A Night With Our Heroes – Edmonton Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup Reunion
A Night With Our Heroes
Edmonton Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup Reunion
Sometimes the stars align just right. My childhood hero hockey team decided to have a 30 year anniversary of their 1984 Stanley Cup Championship when I was in the area, and beyond that, my best friend and I who grew up bonding over the team were able to attend the reunion together. As I said to him, “If I was in Auckland, New Zealand right now, and I knew that this reunion was taking place I would wish I was at it and I would want to go to it with you. It is crazy that this worked out…”
So, the tickets were not cheap. I spent around $550 on the tickets, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and some day the money will not matter. After I finished work, Travis picked me up and we raced to Edmonton. We had seats six rows from the boards at floor level in the former Northlands Coliseum where all of those championships were won. There were 17,000 people in the sold out venue to celebrate the reunion.
It began at 7:30pm, and they had a montage of George Orwell’s 1984 to start the show on the jumbotron. The players entered the floor in their jerseys to smoke and lights, carrying the Stanley Cup they were passing around. Everyone from the team is still alive and only one player was not in attendance. From what I have heard Wayne Gretzky organized the reunion, and someone said that when Wayne Gretzky calls you and tells you that there is a reunion in place, you attend. Only Kevin McClelland was not in attendance as he had coaching duties in the CHL to obligate him.
The team and the coaches sat on the stage and told many stories while video highlights of the season were played. Everyone was having a lot of laughs on a reunion that seemed to be a very fun night. Coach and general manager Glen Sather told a story about how after they won the cup he got a call in the middle of the night one evening. A player told him that they cup had fallen out of the back of a truck. He asked how damaged it was. He was told that it was in pieces. He told the player not to say anything about it, and they took the cup to Freedom Ford in Edmonton and told them to do what they were capable of to fix the problem and make the cup look like nothing had ever happened.
Peter Pocklington, the owner of the team at that time, and the seller of Wayne Gertzky to the Los Angeles Kings who also tried to sell the team to buyers in Houston in 1997 was on the stage. He was recently in prison in the United Stated for fraud. He had been jeered by the public in this city for 25 years. No one was sure if he would attend the reunion and the radio and television was full of reports of public anger at his return. He was greeted to a standing ovation at the reunion that made him cry. He said, “Thank you Edmonton, thank you. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen…As you can imagine…” It was a nice touch from the city, but it is also evidence of how Canadians are too nice, to be so forgiving of a man whose greed sold off the greatest star to ever play the game…Greed that attempted to sell off their team to another city. And he was given a standing ovation.
As the 1984 Stanley Cup team was introduced, they were introduced by numbers. I found it surprising that there were no player with numbers between Andy Moog’s #35 and Wayne Gretzky’s #99.
The team talked about the bars they used to frequent at that time, Goose Loonies, The Sidetrack Cafe, and how they used to party there in the evening. Then Mark Messier introduced a band that used to be the house band at one of the venues at the time and that old band got to perform in front of their biggest crowd of their careers. The lead singer looked like the last 30 years were not easy for him. He had a couple of rows of black teeth and a skullet. It was very cool of the band to bring their old party band to the reunion.
Wayne Gretzky told of his retirement and how his father drove him to his first game he ever played. He had his father drive him to his last game the day he retired in New York. He said his dad spent the whole drive trying to convince him to play one more year. Wayne said, “I told him, ‘I scored nine goals this year. That used to be a good weekend for me. I think it is time to retire.’”
The whole team seemed in awe of Lee Fogolin, who gave up the captaincy to Gretzky. When Fogolin spoke, it was clear that he was a very quiet and shy man who was very uncomfortable speaking to 17,000 people in the arena.
Gretzky told a story about how when Fogolin, a defenseman, was traded to Buffalo and the Oilers were to play a game against them, Gretzky and Messier went to find Fogolin to meet with him before the game. Fogolin was limping and had a very bad knee. Gretz and Mess asked him how he was doing. Fogolin told them, “Tonight will be my last game. I will retire after tonight.” Gretz and Mess went to their dressing room and said to the other players, “No one is allowed to go down Lee’s side tonight when they rush for the net.” Gretzky told us and Fogolin, “Lee looked like Bobby Orr that night.”
There were more musical acts and Bill Bourne came out to sing ‘Mark the Moose’, a song he had written about Messier. Bourne looks like Tom Petty, had the sound of Bob Dylan and sings about Canadian themes.
Ron MacLean was the host of the event. He had Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri on the stage. Anderson was a 1979 draft pick and Kurri was a 1980 pick.
They were drafted in the same 69th overall position in both drafts, and both beat the odds by being superstars on the team. Ron MacLean presented the situation to the crowd and asked, “What are the odds of two 69’s back to back?” He seemed embarrassed by what he had said, but he had to have planned that before he said it aloud. Ron is always so straight-laced that it caught the entire crowd by surprise. In Kurri’s first game on Gretzky’s line he scored a hat-trick.
Defenseman and doctor, Randy Gregg spoke for a while and told a story about how there was a young player who was called up from the minors. The team had a practice and were sweaty and tired, taking off their equipment. There was a bin in the middle of the dressing room floor where the players tossed their jerseys so that they could be washed for future practices. The young guy tossed his sweater, missing the bin and it fell on the floor. Gregg said that the entire team stopped what they were doing and looked at the jersey on the floor. He said, “Messier got up and grabbed the player by the scruff of the neck and made him pick up the jersey to put it into the bin. He said to the kid, ‘That Oiler logo never touches the floor…’”
Tom Cochrane came out and sang ‘Big League’ and ‘Life is a Highway.’ The whole crowd sang along. The ambiance was great.
Messier got up to talk and had to stop as he was choking back tears as he talked. The seven hall of famers from the team got up to talk and stand around the cup; Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Glen Sather. Wayne had been praising the coaches wives and how they were like second mothers to the players as they were young boys. He talked about staying in Coach Sather’s house when he was an 18 year old kid. He said, “Anne was really nice to me, but you were an asshole.” It was the only swear word of the night, and it came from perfectly spoken Wayne Gretzky of all people, who has never said a bad thing in his life and always gives perfect and diplomatic interviews.
Sarah McLachlan came out to sing ‘I Will Remember You,’ of course. She still looks so good that the music was hardly noticeable.
Then, as Travis and I figure, someone from the team snuck in a video. It was of a very drunk Messier, wearing a tuxedo, on stage singing ‘Suspicious Minds’ at someone’s wedding, suspectably Wayne’s. It was funny.
So, the band came out and they played the song and Messier was brought to the microphone where he sang the song as a duet with two other singers. The washed up singer with black teeth from the house band who had preformed earlier wanted in on the action and joined in for the song.
The Stanley Cup was passed around to the crowd and then a group photo was taken of all of the players on the stage with their families. I wanted to jump the boards and join in the families heading for the stage but chickened out at the last second. Then I was very disappointed in myself for not going as it would have been pretty cool to be have been on the cover of Edmonton’s newspaper in the morning in the group picture with the 1984 Stanley Cup Oilers and their families. ‘Who is this guy?’
So, the reunion finished and I decided to jump over the boards and head for the stage at the end. Travis did not want to at first because we are not 22 years old anymore, but he decided to follow me. As I got to the front of the stage Glen Sather was standing there.
I asked him, “Slats, can I get a photo with you?” He said it was okay so I handed Travis my camera and jumped up on the stage. I told Sather they he built a team with my childhood heroes. Then I asked him, “Are you guys going to be having a big party at Kevin Lowe’s house tonight?” Sather, now general manager for the New York Rangers told me, “No, we play Columbus tomorrow night. I have work to get to.” I had Sather sign the Oilers jersey I was wearing. By this point several people had followed me onstage.
Mark Messier was at the back of the stage so I asked him, “Moose, can I get an autograph on my Messier jersey?” He signed it for me. I was wearing Karlee’s jersey. The Grant Fuhr was at the front of the stage so I had him sign the jersey. So, now Karlee has a Mark Messier autographed Mark Messier jersey, with Sather and Fuhr’s autographs as well. I will not be easy to give that back to her…
When Travis and I left the venue we were actually walking on clouds. We went to the house I am staying at in Bruderheim and drank six beer. What a night with our heroes…
A Night With Our Heroes
Edmonton Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup Reunion