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.”
BLOGS & FEATURES
- BLOG: Kurri returns for Farewell Rexall
- BLOG: Markkanen remembers the sound of Rexall
- BLOG: Fuhr recalls the “family atmosphere”
- BLOG: Tuesday updates
- OILERS TODAY | Goodbye Coliseum
- PRACTICE RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- PRACTICE RAW | Connor McDavid
- PRACTICE RAW | Taylor Hall
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
- FAREWELL REXALL RAW | Jari Kurri
- FAREWELL REXALL RAW | Grant Fuhr
- FAREWELL REXALL RAW | Jussi Markkanen
With only 24 hours to go before the Farewell Rexall Place festivities commence, some notable Oilers alumni met at The Westin early Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s always nice to be back here,” Jari Kurri commented on returning to Edmonton.
With his banner hanging from the Rexall Place rafters, Kurri will be one of many notable Oilers alumni returning to the arena tomorrow, to bid farewell to this historic building.
Winning five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, Kurri recalls many fond memories inside Rexall Place.
When asked what one of his favourite memories was from playing, Kurri smiled, “[Winning] the first Stanley Cup always comes to mind.” He later added, “[Wayne] Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games — nobody believed that could happen!”
Kurri also spoke on Rogers Place, saying, “What a place! It is going to be an amazing building [that] the fans will enjoy and the players will enjoy!”
“Maybe they can have a fresh start and build their own history in that building”
Instantly, Markkanen jumped to Game 6 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“The fans are yelling… you get goose bumps talking about it!” Markkanen said. “Not just the building, [but] the whole city was behind us. Felt like the whole city was inside that building. You couldn’t hear your own voice on the ice!”
With idols like Kurri, coming from Finland, Markkanen added, “It was a dream come true to come and play in Rexall.”
Looking at the current team, Markkanen is excited to watch the Oilers move into Rogers Place.
“There’s a lot of young talent on the team right now.”
Fuhr, selected eighth overall in the 1981 NHL Draft by Edmonton, went on to win four Stanley Cups with the Oilers.
“A lot of great memories in the old building,” Fuhr told the media, while reminiscing on the playoff series games.
Fuhr fondly recalls the excitement that was shared between the team and the fans, “Being a small-market team, you’re closer to your fans than you would be in a big city.”
When asked what helped the team perform so well during those years, Fuhr said, “The biggest thing we had was a family atmosphere… they are great friendships that have lasted forever.
“The guys liked spending time together, I think that’s what made us such a good team.”
The move from Rexall Place to Rogers Place will be the second move that Fuhr sees, remembering the move from Edmonton Gardens to Northlands Coliseum in 1974.
The Oilers are on the ice for their final practice at Rexall Place.
There aren't any changes to the participants.
Stay tuned for full coverage and interviews from the players and coach Todd McLellan.
Alumni 31-35 | Alumni 36-40 | Alumni 41-45 | Alumni 46-50 | Alumni 51-55 | WATCH: Farewell Rexall Place Series
The Oilers will host the Vancouver Canucks on April 6 for their final home game in Rexall Place, before moving downtown to Rogers Place in the fall. The post-game farewell ceremony will host more than 100 Oilers alumni in attendance. Each day leading up to that game we are announcing five alumni who are scheduled to attend. Here are today’s five, and this group contains a huge star.
- Join Gretzky and others at Churchill Square from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. MDT on Wednesday!
- Full Farewell Rexall night alumni attendee list
Joey Moss is one of the most well-known and beloved figures in the Oilers organization and in the Edmonton community. Moss, born with Down Syndrome, has worked with the team as a dressing room assistant since the 1984-85 season. He has been with the Oilers for four of their five Stanley Cup championship seasons. He helps clean the dressing room, assists with laundry and handles the towels and water for games and practices, also helping with the distribution of equipment. He is active in the community, including his support of a fashion show supporting the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society and “Joey’s Home” which is an assisted-living home for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Garry Unger ranks second on the list of consecutive games played in NHL history. His iron-man streak lasted 914 games. The Calgary, AB native played parts of three seasons for the Oilers between the 1980-81 and 1982-83 seasons. Unger finished a lengthy and successful NHL career having played 1105 regular season games, scoring 413 goals and recording a total of 804 points. Unger also played in 51 playoff games in his NHL career.
Kirk Maltbywas drafted by the Oilers in the third round, 65th overall, of the 1992 NHL Draft. Although he’d begin his professional career with the Oilers organization, he’s best known for his long run with the Detroit Red Wings. He played over 1000 NHL games in his career, including 164 games for Edmonton, scoring 21 goals and 17 assists.
Jussi Markkanen was a fifth-round pick of the Oilers in 2001. The Finnish goalie played 100-plus games for the Oil, most notably during the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Following a knee injury to Dwayne Roloson in Game 1 of the Final series vs. Carolina, Markkanen was thrust into action starting in Game 2. Backstopped by Markkanen, the Oilers came just one win shy of capturing their sixth Stanley Cup.
Two days from now, Oil Country will bid a final farewell to Rexall Place.
As the Oilers prepare to host the Vancouver Canucks, they have been working to regroup from Saturday night’s Battle of Alberta loss and make Wednesday a night to remember.
“It’s something that you’re going to remember for a long time,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. “Todd (McLellan) brought it up this morning, Winnipeg was playing their final home game last night and they really brought it, they won 5-1 against a playoff team and their fans were applauding their effort, like they should. That’s what we want to see from our team. It’s incredible what can happen when you play hard in front of these fans, they appreciate it. For us, I think it’s about holding us to a high standard even though we’re not in the playoffs. We owe it to each other.”
Oilers forward Jordan Eberle agrees with his teammate, adding there is a lot of pride in the organization for past and present players and that today’s practice allowed them to regroup for Wednesday.
“Guys are still playing for jobs, they’re playing for pride… they’re playing for a lot of things,” he said. “There should be no reason why that effort shouldn’t come out. We have a chance on Wednesday to feel good about ourselves and to finish well in this rink and give the fans something to cheer about, what they deserve.”
Todd McLellan was not happy following his team’s 5-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. The frustrating and “embarrassing” effort forced the staff to change tactics on Monday at practice. Instead of focusing on tweaking and teaching, the Oilers skated heavily and participated in high-intensity battle drills.
“Today is a disappointing day, in my opinion, because it was a day that we should have been using to advance our team game, polish things up in certain areas, and it turned into reestablishing a work ethic and holding players accountable for lack of work ethic in a game,” said McLellan. “The staff and the players, we get no enjoyment from that at all. That’s like sitting in front of my two boys at home and disciplining them for their inactions or poor choices. There isn’t a parent in the world who likes doing that, and that wasn’t a fun day. But we had to reestablish that there are some expectations when you put the equipment on to be honest at least.”
The Oilers opened practice with some hard laps around the ice, then participated in a drill where two players skate the length of the ice then shoot the puck. Then, the Oilers wrapped things up with a few battle drills including on where two players fight for the puck and then skate to centre ice, then turn and skate back.
“I was disappointed after reviewing the game again, and obviously the effort and the battle level, but even some of the game management situations,” said the head coach. “1:20 shifts, and then still trying to go on offence and complete disregard for back-checking. The day was spent trying to reestablish boundaries and what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
BLOGS & FEATURES
- PRACTICE | Monday at Rexall Place
- PRACTICE RAW | Jordan Eberle
- PRACTICE RAW | Taylor Hall
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan