The final game in Northlands Coliseum didn’t mean much in the big picture but it nonetheless brought a tear to my eye as so many family memories are wrapped up in the old barn.
I was lucky (and old enough) to have lived through and witnessed all the glory years of the storied Oilers franchise starting with their entry into pro hockey beginning with their entry into the defunct World Hockey Association and, then, their move into the National Hockey League and into Northlands Coliseum.
Not nearly enough attention has been given to the people who made NHL hockey in Edmonton possible…people like Bill Hunter and Dr. Charles Allard…and I guess that’s okay but we should all salute their vision and determination. Villains like Peter Pocklington and Glen Sather are not being given their due as an era in professional hockey comes to an end as the superstars they collected grab all the glory but, without them, there would be no legacy.
As a season ticket holder from the beginning, until the 2006/07 season, I am flooded with literally hundreds of memories written at the old barn but none is more vivid than May 19, 1984. It was my 34th birthday and old friend and prominent Edmonton lawyer Bob McBean and I were lucky enough to be seated 10 rows up from the ice surface to witness history. Many other memories would follow…Greztky’s 50 in 39…the Great One breaking Gordie Howe’s record with Howe seated in the row behind me and the run to five cups.
But most importantly, I have the memories of taking my sons, Robin and Taylor, to Oiler games and instilling a passion for the team that hasn’t faded despite the teams’ more than two decades of wandering in the wilderness.
My sons’ fandom is unwavering but I lost the plot when Kevin Lowe, in a venal and small minded fashion, decided to turn the screws on an all-time face of the Oilers, Ryan Smyth. Lowe decided to play hardball with his best player after signing a number of palooka to ridiculous contracts and his track record since then has proven how pathetic his stewardship of the team was for more than a decade.
Too much has been written about Lowe’s failures to recount here but his continuing involvement in hockey operations is not something that anyone who cares about the team should cherish.
If the Oilers are serious about forging a new era in a new arena with all the bright young talent they have, they must send Lowe and his toadys packing. Until then, the odiferous era of incompetence and mismanagement will not be wiped clean