The Oilers have hit the ice for their final practice of the 2015-16 season, at Leduc Recreation Centre.
Darnell Nurse, who left Wednesday night’s game after taking a puck to the throat, is on the ice with the team. Benoit Pouliot, who has been out with a shoulder injury since March 1, is on the ice as well.
As @TheChrisWescott mentioned Darnell Nurse is on the ice and Benoit Pouliot is out there as well. Suffered shoulder injury Feb. 28th— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) April 8, 2016
The bottom six rotated through the first drills, but the top six have been as follows:
Per Bob Stauffer, the bottom six is likely as follows:
Gazdic-Lander-Cracknell are also skating.
“First of all I just want to thank everyone for a wonderful night,” said Oilers alumnus Wayne Gretzky.
As one of 160+ Oilers alumni, The Great One was all smiles as he took in the sight of a full Rexall Place bowl.
With too many memories to count, Gretzky was focused on living in the moment and saying farewell to an arena he called his home for 10 seasons.
“[Thank you to] The Oilers and all the players that came back and of course all the fans. Mark [Messier] and I were talking earlier — I don’t think there’s any other city where the fans would still be sitting here, I wish we could get out and play for them but we can’t do that anymore.”
“The Edmonton Oilers have won the Stanley Cup!” Iconic words said by Hockey Night in Canada Announcer Bob Cole.
The man responsible for announcing the Oilers first-ever Stanley Cup win, Cole was present at the Farewell Rexall Ceremony to share in festivities.
“I kind of fell in love with this group, these young Oilers, in ’83,” he said. “When they got all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in Long Island, it was a dynasty for the Islanders, and [the Oilers] lost in four games. I remember walking out with Wayne and Glenn and Paul and all the guys and everybody was just in silence, they were just bruised and tired and worn out.”
Cole witnessed (and announced) the Oilers heartbreak Cup loss but ever more exhilarating win the following year in 1984.
“I really fell in love with this team,” he said. “And we got together again the next year and they won their first Stanley Cup, the first of four that were won here (the fifth was won in Boston), in this old building that we’re saying goodbye to.”
Oilers alumnus Rusty Patenaude made his mark as the first Oiler to score 100 goals in an Oilers jersey.
“I just feel very fortunate being a part of this organization,” he said. “It’s been a classy organization… and I can see nothing but great things for the Oilers and their new building and I’m just proud to be part of them.”
The “Original Oiler” played four seasons with Edmonton in the World Hockey Association and said he’ll never forget his time spent in Oil Country.
“Edmonton was a home that felt like a home away from home. People just endorsed you and the fans were so passionate, they just make you feel like you were something every night.
Bill Ranford joined the Oilers in 1987 after he was traded from the Boston Bruins.
“I was living in Red Deer so I was a big Oilers fan so it was a huge honour for me,” he admits.
Needless to say, it’s a move the Oilers alumnus will never regret, having gone on to win two Stanley Cups with the team and make a lifetime of memories.
“It was a little overwhelming for me with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier and the legendary Grant Fuhr, it was a real honour for me,” he said. “I was excited about it and I spent 10 years here and this is a big family here. This is an incredible night and the fans here I can’t thank them enough.”
Blair “BJ” MacDonald is one of many Oilers alumni present at the Farewell Rexall Place ceremony.
MacDonald was the first Oiler to score a goal for the newly minted NHL team in October 1979 against the Detroit Red Wings.
“I had to be one of the luckiest guys in hockey having the chance to play with Gretz in my first year, we were a little bit of the underdogs,” said MacDonald.
“We came into the league and that first game here, I think the lead-up, the buzz in the city, and the warm up and the electricity in the building of that first game and we were lucky enough to pull off a win against an original six team, Detroit, it was just a great night.”
It was the first of many more to come and one that MacDonald says he’ll never forget.
“It’s a really good day to be the Mayor of Edmonton,” Don Iveson beamed, as he addressed the crowd at Churchill Square earlier this afternoon.
Nearly 100 Oilers alumni joined the Farewell Rexall Place celebrations beginning at City Hall, where they were recognized and applauded by thousands of cheering fans.
The pavement of Churchill Square could barely be recognized, as fans flooded the area in orange, blue, and white, with the hopes to catch a glimpse of some of their hockey heroes.
“It felt almost like a Stanley Cup parade,” Georges Laraque commented on the excitement, “This shows why we have the best fans in the world.”
Mark Messier agreed, “This looks familiar to 1984.”
“I remember coming to city hall and having the big gathering here, and thanking the fans, and here we are again in another big crowd — wow, what a powerful day today for so many people in the organization, in the city, and obviously the players.”
Ryan Smyth also addressed the crowd after receiving an extensive applause.
“It’s a bittersweet day… there’s a lot of memories, a lot of history in that building. But, in the same breath, there’s another one just a few blocks around the corner here, that many new memories are going to be made in.”
“Thank you to the fans, the media and the City of Edmonton.”
It seems as though the Oilers alumni continue to echo one another’s sentiments.
“Good, sad, happy — all the emotions that will be coming tonight for everybody a lot of people that put the uniform on, a lot of people that work for the team, a lot of fans that have been here from day one when it first opened, it will be quite an evening,” said Oilers alumnus Mark Messier.
One of 160+ alumni in attendance today, Messier was in awe of the number in attendance and how the building itself has made its mark in the heart of Oil Country.
“It’s amazing how a building can take on a life of it’s own,” he said. “All the great moments that were played here, one after another, I’ve seen my first concert here — Fleetwood Mac — back in the early ’70’s. Think about all the different — not only the hockey games — but all the other emotions and events that [have] happened here too. It’s going to be a powerful night for the city of Edmonton.”
A sold-out arena will see the Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks for the very last time at Rexall Place, as they close out the night with a final farewell ceremony that will feel like a blast from the past.
“I never thought — like many people — that the NHL would come to Edmonton,” said Messier. “And as a hockey player growing up, I never thought that I would ever have a chance to play in my hometown in the NHL. Both those things happened, and of course, being able to win and [be] part of the team that’s won five Stanley Cups in my hometown, it doesn’t get much better than that. So for me personally, it’s been a long journey seeing this rink built in the early ’70’s and all the moments in-between.”
“It will be emotional tonight,” said Oilers alumnus Jari Kurri, looking around and taking in his fellow alumni that surround him.
As Oil Country prepares to say their final farewell to the building that’s housed the Oilers since 1974, Kurri is right, it will be a very emotional night.
“A lot of good memories. There were a lot of records being made in this building, but the first that always comes to my mind is that first Stanley Cup and not knowing what’s going to happen and how everybody reacted — the players, the fans, the city,” said Kurri.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, the Finnish winger spent 10 seasons with the Oilers, winning five Stanley Cups with the team.
“Coming from Europe, I had no clue how much it meant with winning,” he admits. “I was shocked. People were hugging each other who they didn’t even know who they were. People were driving through the city in the cars and people were all over the place celebrating on the roof and everywhere. It was so much fun.”
As the Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks for their final game at Rexall Place, Kurri said it’s sad to leave it all behind but he looks forward to the Oilers future at Rogers Place.
“Life goes on and everybody is looking forward to the next new building. It’s going to be unbelievable.”
Long before the Oilers made Northlands Coliseum their home, and even prior to their NHL merge in 1979, they called Edmonton Gardens their home and were playing in the World Hockey Association.
It was there that Oilers alumnus Wayne Zuk remembers a specific moment between he and teammate Val Fonteyne.
“[Val] was 38 years old and I was 23 years old and we’re playing on the same team and I’ll never forget, Brian Shaw was our coach at the time, and prior to the warmup he says ‘Val, you’re going to shadow Bobby Hull tonight, and Wayne, you’re going to shadow Bobby Hull tonight,’” he said.
“We couldn’t figure out why it would take two of us to shadow Hull. And the answer to that question was, well, that’s because we could only stay on the ice for about a minute maximum and Hull stayed on three, four minutes as a shift. We figured out later we needed two guys to shadow him.”
It’s one of many memories Zuk says he’ll never forget and is grateful for the opportunity to be present for Oil Country’s final farewell to Rexall Place.
“The Oilers have gone above and beyond, I think, in hosting this event,” he said. “Even reaching back to guys who are older, who’ve never played in the NHL and were WHA guys — the fact that they would invite us and have us be a part of this event, speaks to how classy they are.”