Tonight is the night. The Edmonton Oilers are FINALLY playing a playoff game. Their first in an 11 year drought that ties an NHL record. First off this isn’t a hockey blog or any type of sports blog for that matter. There are many other Oilers, NHL, and other sports blogs out there that I follow that are way better at it than I am so I will let them have it for almost every day but today is special.
I have been an Oilers fan for as long as I have been alive. Yes, there was a stretch when I was a big fan of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks; mainly due to the movies in the 90s and the fact that Paul Kariya was and still is one of my favorite players of all time (I have a signed jersey of his hanging in my closet) but I have always loved the Oilers. I was born in ’87 so I never got to enjoy arguably the most talented teams in NHL history but I did get to hear stories of the glory days from my father. My first favorite player was Mark Messier. I just liked how he was a mix of high end skill and toughness. It kind of sucks that I only remember The Moose as Ranger (the ’94 cup especially) but it helps me relate to the dynasty era.
It was dark day for the few years after all the 80s legends left until we hit the era of Doug Weight, Ryan Smyth, Todd Marchant, Cujo, Bill Guerin and so on. The team barely survived not being moved to an American market like the Winnipeg Jets and the Quebec Nordiques, were one of the lowest budget teams in the league and were always considered a huge underdog in the playoffs but always put up one hell of a fight. This was especially true when it came to the series against the Dallas Stars. It seemed every year for quite a stretch they played each. Dallas usually won but went through a war to get that win.
My favorite memory of the Oilers isn’t the dynasty era or the ’06 playoff run; it’s game 7 of the first round of the 1997 playoffs vs Dallas. My second favorite memory is probably game 3 in the series where the Oilers were down by 3 with 4 min to go in the 3rd and they scored 3 quick goals to tie in and Kelly Buchberger won it in over time. The next 3 games were amazing and suiting it set up game 7 overtime. That overtime had 2 of the greatest plays in Oilers history. The first was when Curtis Joseph absolutely robbed Joe Nieuwendyk. Everyone thought that was the game and series. I don’t know how he got a across to make that save. The next happens a little bit after the ensuing face-off when Weight passes up the wind to a streaking Marchant who blows by the Dallas defender (who falls down), goes in all alone and blows it by blocker side on ex-Oiler goalie Andy Moog.
There was some other good moments along the way but the next great one was the 2006 run to the finals. The Oilers came in as an eighth seed and beat the President Trophy Winning Detroit Red Wings in the first round then went on to beat the Sharks and Ducks on the way to the final. As soon as Roloson got injured in game 1 of the finals vs the Canes everyone thought it was over for the Oilers but they made it all the way to game 7 and just came up short. It was heartbreaking. There was some great moments though. Ryan Smyth losing 3 teeth from a Pronger clearing attempt, picking them up off the ice, not missing much time and setting up the game winner in triple overtime was one of them. Roloson’s double OT save on Cheechoo in the same game was another. And how can I leave out Pisani’s shorthanded OT winner against Carolina.
They lost the Cup but there was still hope for the next season. Then Pronger asked for a trade and everything seemed to fall apart. It started one of the worst runs in sports history. They traded away a beloved Ryan Smyth and made countless other terrible trades and signings. Three first overall picks in a row gave Oilers fans hope but they were still just awful. It sucks that it was just pure luck that turned the franchise around when they won the chance to pick a generational talent in Connor McDavid. They actually started making some pretty good moves after that as well. (Maroon, Talbot, Kassian… etc.)
Now we come to game 1 of the first round of the playoffs vs the San Jose Sharks. It is actually kind of hard to believe it is happening. The crazy part is that they are actually the favorites in the series. I know I can’t wait to see what McDavid and Draisaitl have up their sleeve for the Sharks after and unbelievable year for both of them. It is going to be crazy. The city is going to be pure insanity. No matter how it all goes today is a fantastic day and I am going to enjoy it. Us Oilers fans sure deserve it after a decade of suck.