About the Author

Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Lorna Schultz Nicholson is an award-winning author of many books for children and young adults. She has also worked as a television producer, radio host and rowing coach. Lorna lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and two dogs. For more information, visit lornaschultznicholson.com.

Books by this Author
Grit and Glory

Grit and Glory

Celebrating 40 Years of the Edmonton Oilers
tagged : hockey, sports, history
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After beating out the Flames, the Oilers pushed on, physically bruised from the intense and long series. Their next matchup was against the Minnesota North Stars, and even though they swept the series, it was fraught with a few wacky games.

For Game 1, Sather put Fuhr back in net and they won easily, 7–1. The second game was more of a struggle, a seesaw battle that ended 4–3. Fuhr had to leave with a hyperextended elbow and was relieved by Moog, early in the third period.

However, it was in Game 3 that things really started to go sideways. The Oilers took the ice at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, with Moog in net and the players eager to make it a 3–0 series. Dave Lumley and Wayne Gretzky popped in a couple early, giving Edmonton a 2–0 lead. Eight minutes into the second period, with the score now 2–1, Lumley took a major penalty for spearing. He made his way to the penalty box and could do nothing but drink water as he watched Minnesota score three goals during the power play, making it 4–2 North Stars. Seconds after he got out of the box, Minnesota scored to make it 5–2.

This turn of events could easily have taken the air out of the Oilers’ game, but instead they went on a tear, getting goals from Coffey, Kurri, Anderson, Linseman, Messier and Gretzky, with Gretzky’s goal coming off a penalty shot. The game ended 8–5. Although Minnesota put forth a tremendous effort in Game 4, the Oilers won the game 3–1 to complete the sweep.

The stage was set for a rematch with the New York Islanders. Because of the sweep, the Oilers had a nine-day break between series. Sather was always thinking ahead, looking for an edge. Over the course of the season, Roger Neilson had been let go by the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, so Sather gave him a call, asking him to help as a video coach. Both Neilson and Sather went over the Islander tapes and noticed that New York collapsed into the slot on defence. All five players would circle the middle and protect the net, forcing their opponents to hug the perimeter, making them take long shots, often at bad angles. So the Oilers came up with a new game plan. Forget the beautiful plays in front of the net, the players were told. The coaches wanted them to go wide, fool the Islanders, and then crash the net and get the dirty goal in front.

In the first game of this series there was just one goal. It came after the Oilers lost a faceoff, but Dave Hunter dug deep and rushed to the corner. Fighting hard to gain possession, he freed up the puck. Pat Hughes hovered nearby, nabbed the puck and rifled it off to Kevin McClelland.

McClelland used his quick release to whistle it past goalie Billy Smith. After losing four straight games to the Islanders the previous year, the Oilers finally won a game in the Stanley Cup final.McClelland’s goal was one of the most important in the team’s history so far, and to this day it remains one of the most significant in the franchise’s 40 years. To make things even sweeter, Fuhr stopped 34 shots for the club’s first Stanley Cup finals shutout since joining the NHL.

The team was in good spirits heading into Game 2, but that feeling was short-lived. The Islanders walloped them 6–1. The teams headed west for the next three games of the series. The Islanders weren’t happy to be in Edmonton for three games. “That was ridiculous,” Denis Potvin said. “We had to spend eight days in Edmonton. [The fans] circled our hotel with pick-up trucks . . . day in and day out.”

Back in Edmonton, the Oilers had a favourite watering hole, the Grande Hotel, built in 1904—but despite its name, it wasn’t known for its elegance or its upkeep. None of that mattered to the Oilers. “It was a place we went when we were losing,” said Paul Coffey. Being back in Edmonton, the Oilers met for lunch at the Grande. “You could feel the intensity,” Gretzky said. “We wanted to win.”

Although Gretzky was the Oilers’ scoring machine, Mark Messier was no slouch. The Oilers were trailing 2–1 midway through Game 3 when Messier grabbed the puck, flew down the wing, pulled a few moves to deke the defence and beat Smith on his stick side. The bench erupted, as did the fans. Edmonton scored five more unanswered goals to win 7–2. There was a tense moment with eight minutes left, when Fuhr and Pat LaFontaine collided and Fuhr went down. Moog took his place in the crease and faced only one shot the rest of the way.

“I’ve never heard a crowd like this for a constant 60 minutes,” said Messier after the game, in which he scored two goals.

For Game 4, the Oiler coaches kept the media in the dark about which goalie would play. In the dressing room, the players decided to be cagey as well. There were some things the reporters just didn’t need to know right away. For the players’ part, they focused on the game ahead, having lost enough to know how to win.

It was a solid game all around for the Oilers. Gretzky broke his 10-game scoring slump, Messier kept up his playoff pace and Moog picked up the win in net, stopping 19 of 21 shots.

The result was a duplicate of Game 3: a 7–2 win. Here were the Oilers, in just their fifth year in the league, and they were heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final with a 3–1 lead in the series.

The date was May 19, 1984. As captain, Wayne Gretzky stood up before the game and said, “All the individual awards I’ve won could never compare to winning the Stanley Cup.”

It was all he needed to say to get his team fired up. Everything else had been said, practising had been done, coaches’ orders had been given. Now it was time. The Oilers stepped on the ice, and the fans’ cheers echoed off the arena walls. Even the sound of the puck smacking against the boards during the warm-up couldn’t be heard.

The game stayed scoreless for 12 minutes, until Kurri passed to Gretzky, who raced down the right side and popped it past Smith. The announcer said the phrase, heard so many times before: “From Kurri to Gretzky . . . and he shoots, he scores!” The fans went absolutely wild. At 17:26 of the period, Kurri again passed to Gretzky, who drove home his second goal of the night. The Oilers headed to their dressing room leading 2–0. They had posted little signs bearing messages of affirmation all over the room—with slogans like “The Drive for Five Is No Longer Alive” (referring to the Islanders playing for their fifth consecutive Cup) and “The Thirst for First Shall Be Quenched Tonight”—and as they sat there between periods, they read the notes and talked about how they could win.

Thirty-eight seconds into the second period, Ken Linseman scored a power-play goal to put the Oilers up by three. The fourth goal came on another power play, this time from Kurri. In the third period, the Oilers got a bit of a scare when LaFontaine scored a pair of goals just 22 seconds apart, bringing the Islanders to within two with 19 minutes to go. Regrouping on the bench, the boys dug deep. As the end of the period drew near, the Islanders, desperate for a couple of goals, pulled their goalie.

The fans were now standing, cheering nonstop. Dave Lumley, a role player who had been with the Oilers since 1979–80, ended up on the ice for the final couple of minutes. Lumley described how that came to be, and laughs when he thinks about it now. “So when they pulled their goalie and Slats is looking around on who to go on, I stood up, rattled the gate, looked at him and he looked at me. ‘Lummer, you’re on the ice.’”

He raced out, and the puck got loose and ended up on his stick. Lumley took a shot, firing the puck towards the empty net. When it hit the mesh, the fans went crazy. To this day, Lumley says, “My favourite memory is the empty-net goal that clinched the first Cup.”

The roar of the crowd almost blew the roof off Northlands Coliseum. The Oilers had delivered on Pocklington’s Stanley Cup pledge, right on schedule. People screamed until their voices were hoarse. They threw orange and blue balloons and sent streamers dancing through the air, all of them landing on the white ice. They watched as the team swarmed the Cup, and their cheering intensified when the captain, Wayne Gretzky, hoisted that Stanley Cup over his head. (He almost dropped it, too, because he didn’t realize how heavy it would be.) Mark Messier accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, swiping his eyes to bat away his tears. The noise seemed to penetrate every centimetre of the Coliseum. Players hugged—they had all played their part. Strong play, a tremendous work ethic and timely contributions from Don Jackson, Dave Lumley, Charlie Huddy, Pat Hughes, Randy Gregg, Rick Chartraw and Pat Conacher all culminated in this moment.

Broadcast crews dragged camera and microphone cords everywhere. Family members embraced. The players skated around with the Cup, trying to touch it over and over. They took turns holding the precious Cup, the one they’d fought so hard for. When the festivities on the ice were over, the Oilers went back to the dressing room and the party continued, with Randy Gregg drenching everyone with champagne and Messier still crying.

When the fans had finally left the building, the players remained in the dressing room with Sather, the rest of the coaching and management staff and the Stanley Cup.

The boys pointed to the Cup.

“What do we do with it?” they asked.

Sather shrugged. “You won it. You take it.”

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Home Ice

Home Ice

Canada's 2010 Men's Olympic Hockey Team Guide
tagged : hockey, olympics
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Just Three

Just Three

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