Sather says goodbye to Edmonton
It's the end of an era in Edmonton. After 25 years, Glen Sather said goodbye to the Oilers, resigning as the team's general manager and president.
At a press conference at the Skyreach Centre in Edmonton, Sather cited irreconcilable differences with the Oliers' 37-member ownership group as the reason for his departure.
"When you got a collection of 37 people with different personalities and different goals, changes are going to happen," explained a confident and composed-looking Sather.
"It doesn't mean that somebody's right or somebody's wrong, it just means it's time to part ways," he said.
According to reports, Sather didn't get along with Cal Nichols, the chairman of the Edmonton Investors Group. The group has owned the Oilers since the spring of 1998.
Nichols' said that, in part, Sather's falling out with the Oilers "boils down to money."
Apparently, the ownership group wouldn't meet Sather's demand of an upgraded team payroll for next season.
"We just felt it was in both our best interests to cut it off clean," Nichols said.
Despite rampant speculation that he is leaving the Oilers to join another team, Sather says doesn't have any offers.
"I don't have any plans to do anything else," said an emphatic Sather. "It's the first time since I was 16 years old that I've been unemployed."
Sather, who said he thought he'd retire an Oiler, said the franchise was in good hands, and surprisingly, didn't rule out a possible return to Edmonton.
"If certain things happen in (Edmonton) I would be very happy to return to this organization, and I would be happy to live here as well," said Sather.
Sather wouldn't elaborate on the conditions that would facilitate his return.
Considered among the best GMs and coaches in NHL history, the cigar-chopping man known as Slats has been with the Edmonton organization since they joined the NHL in 1978.
Sather was instrumental in bringing together names like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr, and forging them into one of the NHL's greatest dynasties. Sather's Oilers redefined offensive hockey in the 80s, winning five Stanley Cups.
Forced by mounting financial pressure, Sather, the Oilers' mastermind builder, also presided over the team's dismantling.
In the summer of 1988, with the Oilers still celebrating their latest championship, then-owner Peter Pocklington orchestrated one of the most shocking trades in NHL history, shipping Gretzky -- the world's best player and Canada's favourite son -- to the big market Los Angeles Kings. At press conference to announce the deal, Sather sat next to a teary-eyed Gretzky as he said goodbye.
The Oilers would win one more Cup without Gretzky, but the writing on the wall was clear for the small market franchise. Others would soon follow Gretzky out of Edmonton.
Athough the Oilers never again tasted championship glory, Sather managed to keep the team competitive by mixing young talent and strong leadership.
In his later years in Edmonton, Sather was at the forefront of efforts to control escalating player salaries and keep hockey in Canadian markets.
Sather leaves the Oilers with a lifetime regular season record of 464-268-110 and a 89-37 record in the playoffs.
Sather was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders category in 1997.
Oilers' management has already talked to head coach Kevin Lowe about assuming Sather's role as team GM.