Hockey legends and tens of thousands of fans were in attendance at Rogers Place Sunday evening for the NHL Centennial Greatest Team Celebration.
The 1984-85 Oilers were voted the best NHL team of all time by fans in June 2017. In its 100th year, an NHL poll asked fans to vote for what they thought were the top 10 Stanley Cup winning teams of all time.
Nearly all of the coaching staff and players from the legendary team were in attendance with the exception of Charlie Huddy, who had coaching duties to attend to, assistant coach Ted Green who’s in poor health, and the late Dave Semenko who died from cancer in June 2017.
The celebration was a tribute to the team — but also a tribute to the 1980s, as the players paraded around the rink to the greatest hits from the decade.
Wanye Gretzky led the pack, as they hoisted the Stanley Cup while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” blasted through the arena speakers (possibly alluding to the present-day Oilers). Hometown hero Mark Messier also received a warm welcome from the crowd.
Groups of fans arrived early to get their hands on some Oilers’ swag with temporary edition action figures, hats and dynasty jerseys up for grabs.
Neil Upright was one of the lucky fans in attendance when the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1985.
“It was amazing really. You didn’t realize what a great, great team you were watching,” he said, sporting an original 1984 Oilers hat. “But as the years went by, you know that you watched the best.”
Upright voted for the Oilers in the NHL’s greatest teams poll.
“It had to be them,” he said. “They were too fast for everybody at that time.”
Upright’s friend, Chuck Cathcart, was also in attendance when the team won the cup, and said he agrees they deserved to win the best-team title.
“I was just ecstatic like everyone else,” Cathcart said. “They were quite a hockey team. The most electrifying guy was Paul Coffey [with] the way he skated. The first time he jumped on the ice, I just said ‘wow’. He was just flying by everybody.”
Celebrating the dynasty years
In Ford Hall, the main foyer at Rogers Place, one hockey-loving family waited to enter the stands in anticipation. Evelyn Colney, 90, was in attendance with her 55-year-old daughter and 24-year-old granddaughter.
The trio were among about 13,000 fans who received tickets to the event in a selective draw.
Colney dressed for the occasion, sporting an 1984 Oilers satin bomber jacket.
“I thought they were wonderful, and I think they should jump in and help the team that we got now,” Colney said. “Maybe we could get somewhere.”
Other Canadian greats were in attendance, like former CBC The National anchor Peter Mansbridge. He started the evening with opening remarks before the team made their entrance.
The 1984-85 team wasn’t the only group of Oilers players that made top 10 teams list. In total, the Oilers appeared four times on the list.
The 1987-88 Oilers with Mark Messier and Wanye Gretzky came fourth, the 1986-87 Oilers took the fifth position, and the 1983-84 Oilers were voted the ninth best team of all time.
At the end of the celebrations, a banner in honour of the team was raised to the rafters alongside other championship banners and retired jerseys.
The event was also a tribute to Semenko, with the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation kicking off the Dave Semeko Legacy Project early Sunday.
All proceeds from the event contributed to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.