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When I first came to Edmonton to begin a career writing sports in this city, it was 1967 and only a few months after the Toronto Maple Leafs had won the Stanley Cup.
Five years later, the Journal decided to put this large lad on the Edmonton Eskimos beat and assigned me to a special project a couple months before training camp.
They wanted me to immerse myself in Eskimos history and figured the best way to do that was to assign me to produce a four-part series to fill the entire front sports page of broadsheet on consecutive Saturday’s about the legendary 1954-55-56 Grey Cup championship team.
For a month, I interviewed damn near every one of these ‘old’ guys who were the glory of their times.
Fast-forward to 2020.
It was 30 years ago this week, May 24, 1990, the Edmonton Oilers won their most recent Stanley Cup, and fifth in a span of seven seasons. How can those guys now be the ‘old guys,’ a full decade older than the ‘old guys’ from the football team I interviewed back then?
How can it be 30 years ago?
How can Randy Gregg be 64?
How can Kevin Lowe be 61?
How can Jari Kurri and Charlie Huddy be 60?
How can Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson be 59?
How can it be 30 years ago that Petr Klima came off the bench and scored the winner in triple overtime and the Oilers won their only Stanley Cup without Wayne Gretzky, and the only one that they ever won on the road?
New captain Mark Messier carried the Oilers on his back to get past the Chicago Blackhawks after eventual Conn Smythe-winning goaltender Bill Ranford, replacing the injured Grant Fuhr, had come up huge to inspire a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to get past the Winnipeg Jets back in the first round and get the Oilers back in the Stanley Cup final 11 months after Peter Pocklington sold Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.
Edmonton had only been in the league for 11 years and this was their sixth final.
Funny the way it worked. Going back for their sixth final in a span of eight seasons to these guys seemed more like the first one than any of the others to follow.
“This year is extra special,” Messier had said upon arrival in Boston.
“It’s so unbelievable. These kids came so far, so fast,” he said of The Kid Line of Martin Gelinas, Adam Graves and Joe Murphy, who had only played three games together before the playoffs. “They’re seasoned veterans now. That’s what’s so great. That’s what going through three series can do for a player.
“And Billy … Billy Ranford found out that all he has to do is be Billy Ranford.”
We thought we were there to cover the Stanley Cup playoffs, not the Boston Marathon. But Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final 30 years ago will always be remembered as the Boston Marathon.
And you knew right then that Petr Klima’s name would live on in history for the game he didn’t play, yet managed to score the winning goal.
It was the longest game in the history of the Stanley Cup final. At 1:23 a.m., with 4:47 left on the clock in the third overtime period, after 115 minutes and 37 seconds of Stanley Cup hockey, Klima scored the winner.
Klima, obtained with Murphy and Graves in a trade with Detroit for Jimmy Carson, didn’t get on the ice until well into the third period. I remember, when it was over, having asked the happy hero when exactly he figured he might have taken his last shift before that.
“About 10 o’clock. Maybe nine o’clock,” he said. “I don’t care about having my name on a game but I care about having my name on the Stanley Cup.”
Jari Kurri pretty much insured that would happen in Game 2. The Oilers didn’t practice the next day. They couldn’t have managed even if they’d wanted to.
“It’s going to take two days for our equipment to dry,” said Steve Smith. “We all wore a couple of different sweaters. We all changed underwear and socks at least three times. Everybody’s gloves were just sopping wet. It was tough to hang onto your stick.”
Kurri scored playoff goals 92, 93 and 94 of his career and added a pair of assists on his 30th birthday in a 7-2 win.
And, yes, the other day, he just had his 60th birthday.
Funny how it works. I remember those two nights in Boston vividly, not to mention the night the lights went out there two years earlier. But for the life of me, I can’t remember much about Game 3 and 4 in Edmonton except that the Oilers lost one and had to go back to Boston.
I remember Craig Simpson scored the Stanley Cup winner in a 4-1 win to put it away. But I particularly remember a quote from Charlie Huddy.
With a minute left Messier said the hell with it, and threw his gloves in the air on the bench and started hugging people while, at the other end of the bench, Lowe, Gregg and Huddy looked at each other and started laughing.
I asked Huddy what that was all about.
“Somebody said we’ve got 15 Stanley Cups between the three of us. I couldn’t help but sit there thinking I turned a mediocre career into a pretty good one.”
That couldn’t have been 30 years ago.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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