Edmonton Oilers fans honour dynasty days at greatest team celebration
'As the years went by, you know that you watched the best'
The Oilers of old were celebrated by former team members and thousands of fans at Rogers Place Sunday evening during the NHL Centennial Greatest Team Celebration.
The 1984-85 Oilers were voted the best NHL team of all time by NHL fans in June 2017. In its 100th year, the NHL asked fans to vote in an online poll for the top 10 Stanley Cup winning teams of all time.
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Most of the coaching staff and players from the legendary team were at the event with the exception of Charlie Huddy, who had coaching duties to attend to, assistant coach Ted Green who is in poor health, and the late Dave Semenko who died of cancer in June 2017.
The celebration was a tribute to the team — but also a tribute to the 1980s, as former players paraded around the rink to the greatest hits from the decade.
Wayne Gretzky led the pack, as they hoisted the Stanley Cup while Journey's Don't Stop Believin' blasted through the arena speakers (possibly alluding to the present-day Oilers). Hometown hero Mark Messier also got a warm welcome from the crowd.
Fans arrived early to get their hands on some Oilers' swag, including action figures, hats and dynasty jerseys.
Neil Upright was one of the lucky fans at Northlands Coliseum to watch the Oilers Stanley Cup win in 1985.
"It was amazing really. You didn't realize what a great, great team you were watching," he said, sporting an original 1984 Oilers hat. "But as the years went by, you know that you watched the best."
Upright voted for the Oilers in the NHL's greatest teams poll.
"It had to be them," he said. "They were too fast for everybody at that time."
Upright's friend, Chuck Cathcart, also witnessed the team's cup win. The team deserves the best-team title, he said.
"I was just ecstatic like everyone else," Cathcart said. "They were quite a hockey team. The most electrifying guy was Paul Coffey [with] the way he skated. The first time he jumped on the ice, I just said, 'Wow'. He was just flying by everybody."
Celebrating the dynasty years
In Ford Hall, the main foyer at Rogers Place, an excited Evelyn Colney, 90, waited with her 55-year-old daughter and 24-year-old granddaughter, to enter the arena.
Colney was sporting a 1984 Oilers satin bomber jacket.
The trio were among about 13,000 fans who got tickets in a selective draw.
"I thought they were wonderful, and I think they should jump in and help the team that we got now," Colney said. "Maybe we could get somewhere."
Former CBC television anchor Peter Mansbridge started the evening with opening remarks.
The 1984-85 team wasn't the only group of Oilers players that made the top 10 teams list. In total, Oilers teams appeared on the list four times.
At the end of the celebration, a banner in honour of the team was raised to the rafters alongside other championship banners and retired jerseys.
There was also a tribute to Dave Semenko earlier on Sunday as the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation kicked off the Dave Semenko Legacy Project.
All proceeds from Sunday's celebration were contributed to the foundation.