Monday, October 24, 2016

Edmonton Oilers oldtimers grace the ice one last time together at the Heritage Classic - Farewell to 'The Great One' **

Story suggested by my grandson Sam:

WINNIPEG -- The Stinky One?
That might be pushing it, but Wayne Gretzky was not very impressed with his play in the 2016 NHL Heritage Classic Alumni Game at Investors Group Field on Saturday.
"I stink," Gretzky said, laughing. "I'm really bad."
Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers alumni teammates lost 6-5 to the Winnipeg Jets alumni on a penalty shot by Teemu Selanne in the final seconds, but one of the biggest attractions was seeing Gretzky on the ice playing hockey in public again.
He hadn't played in an alumni game since the first Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton in 2003, so watching Gretzky skate with his old Oilers linemates Jari Kurri and Dave Semenko was a thrill unto itself.
But Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 894 goals and 2,857 points in 1,487 games, did not get a point.
"Mark [Messier] went down and he snapped that first goal and went down and snapped the second one and I was like, 'Oh my God, he can still play,'" Gretzky said. "Nobody's thinking that about Wayne Gretzky."
He had a few shining moments when he made some great passes but the game Saturday was a difficult one for Gretzky, and he has no problem with that.
"It's hard going now when it's tough to tie up your laces," he said.
It's difficult to imagine any of Gretzky's legions of fans cared much about how he thought he played, or how the Oilers lost the game. Seeing Gretzky in an Oilers uniform, playing the game he helped take to extraordinary new heights, was reward enough. And hopefully those fans were paying attention to what was happening Saturday, because they may never see it again.
"I'm 56 in three months," said Gretzky, whose birthday is Jan. 26. "I'm not doing a road show, but that might have been my last game."

The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers face off during the alumni game at the NHL Heritage Classic in Winnipeg, Saturday, October 22, 2016.

This is a rivalry that spans more than four decades.
Before the teams joined the NHL, the Oilers and Jets met on the ice for the first time on Oct. 15, 1972, when they were franchises in the World Hockey Association. 

Back then, the Jets were the fan favourites, meeting and beating the Oilers twice in the playoffs before winning the Avco World Trophy three times.

The young players and the alumni players enter the open air stadium to a roaring crowd of fans eager to see their old heroes on the ice once more

In 1979, the two teams headed into the NHL as part of a four-team expansion.
However, when they joined, the hockey gods seemed to join forces with and smile upon Edmonton. During the 1980s the Jets made it to the post-season eight times. But almost every year, it was the Oilers that cut short any dreams of a championship win.

Edmonton beat Winnipeg in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987, and captured five Stanley Cups during that decade.

Mark Messier #11 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni salutes the crowd before taking on the Winnipeg Jets alumni
Messier greets Simpson of the Oilers
 Wayne Gretzky takes a circuit around the ice with a big smile to be back on his old turf ( or ice)
Wayne Gretzky (99) and Esa Tikkanen (10) get set to hit the ice together

And then there was 1990. This was the year when the Jets were leading the division semi-finals three games to one. The Oilers won game five and game six was tied at three goals apiece when the game was delayed — by popcorn.
“1990 will always live in my mind as the year some fan threw a box of popcorn on the ice,” former Winnipeg Jets’ owner, Barry Shenkarow said.
“Everything was going our way. If the fan hadn’t thrown the popcorn on the ice we probably would have beaten Edmonton that year,” he said.
The Jets lost that series in seven games and the two teams haven’t met in the playoffs since.

Does he look like he enjoys hockey?
Setting up for a shot

And so as the old rivals faced off  at the Heritage Classic– Teemu Selanne had cheers rain down on him from Winnipeg Jets fans. The Finnish Flash repaid them by scoring twice, including the winner with four seconds left, and adding three assists as the Jets defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in the 2016 Heritage Classic alumni game.
Selanne, who’s been retired for two seasons, claimed the victory when he beat goalie Curtis Joseph between the pads on a penalty shot.
Edmonton was leading 5-4 early in the third on a goal by B.J. MacDonald when Kris King scored his second of the game to tie it up in front of thirty-one thousand plus fans.

 Ryan Smith #94 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni shoots in front of Jim Kyte #6 of the Winnipeg Jets
Teemu Selanne #13, and young super star of the Winnipeg Jets alumni scores on Bill Ranford #30 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni
“You could see the difference of Teemu Selanne who just retired and the others who had been retired for a long time,” said Gretzky. Selanne had a five-point night and scored the 6-5 winner on a penalty shot. But the Oilers scored three straight in the second thanks to Craig Simpson, Mark Messier and Craig McTavish.

 Craig MacTavish #14 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni scores past Daniel Berthiaume #30 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni
Great shot Craig
Former Edmonton Oiler Esa Tikkanen (10) tries to get things going with Winnipeg Jet Laurie Boschman (16) during third period ...Just a mock fight, they were having too much fun
Former Edmonton Oilers coach Glen Sather, one of the older alumni, directs his team against the Jets during third period
Getty Images

All in good fun guys. Former Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky (99) and Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne (13) shakes hands after the Jets defeated the Oilers following third period

Old grandpa  #99 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni, Gretzky, takes a breather. ( By the way, he loves being a grandpa)

The rivalry between the long-time foes was in full force before the puck even dropped under overcast skies and a temperature of 11°C. Messier was booed when he scored by hard core Jets Fans.

The game time temperature of 11ºC was certainly better than the 30 degrees below freezing weather for the first Heritage Classic, the only previous game for the Oilers Alumni.
Craig MacTavish, who never wore a helmet in his entire career, played bare headed and Dave Lumley wore the same skates he did in 1994 when he shot the puck into the empty net to put away the Oilers first of five Stanley Cups.
Considering the Oilers won six playoff series against the Jets including five Stanley Cup wins, Edmonton players were well received in the introductions by about 32,000 fans.
Gretzky received a standing ovation. Only Selanne matched his ovation when the Jets were introduced introduced. Winnipeg fans screamed as he entered the rink.
The Heritage Classic, born in Edmonton 13 years ago, turned out to be another significant slice of Canadiana. The players and the fans were high on the excitement and the emotions.
“For me, personally, it was just the incredible passion across Canada. It doesn’t matter where you go, where you stop at or where you play,” said Messier. “Winnipeg was just another reminder of the passion, the respect and the relationship between players past and present.
“This is a long way away from my first shift in the old Winnipeg Arena when I was 17 with the Indianapolis Racers. Coming here all these years later and seeing where hockey has come -  to be able to fill this stadium with players who are long past their prime and feel the love and respect of the fans, it’s just a testament to the people here in Canada in general.”
“There was nothing negative at all about this day,” said Gretzky. “It was a tremendous crowd for an alumni game. You can tell how big hockey is here. The hockey playing obviously, wasn’t the greatest (smiling), but the game ended the way it should end with the best player on the ice on the home team scoring the big goal.”


  1. Tell Sam we enjoyed this post very much . We also love hockey , Matter of fact , Mark Messier is kind of a legend in these parts . He visited here about 10 or more years ago as a honored guest and speaker for the 'Mudbugs' , (our hockey team)).
    I had the privilege of meeting him and he had all his teeth .
    A lot of our players are missing teeth Hahahaha!!!
    Great post
    Love PIC

  2. I certainly will tell him. He will be pleased. His Uncle Steve grew up in the same neighborhood as Gretzky, knew him, and they played at the same rink together. Sam is proud of that.
    You don't meet many hockey players that have all their teeth. Steve was lucky but Phil had his front teeth knocked out. I think Steve still plays on the local old timers team. Where are the Mudbugs these days?
    Luv PIC

  3. The Shreveport Mudbugs played the Topeka Roadrunners here on the 23rd home game . The Mudbugs will play the the Corpus Christi Icerays in Texas on October 27/28/29 .

    Love PIC


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