Former NHL tough guy Dave Semenko had it all back in the early 80s
Former Oilers Kevin Lowe, Ryan Smyth also share memories of Rexall Place
Former NHL tough guy Dave Semenko had it all back in the early 80s. He was one of the most feared fighters in the league, he had two Stanley Cup rings, and played on a line with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
Semenko was eventually shipped to the Hartford Whalers, but he says his time in Edmonton at the old Northlands Coliseum was filled with some great moments.
He admits the game of hockey has changed quite drastically since then, when it wasn't uncommon for players to go for a smoke in between periods. And once that final whistle went, seeing a player in his stall enjoying a cold beer was a common sight.
"We didn't know about lactic acid, no one was on an exercise bike after the game. We just cracked a beer," joked Semenko as he talked to a group of reporters during the Oilers practice on Friday morning.
Semenko and many other Oilers alumni are expected to be in the old barn on April 6th, as the team plays its final game at Rexall Place.
Kevin Lowe will also be there. The former defenceman won six cups as a player, five of them with the Edmonton Oilers.
He, too, recalled some of the amazing memories from Rexall Place. For him the winning the cup in 1984 by defeating the powerhouse New York Islanders was a dream come true.
"The first is always the one that resonates the most," Lowe said. "That last week when we played those 3 successive games when it became apparent that the cup was going to be hoisted that night that's the highlight for me."
But one of the most magical moments came when his roommate at the time, Wayne Gretzky, managed to score five goals in one game to set the record for 50 goals in 39 games.
"Surreal, surreal, it was just surreal. You know 50 in 39 was just unbelievable," said Lowe. "We'll never see that again."
'We got fat'
While there were many highlights, Lowe says the shock of losing in 1986 after defenceman Steve Smith scored on his own net was a tough one to shake.
He tells a story about when he and teammate Paul Coffey were playing pool in a bar in Phoenix, Arizona, after the team was eliminated from the playoffs that year.
"The NHL playoffs came on and Calgary was playing," he recalled. "So Coff, when no one was watching, went around and pulled the plug on the big screen TV. So that's the way we felt."
"The reality of that series was we didn't lose the series because of one goal. We weren't as disciplined and I think it laid the groundwork for the following cups," Lowe added.
"We got fat, and we got loose and we lost the series, but that goal, a lot of people talk about it, but that's not why we lost the series."
The Oilers' last cup came in 1990, then it took the franchise 16 years to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Ryan Smyth was a pivotal part of that team.
The atmosphere in Skyreach Centre, as it was then known, was electric. Every bar in town filled with fans hoping for cup number six.
For Smyth, that spring was filled with many unforgettable moments.
One he'll never forget, and has the scars as a reminder, is when he got hit with a clearing shot by teammate Chris Pronger.
"We're in the heat of the battle, down 2-0 in the series, killing a penalty and I swooped in," Smyth recalled.
"Prongs had it and I just looked at him. All of a sudden [the puck] was just coming towards me and I just caught it at the last second.
"I think if I would have taken it straight on, it would have been worse but I took it just on the side, Obviously I was ticked off."
Smyth ended up losing three teeth on that play. But being the warrior he was, he returned in the third period to set up Shawn Horcoff in triple overtime for the game-winning goal. The Oilers would go on to beat the San Jose Sharks 4 games to 2.
Memories like these will be slowly trickling out over the next two and a half weeks, as the lead up to April 6th continues.
The Oilers last game at Rexall Place is against the Vancouver Canucks and will be televised nationally. There will also be a 90-minute special ceremony once the game is done.