SUMMER OF ’83

Since the boys of winter have decided to lock the game away, it gives us some free time to look back on a simpler time when men were men and money took a back seat. :-)

The Oilers lost 4 straight to the Islanders in the spring of 1983, but they were already an outstanding team and actually played well in the 4 losses to the Islanders.

For Oilers fans it was only a matter of time, and yet until your team wins Stanley it isn’t official (ask Canucks fans today. Or yesterday. Or 1975). The 82-83 Oilers scored at will, but the 70-71 Bruins had done the same and fallen short.

For this Oiler fan–on his honeymoon the day after the Islanders raised Stanley–an article in the Hockey News struck a nerve and is an item I have had in my possession since then. In an article called ‘On the Contrary’ Fischler compared the Islanders victory over Edmonton in 1983 to the Battle of Britian and the Battle of Midway, with the Islanders representing Churchill and America, respectively.

  • Fischler: There are those who believe that someday the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup. Do not believe it. As long as Glen Sather runs the Oilers, they can be stopped. Wayne Gretzky is Ted Williams–a winner but not a champion. That’s an important distinction. Williams has no World Series ring and Gretzky–with all of his style and grace–may never have a Stanley Cup ring. It (a SC) may never come if Gretzky persists in taking the dives and then bawling at the officials. Nor will it come if the Oilers play the same guttersnipe hockey–Gretzky, Kurri and a few other clean ones excluded–played by their glory-less leader when he was tramping around the NHL.

Sather entered the summer in need of a strong, gritty C (they had traded Laurie Boschman for Willy Lindstrom at the deadline. A good trade, but it left them weakened up the middle) and more toughness and experience on the wing.

Among the major stories that summer? Paul Coffey was apparently off to Montreal for Doug Wickenheiser and Gilbert Delorme, and another young member of the blue was possibly on his way out of town.

The Oilers would sign Lowe to a 4-year deal in early September of that year, at what was reported to be in excess of $150,000 per season.

The lineup the 1983 playoffs didn’t need a lot of tinkering:

  • Goal: Moog (16); Fuhr (1)
  • Defense: Coffey,  Lowe, Gregg, Fogolin, Jackson (all 16); Huddy (15); Gary Lariviere (1)
  • Center: Gretzky, Linseman, Tom Roulston (all 16); Ray Cote (14); Don Nachbaur (2); Garry Unger (1)
  • Left Wing: Hunter (16); Lindstrom (16); Messier (15); Semenko (15); Jaroslav Pouzar (1)
  • Right Wing: Kurri, Anderson, Pat Hughes, Dave Lumley (all 16)

My memory of that era had some of the wingers playing C (Messier, Hughes) and Roulston and Cote may or may not have played center. I do know the C’s were 99, Linseman, Boschman and Roulston before Sather traded Boschman.

The Oilers had several hopefuls, the skilled men (Habschied, Summanen) and some toughness in the system but nothing immediate to help fix the holes where the rain comes in. They entered the summer with two well regarded goalies, 6 pretty good to stellar defenders and the heart of the offense that would bring Stanley to town 5 times. The Oilers made a move at the deadline (Lindstrom) to add some help on the wings but looked in-house for other solutions.

Up next: opening night 83-84, a flurry of signings that are similar and ineffective, a small trade that brought big results and a position change that unleashed a fury that would punish NHL teams for over a decade.

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53 Responses to "SUMMER OF ’83"

  1. Dee Dee says:

    Fischler, Ha ha.

    But i do miss that Guttersnipe hockey.

    83 OIlers were a perfect mix of skill and toughness, makes me realize how far away the current version is.

    Favorite Linesman memory was when he got boarded iand wound up in the penalty box. He then speared the guy by throwing his stick like an actual spear whilst in the Box…

    Lots of talent on the new squad. Serious lack of grit.

  2. Dipstick says:

    I remember Dave Hunter for one thing. I still have trouble believing he scored as much as he did. Different era, for sure. He excelled at killing the play. It seemed that as soon as he gained possession, he would skate the puck to the closest boards and freeze the puck so he could get a line change. It used to be easier to get a whistle that way back then. We used to joke about it a lot. We wondered if he would do that if he got a break away.

  3. jake70 says:

    OT – Schultz junior confirmed he will play in OKC if lockout, as per TSN.

  4. Chris Hext---formerly EasyOil--- says:

    Tyler Seguin locked up – 6 years @ $5.75m per season. Good deal for the Bruins, in my opinion.

  5. russ99 says:

    Love that press clipping. Eagleson was always a bit of a jerk.

    Had the Boys on the Bus not seen how the Islanders prepared for the Cup, they’d never have known the effort they had to make to win it,

    Looking for an ’81 type step up from the Oilers this year. We have the horses to do it, at least on the offensive side.

  6. VOR says:

    LT, I can remember how fun the Oilers were to watch in the early days of 83-84. Nothing seemed impossible for those guys. I thought they were easily the greatest team ever assembled.

    Then came a little blip (the trade I assume you plan to talk about). The evening after the trade I and a bunch of my fellow graduate students sat around the Power Plant and tried to figure out how we could use computer models to see if we could predict the outcome of these “marginal” trades. Could we reverse engineer Glen Sather’s mind and figure out how he came up with Don Jackson, Randy Gregg, etc.? It is worth noting we had been drinking. Some herbs may have also been consumed.

    I’ve been fascinated by predictive math ever since. That is because with the minimal inputs we had the science, the math, the psychology was all telling us that this particular “marginal” trade was going to fundamentally change the Oilers. Yet our brains refused to accept it. This was, after all, the greatest team of all time, adding an end of the roster player couldn’t really change such a juggernaut in any meaningful way. Could it?

  7. VOR says:

    Also, because I remain fascinated by predicting the future I am working on a very detailed analysis of the NHL draft from 1979 to the present. As part of that I am trying to work out a way of fairly comparing one draft year to another.

    I mean we talk about good draft years and bad draft years. The question is how do we measure their quality? I am hoping if I can figure out how to fairly rate the drafts of the past I can look for factors in those draft classes that foretold the outcome of that year’s draft and would thus let us evaluate each year’s draft in advance.

    If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.

  8. Dominoiler says:

    Whats up w the 1′s, 15′s, and 16′s in brackets alongside the ’83 roster player names?

  9. striatic says:

    Bohologo:
    I always loathed Stan Fischler, who made a point of taking gratuitous shots at the Oilers in nearly every column he wrote. Why the grudge?

    don’t know why he hated the oilers, but he REALLY hated Gretzky.

    when i was a kid, i remember reading a piece he wrote comparing Messier and Gretzky head to head and giving Messier the win.

    then later on there was stuff like this: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/29/sports/hockey-is-great-one-not-so-great.html

    and even today you’ve got stuff like this: http://twitter.com/StanFischler/statuses/218891821818982401

    insulting Gretzky is the guy’s bread and butter.

  10. blackdog says:

    Fischler is a tool. My memory of him as a kid? Every year he would predict the Rangers for the Cup. Every year.

    Just horrible.

    And saying Eagleson is a bit of a tool is like saying those Oiler teams were a bit of alright.

    A1 king of the douchebags.

    As for those Oiler teams, I remember when they came along and just being entranced by them and this is from a guy who saw a ton of the Habs dynasty of the 70s. The Oilers played hockey like it had never been played before. No word of a lie. Best team in history.

  11. DSF says:

    VOR:
    Also, because I remain fascinated by predicting the future I am working on a very detailed analysis of the NHL draft from 1979 to the present. As part of that I am trying to work out a way of fairly comparing one draft year to another.

    I mean we talk about good draft years and bad draft years. The question is how do we measure their quality? I am hoping if I can figure out how to fairly rate the drafts of the past I can look for factors in those draft classes that foretold the outcome of that year’s draft and would thus let us evaluate each year’s draft in advance.

    If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.

    Likely GP will be the best bet but there is so much chaos involved I’m not sure how you could ever find a predictive tool.

  12. Factotum says:

    Love that photo. (Didn’t somebody recreate it with Arnott, Bonsignore, Smyth and ?Kelly in the mid-90′s? Memory doesn’t always serve, but that would be funny to look at again.)

    These days I see echoes of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, and Anderson in RNH, Hall, Eberle, and Yakupov. The echoes are diminished by time and years of futility, yet bolstered by memory and hope and therefore unmistakable. Nothing will ever match those years of watching the town team skate into and through the NHL led by players of one’s own age. Those moments leave an indelible imprint on the heart and mind.

    Middle age always brings a wish to somehow recapture the glory and power of our youth, which is part of why we enjoy these stories so much, but I also have a sincere desire that in my lifetime another generation of young Edmontonians will get the chance to experience something akin to what we were able to. May this latest cluster be the one that makes it possible.

    Meanwhile, perhaps someone should recreate the photo again – you know, just in case…

  13. Dominoiler says:

    Once again,
    Anyone know what the 1′s, 15′s, and 16′s (in brackets alongside the ’83 roster player names) are supposed to mean?.. I still cant figure them out..

  14. Ducey says:

    Dominoiler:

    I believe thats the number of playoff games played that spring.

  15. spoiler says:

    My memory of that era had some of the wingers playing C (Messier, Hughes) and Roulston and Cote may or may not have played center. I do know the C’s were 99, Linseman, Boschman and Roulston before Sather traded Boschman.

    Sather was a master at messing with the lines. The Newbies railing on about the MacBlender thru the 00s had obviously never seen Sather coach in the 80s.

    You never knew what to expect. Even after a win.

    Remember in 88, Game 2 versus the Flames (*spits*)? Opening face off was Messier, Courtnall, and. Lacombe… and I don’t think there was a line set in stone for the rest of the game–sometimes double-shifting Gretz, sometimes Mess. Some shifts MacSorley would play D, some shifts wing.

    VOR,

    If you were drinking at the Plant in mid-80s, there’s a pretty decent chance I was one table over.

  16. Mr DeBakey says:

    Roulston and Cote may or may not have played center.

    Cote played Center.

    He was, I assume, brought up to replace Boschman.

    He was one of those feel-good stories – AHLer making good in the NHL play-offs.

  17. VOR says:

    Dominoiler,

    Games in the 1983 playoffs I’d assume.

  18. art vandelay says:

    Maybe the most amazing thing is that Fischler is still working Devils TV broadcasts at the age of 87.

  19. speeds says:

    For anyone who hasn’t heard, TSN is airing the 1987 Canada Cup finals over the next few days, game 1 is tonight at 5 or 530

  20. jake70 says:

    speeds:
    For anyone who hasn’t heard, TSN is airing the 1987 Canada Cup finals over the next few days, game 1 is tonight at 5 or 530

    Well this is pretty neat. Seeing 99,11, 31,9, 7 in their prime. 5 Oilers..lol.

  21. Lowetide says:

    I swear I thought it would go on forever. Man. youth.

  22. jake70 says:

    I hear ya LT, I am just realizing how fun it was to watch these guys. Damn.

  23. striatic says:

    Oilers versus Soviets – Highlights and Interviews – Super Series ’83

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz_Fbuar10M

  24. striatic says:

    Also curious what your “all time” oilers line-up would look like.

    here is my stream of consciousness stab at it :

    Tikkannen Gretzky Kurri
    Hall Messier Anderson
    Smyth Weight Hemsky
    Simpson Nugent-Hopkins Eberle

    Coffey Pronger
    Lowe Huddy
    Smith Souray
    Muni Gregg

    Fuhr
    Ranford

  25. Lowetide says:

    Gretzky-Tikkanen-Kurri
    Messier-Smyth-Anderson
    Weight-Simpson-Hemsky
    Lineseman-Hall-Grier

    Pronger-Huddy
    Coffey-Gregg
    Lowe-J Smith

    Fuhr-Joseph

  26. danny says:

    Watching the Canada cup on tsn is a treat.

    Its surprising that I can still identify every player by sight immediately. Haven’t seen/heard of Mike gartner in a couple decades almost, but as soon as I saw 12 flying through a seam it registered immediately.

    One thing though, for the life of me I can’t remember that Rochefort defenseman from the nordiques.

  27. jake70 says:

    LT, where is Tom Gilbert on D? ;-)

  28. DSF says:

    Lowetide:
    Gretzky-Tikkanen-Kurri
    Messier-Smyth-Anderson
    Weight-Simpson-Hemsky
    Lineseman-Hall-Grier

    Pronger-Huddy
    Coffey-Gregg
    Lowe-J Smith

    Fuhr-Joseph

    No Horcoff?

    The highest paid Oiler in the team’s history?

  29. Lowetide says:

    Hey the Oilers have had great centermen. Now, if Horcoff were a Canuck…..

  30. DSF says:

    Lowetide:
    Hey the Oilers have had great centermen. Now, if Horcoff were a Canuck…..

    Sedin

    Kesler

    Messier

    Linden

    Morrison

    And lets not forget the immortal Artem Chubarov. :)

    No Gretzky there but which other teams ever had a Gretzky?

  31. DSF says:

    jake70:
    LT, where is Tom Gilbert on D?

    Minnesota.

  32. Dipstick says:

    Lowetide:
    Hey the Oilers have had great centermen. Now, if Horcoff were a Canuck…..

    Bazinga!

  33. Lowetide says:

    DSF: Sedin

    Kesler

    Messier

    Linden

    Morrison

    And lets not forget the immortal Artem Chubarov. :)

    No Gretzky there but which other teams ever had a Gretzky?

    Yeah, it ALL came together when Messier hit the left coast.

  34. vishcosity says:

    DSF: Sedin

    Kesler

    Messier

    Linden

    Morrison

    And lets not forget the immortal Artem Chubarov.

    No Gretzky there but which other teams ever had a Gretzky?

    Where is Wellwood?

  35. Ducey says:

    Lowetide:
    Gretzky-Tikkanen-Kurri
    Messier-Smyth-Anderson
    Weight-Simpson-Hemsky
    Lineseman-Hall-Grier

    Pronger-Huddy
    Coffey-Gregg
    Lowe-J Smith

    Fuhr-Joseph

    It would be a great topic for a thread. I guess it depends how you want to count the 46oq5p-]kuteam (most pts with Oilers or all time, actual line up vs fantasy) but I beg to differ on a few of those.

    I’d toss Grier and add

  36. hags9k says:

    I’ll take Horcoff! Sorry to MacT and DSF.

    Gretz – Smytty – Kurri
    Moose – Simpson – Anderson
    Weight – Tik – Eberle
    Horc – Hall – Bucky

    Coffey-Gator
    Lowe-Huddy
    Smith- Staios

    Fuhr
    Ranford
    Cujo

    Sorry to head off in a tangent but for fun my all-time Foilers lineup.
    To earn a spot on this team you can be an all time bust, a jerk, or go to another town and THEN light it up but the mention of your name must make Oiler nation shake their heads is general disgust.
    Note S.Smith only player to make both teams!

    Comrie – Kelly – Schremp
    Bonsignore – Dopita – Whitney
    Arnott – Isbister – Satan
    Carson – Reisen – Peterson

    Pronger – M.A. Bergeron
    Cross – Souray
    Smith – Poti

    Conklin
    Passmore

    honourable mention to non-Oiler Foilers Dany fuckin Heatley, Michael Nylander, Peter Pocklington, Theo Fleury and Mike Modano.

    Who’d I miss?

  37. Lois Lowe says:

    My all-Oiler line up has room for Igor Ulanov because all teams should have an aging Russian defenceman.

  38. bill needle says:

    The Oilers traded for Kevin McClelland near the deadline in 84-85 and he’d be the gritty centre they lacked against the Islanders. He scored the winner in Game 1 of the finals against the Islanders, a 1-0 game that until then the Oilers always lost to Billy Smith.

  39. regwald says:

    I remember back sometime in the Islanders Stanley Cup run getting a hand me down hockey mag from an uncle of mine. Butch Goring on the cover with the headline – The Trade That Won the Stanley Cup. I don’t think it was even a new magazine – probably a couple years old by the time I got it. I remember it distinctly because after the Oilers acquired McClelland, I tagged the exact same moniker on that trade. No one listened to me at the time and some even after the 1st cup win some wouldn’t admit to the value McClelland brought to the team, but I thought the guy was awesome. In February of 1986 (was in my early teens) I received his crested Oiler jersey for my birthday.

    That guy had game, he had grit. And when you score a 1-0 game winner in the Island to start the series, you become a hero.

  40. regwald says:

    regwald:
    In February of 1986 (was in my early teens) I received his crested Oiler jersey for my birthday.

    Actually dates are messed up. Kevin McClelland was traded in December 5, 1983 (played 52 games for the 83-84 Oilers), so I must have gotten that jersey in Feb. or 84 or 85.

  41. oilswell says:

    VOR,
    You might find value looking at the method for handicapping draft years by Dawson and McGee. I replicated their method a while back and it seemed pretty good if you play with it a bit.

  42. speeds says:

    Smyth-Gretzky-Kurri
    Nilsson-Messier-Anderson
    Simpson-Weight-Hemsky
    Hall-RNH-Eberle
    Damphousse, Oates

    Pronger-Huddy
    Coffey-Gregg
    Lowe-S.Smith
    Ruotsalainen

    Fuhr-Moog

    Oates is the only one that’s a cheat in the sense of not being at, or near, his best when with the Oilers, although a number of the other guys are arguably cheats in the sense that they weren’t Oilers for a very long time (Damphousse, Pronger, Nilsson, Oates again). Young guys are there based on projection.

  43. Kris11 says:

    If you can add guys who weren’t in Edmonton long (at least 1 game) based on great years elsewhere, I might add some of:

    Sykora
    Graves
    Courtnall
    Sanderson
    Dvorak
    Damphousse (mentioned)
    Oates (mentioned)
    Arnott
    Peca
    Ray Whitney

    Hamrlik
    Visnovsky (He’s a lock, IMO)

    Roloson and Essensa had long careers, too. But Fuhr, Moog, Cujo, and Ranford are already on top.

  44. asiaoil says:

    Tik-Gretzky-Kurri
    Simpson-Messier-Anderson
    Smyth-Weight-Hemsky (best of the post cup years)
    Semenko-Weir-Pisani (best fighter, best defensive forward, and Stan!)

    Pronger-Lowe
    Coffey-Huddy
    J.Smith Gregg

    Fuhr-Ranford (guys who won Stanley)

    The new kids have lots left to prove…..

  45. Kris11 says:

    I’m going to not pick any young Oilers like Hall and RNH, and I’ll pick guys based on their best season, even if not with the Oilers. I’ll try to counter for era effects, but whatever:

    Tikkanen-Gretzky-Kurri
    Simpson-Messier-Anderson
    Damphousse-Oates-Sykora
    Smyth-Weight-Hemsky
    Arnott, Peca

    Pronger-Vishnovsky
    Coffey-Huddy
    Lowe-Hamrlik
    S. Smith

    Fuhr
    Cujo (Brightest season, faded quickly)

  46. Lowetide says:

    speeds: No Tikkanen? Are you sure?

    kris: dammit! Forgot Lubo.

  47. Dominoiler says:

    thanks, Ducey and VOR..

  48. Reg Dunlop says:

    I can’t say anything about the 80′s oil that hasn’t been said. The Isles, however… Mike Bossy was the most dangerous sniper in league history, without a doubt. He was a threat to score even from behind the net. Brian Trottier was a great leader who did WHATEVER was needed. I saw him on a breakaway against Fuhr, who was great 1-on1, and he didn’t even attempt to shoot. He kept the puck in his skates and just ran Fuhr through the net, puck and all. I hated him but 30 years later I can finally respect him.

  49. speeds says:

    LT: Would probably take him instead of Oates, come to think of it, feels like it would capture more players in their prime in EDM, and a guy that’s more thought of as an “Oiler”.

  50. striatic says:

    hags9k
    Comrie – Kelly – Schremp
    Bonsignore – Dopita – Whitney
    Arnott –Isbister– Satan
    Carson – Reisen – Peterson

    Pronger – M.A. Bergeron
    Cross – Souray
    Smith – Poti

    Conklin
    Passmore

    Who’d I miss?

    Coaches : ]

    i even know one Oilers coach who had the audacity to wear an onion on his belt.

    granted, it WAS the style at the time.

  51. striatic says:

    also, in looking up all time great statistical Oilers, i kept seeing Zdeno Cíger’s 70 point season popping up before he vanishes from the NHL for 5 years.

    who the hell was this guy?

    granted, he played for the oilers during a definite lull in the attention i paid the team but he’s the only oilers player on any of the lists that made me do a double take.

  52. Mr DeBakey says:

    Esa Tikkanen – Wayne Gretzky – Jari Kurri
    Ryan Smyth – Shawn Horcoff – Ales Hemsky
    Craig Simpson – Mark Messier – Glenn Anderson
    Brett Callighen – Norm Ullman – Rusty Patenaude
    Charlie Huddy - Paul Coffey
    Al Hamilton – Kevin Lowe
    Steve Smith – Randy Gregg
    Bill Ranford
    Grant Fuhr

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