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Sports Oil Spills: 'Glory days' Oilers celebrations deserved, necessary

01:07  15 february  2018
01:07  15 february  2018 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

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110117-no_object-5362373-gretzky_1985_all-W.jpg: <span style=Yesterday's Oilers deserved — and continue to deserve — to be recognized." src="/upload/images/real/2018/02/15/110117-no-object-5362373-gretzky-1985-all-w-jpg-span-style-font-size-13px-yesterdays-oilers-deserved_919913_.jpg?content=1" /> © Journal File Yesterday's Oilers deserved — and continue to deserve — to be recognized.

Last weekend’s series of events celebrating the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers as the greatest National Hockey League team of the last century — voted on by fans last year as a part of the league’s centennial — were welcomed and followed by many fans in the city, culminating in a special evening that attracted a sold-out crowd of about 14,000 Sunday night at Rogers Place.

Front and centre were the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Glenn Anderson — all Hockey Hall of Famers who have had their jersey numbers retired by the team.

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They joined teammates from the fabled ’84-85 squad that went 12-0-3 to start the season on its way to a 49-20-11 mark and, of course, a Stanley Cup triumph, losing just three playoff games along the way. A special team, indeed.

Sunday’s celebration came on the heels of other such ceremonies in the relatively recent past.

There was the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Cup-winning squad in October 2014, the hoisting of general manager/head coach Glen Sather’s banner to the Rexall Place rafters in December 2015, the final game at Rexall in April 2016 and, to a lesser degree, the opening of Rogers the following October.

These all came in the wake of fêtes stretching back almost 20 years, starting with the retirement of Gretzky’s No. 99 in the fall of 1999 and followed by events to honour Kurri’s No. 17 (2001), Fuhr’s No. 31 (2003), Coffey’s No. 7 (2005), Messier’s No. 11 (2007) and Anderson’s No. 9 (2008), not to mention 2003’s memorable Heritage Classic.

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Some people think such ceremonies to honour these men and teams have come too often, especially considering the Oilers have iced just one playoff team since 2006, and that perhaps the team should focus their efforts more on the fortunes of today’s team. 

You could argue money to fund ‘glory days’ parties could be better spent on more or better scouting, management and/or coaching efforts, sure, but at last look, the Oilers already employ a sizeable army off the ice. And besides, when the latest night of honour sells out well before the date, it’s hard to argue fans in Edmonton are tired of such pageantry.

Besides, how else do you go about giving kudos to Oilers players and teams that are among the best of all time, right up there with any deployed by the likes of the hallowed Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders et al? If anything, the 30th anniversary of the first Cup win in ’84 should’ve come five years sooner so it could’ve been a silver celebration instead. And like you’re going to vacate Rexall/Northlands Coliseum without some sort of Oilers-themed sendoff.

Whether the modern-day Oilers are trolling the bottom of the standings or soaring at the top of the NHL heap, yesterday’s Oilers deserved — and continue to deserve — to be recognized.

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