G38 Oilers at Hawks

This is Phil Russell. He was a star as an Edmonton Oil King, was drafted by Chicago and enjoyed success in the Windy City. Edmonton’s connections to Boston (Sather) and Detroit (all the old time Flyers like Bucyk and Ullman) are stronger, but the Chicago-Edmonton hockey story intersects from time to time.

This lineup is from sometime between 1963 and 1965, because Len Lunde ripped it up in Buffalo in those two seasons. Lunde would still be remembered in Edmonton because of some strong years with both the Oil Kings and old Edmonton Flyers in the 50s and 60s. JohnMiszuk played two seasons with the Flyers and would have graduated to the Detroit system but they traded him to Chicago in 1964.
Gerry Melnyk (his name is spelled that way universally now) was a very famous Edmonton hockey player with both the Oil Kings and Flyers. He was Edmonton born and bred, and if you ask any old timer about Melnyk you’ll get a story or two. Guys my age won’t tell you about him as a player, but will pass along the legend of the 1969 entry draft–an entire league afraid to select Bobby Clarke because of a medical condition–and the moment when Melnyk (a Flyers scout) finally convinced Bud Poile to take a chance. Not a bad day for scout Gerry Melnyk, Bobby Clarke did okay in Philly.
Both Hillmans are in that game, plus Bronco Horvath and some fine coaches in Al Arbour and Don Cherry. Larry Wilson’s name is written in for Buffalo, he is Ron Wilson’s (Toronto coach) Dad who passed away in 1979. Larry’s brother Johnny Wilson (Ron Wilson’s uncle) passed away over Christmas.

I love these threads that tie the game together, always have. I wish our forefathers had documented hockey the way baseball’s lore has been so adored. Maybe it’s better, all these little threads that tie the game to communities and families and timelines. Maybe they wouldn’t be as special if everyone knew them.

But I do think it’s a shame that we don’t honor men like Johnny Wilson in the years after they pass from the game. Wonderful people touch this game and leave their mark. Len Lunde passed away over a year ago, and the things he did after leaving Edmonton were exceptional. There should be a place where we keep track of these men, tell stories, write them down and pass them along.

Oilers ripped it up in mid-November in a home game against Chicago. Hemsky scored early and then it was Mamma just wants to barrelhouse all night long. When they meet tonight it’ll be a case of both teams being quick change artists; the Oilers look like they were born on the bad side of the moon and Chicago fans are indulging in crazy talk about the 2012 Stanley.

The Oilers finally made a roster move, and it makes sense. Lennart Petrell offered this team a solid PK option early, but the 4th line is beyond bad. Adding Teemu Hartikainen is at least recognition that sending Anton Lander out with extreme role players Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk is not a plan.

I also think it shows good sense to place Hartikainen on the highest line possible tonight. Give the kid a whirl with some skilled men, maybe he’ll score a goal and have some chem. MAYBE he’ll help ignite one or two of the veterans, as they were a major part of the Oilers victory over the Hawks in November.

Beneath, between and behind there are some in house options for the Oilers. They’ve stopped plaiyng a clearly frail Ryan Whitney and the Hartikainen recall might be the start of something we’ll be telling stories about years from now: the day our beloved Finland gifted our Oilers with another wonderful player.

We could use a Phil Russell too.

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