star Game appearances, the Spruce Grove native was outstanding. He stopped one point-blank opportunity after another, with the highlight of the bunch coming courtesy an absurd two-save sequence off Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux. The 23-year-old joined New York Islanders legend Billy Smith as the only other player to take home the award as a member of the losing team.
3) 1989 (Edmonton): No. 99 Returns Home
Though it is likely to change in the near future, the only time the city of Edmonton has hosted the NHL All-Star Game was in 1989. Still reeling from watching owner Peter Pocklington sell Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings six months earlier, this was the first real opportunity for fans of the Oilers to get some kind of closure.
While the two teams faced each other early in the season, an 8-6 Edmonton victory at Northlands Coliseum, it was a game in which this fanbase was unable to cheer for No. 99 in the way they wanted to. Yes, they gave him numerous standing ovations upon his arrival but cheering for him outright wasn’t an option…at least not in most cases.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 10, 2016
That provision was temporarily lifted thanks to the mid-season classic and it was a godsend for both parties. It may have only been for one night but watching Gretzky skate alongside his former teammates again and seeing Jari Kurri on his wing seemed right.
Again, for one night all seemed right in the hockey world and once the game started, it was like old times. It took all of 1:07 for Kurri to take a feed from Gretzky before beating Sean Burke for the opening goal of the game. Three and half minutes later, No. 99 lit the lamp and the roof came off of the Coliseum.
— Jen (@NHLhistorygirl) December 14, 2015
By the end of the evening, the Oilers faithful were treated to a 9-5 win for the good guys and one final memory for them to take home: Two points each from Kurri and Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr stoning Mario Lemieux twice on the same breakaway and watching Gretzky take home his second All-Star Game MVP on the strength of a three-point performance. Just like old times.
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.