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Lighting The Lamp: Oil Spill

You might recognize the "Lighting the Lamp" feature from the Game Time paper. Rick Ackerman has been nice enough to send over his column for the website. "Lighting the Lamp" will be featured every home game day.

Cropped photo of a page in the Indianapolis Racers program featuring a very young Wayne Gretzky
Rick Ackerman

Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman

One of the best offensive juggernauts in the NHL is here tonight to play some shinny with the St. Louis Blues. Yes, the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers are in town, led by the newest, brightest star in the NHL galaxy, Connor McDavid. Dubbed McSavior by adoring fans, McDavid currently leads the NHL with 39 points, and there is hope in the Big E that he can lead the Oilers to the promised land of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Perhaps a more apropos nickname would be McMoses, no?

Edmonton has a rich hockey heritage dating back to 1907 with the formation of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association. In 1910, the Edmonton Eskimos were founded as an amateur club, eventually joining the professional Western Canada Hockey League in 1921 and winning that league’s championship in 1923.This entitled them to play the NHL champion Ottawa Senators for the Stanley Cup (national) championship in March of that year. Ottawa won both games, 2-1 in overtime and 1-0. Of special note is that Edmonton had 68 shots on goal against winning goaltender Clint Benedict in the second game (defenseman King Clancy played two minutes in goal when Benedict was serving a penalty, something goalies did back then), while Ottawa registered 48 shots, scoring once.

There was also a women’s team in Edmonton, dubbed the Swastikas, founded in 1916. Of course before World War II, the swastika was a universal religious symbol and sun sign. The more famous Fernie (British Columbia) Swastikas, mostly schoolteachers and bank clerks, won the Alpine Cup at the Banff Winter Carnival in 1923. There was a women’s team in Windsor, Ontario that also wore that now-shunned symbol on their hockey jerseys.

In 1945, senior amateur hockey returned to Edmonton as the Flyers took the ice, winning the Allan Cup (the national amateur trophy) in 1948. The Flyers would later play in the Western Hockey League into the early 1960s. Edmonton has also hosted a junior team, the Oil Kings, since the early 1950s.

The Edmonton Oilers were born in 1971 as a founding franchise in the World Hockey Association and began play in 1972. When the WHA disbanded in 1979, the Oilers were drafted into the NHL as an expansion team. Led by a young Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton qualified for the playoffs its first 13 consecutive seasons, winning the Cup in 1984, 1985, 1987 and1988. The Oilers also won in 1990 without the Great One. However, starting in 1993, the Oilers missed postseason play for four consecutive seasons, but then qualified for seven of the nine following seasons, culminating in a Finals loss to Carolina in seven games in 2006. Edmonton has not been in the playoffs since then.

The Oilers and Blues have never met in postseason play.

Before Edmonton ever played an NHL game, GM Larry Gordon (who obtained Gretzky from the WHA Indianapolis Racers) made a trade with St. Louis, acquiring forward Tom Roulston and defenseman Risto Siltanen (a ten-year veteran) for defenseman Joe Micheletti in August 1979. Micheletti played three seasons in St. Louis, scoring nine goals and 54 points in 137 games before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for Bill Baker in 1981.

In October 1986 winger Todd Ewen joined the Blues in exchange for defenseman Shawn Evans. Ewen played parts of four seasons in St. Louis, registering ten goals and 17 points in 124 games. He also accumulated 493 penalty minutes. He is best remembered for his many fights with Detroit enforcer Bob Probert. Perhaps the second fight of Ewen’s career was his best as he knocked Probert out with one punch. Ewen was traded to Montreal in 1990 and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 1993. After his retirement due to a knee injury in 1997, Ewen returned to St. Louis where he coached hundreds of young hockey players in the Chesterfield Hockey Association, Lafayette High School and the St. Louis University Billikens Men’s Ice Hockey Club. Ewen passed away in September 2015, leaving behind many saddened and sorrowful students and fans.

In August 1995 a rather unpopular trade saw the Blues deal goaltender Curtis Joseph and the rights to burly winger Mike Grier to the Oilers for two first-round draft choices. The 1996 pick was used to draft center Marty Reasoner, who was traded (along with Jochen Hect and Jan Horacek) back to Edmonton in June 2001 for center Doug Weight (and the forgotten Michel Riesen). Los Angeles obtained he 1997 first-round pick in a separate transaction with St. Louis. And then in January 1996 defensemen Igor Kravchuk and Ken Sutton became Blues, while defensemen Donald Dufresne and Jeff Norton became Oilers.

Another extremely disliked trade in August 2005 resulted in Chris Pronger being dealt to Edmonton for defensemen Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. Blues Nation will never forgive this salary dump by a former owner (who, ahem, shall remain unnamed). Still another unwelcome salary dump saw David Perron being sent north for Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round draft choice (Ivan Barbashev) in July 2013. But all has been forgiven as Perron was re-signed as a free agent earlier this year.

The Blues and Oilers swapped Swedish goaltenders in February 2016. Neither one is currently with St. Louis or Edmonton. Can you recall their names? You can remember Nail Yakupov coming to St. Louis in October of this year for winger Zach Pochiro and a conditional third-round draft pick, which, if the Yak scores 15 goals for the Blues this season, becomes a second-round pick in 2018.

It’s Monday night. It can only be hoped the Blues do not need a miracle to snatch two points away from the Oilers tonight.