As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to start the 2016-17 season in their fancy new downtown digs, it’s time we start looking back on the good times that were had at Rexall Place (or whatever it was called at any given time) over the years.
When you have a franchise that was once a dynasty in the NHL, there is no shortage of options when it comes to picking great moments. Indeed, you could compile a list of the 15 best moments at Rexall Place in the 1980s, and it would be an impressive collection of feats.
Today’s list will look at moments from the early 1980s, when the Oilers were starting to develop into the dynasty they became, and as recently as 2014, the dog days of the franchise. This list will include moments that were monumental for the franchise (Stanley Cup wins, big playoff games), as well as moments that had minimal effect in the big picture, but were memorable nonetheless.
Lastly, the list doesn’t include any of the negative moments, just the good ones. Believe me, there were a ton of negative moments to point to (especially in the past decade, but also during the dynasty days—I’m looking at you, Steve Smith). The list would have become muddled and confusing, and remembering Rexall Place should be a nostalgic and pleasant experience.
With that in mind, fasten your seatbelt and prepare yourself for a trip down memory lane through Rexall Place (via Northlands Coliseum, Edmonton Coliseum, and Skyreach Centre):
15 Ben Scrivens’ NHL Record 59-Save Shutout
The most recent Rexall Place occurrence on our list comes in at number 15, and it’s Ben Scrivens’ historic 59-save shutout on Jan. 29, 2014. This came at a point in the season when the Oilers were effectively eliminated from the playoffs, which is why such an Earth-shattering performance is so low on the list.
Scrivens made some unbelievable saves to preserve his NHL record. This performance weighed heavily on GM Craig MacTavish’s decision to sign the goaltender to a two-year, $2.3 million AAV contract extension just over a month later.
14 Doug Weight’s Opening Faceoff HNIC Goal
Doug Weight was the fan favorite of the 1990s Edmonton Oilers, and for good reason. He was their best player, for one, and he was also an ambassador for the city and to this day has nothing but nice things to say about his time in Edmonton.
We’d be remiss to not include Doug Weight’s highlight-reel goal that came 31 seconds into a nationally-televised Hockey Night in Canada game on Nov. 15, 1997. Weight, who was primarily a playmaker, absolutely undresses the Calgary D for this beauty goal. It’s the goal Weight is most remembered for in his career—in fact, if you Google “Doug Weight goal” it pops up at the top of the page.
13 Georges Laraque’s Hat Trick
While Doug Weight was certainly a fan favorite for his soft hands, Georges Laraque was a favorite because of his hard fists. Specifically, fans would really like it when he used them to smash the faces of his opponents.
However, Laraque makes this list because of one special night in which he kept the gloves on. On Feb. 21, 2000, Laraque scored a hat trick in dramatic fashion. After netting a goal in each of the first two periods (both of the garbage variety), all eyes were on Gorgeous Georges for the third period. On his last shift, with 16 seconds left on the clock, Laraque makes a beautiful play in tight to seal the hat trick, and Rexall Place loses its collective mind.
12 The Infamous Patrik Stefan Gaffe
This is one of the most bizarre incidences to ever occur in sports. It happened at Rexall Place on Jan. 4, 2007. With the Oilers trailing 5-4 with 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Stars’ forward Patrik Stefan finds himself in all alone on an empty net thanks to a Marc-Andre Bergeron giveaway (remember those?) in the neutral zone.
All Stefan had to do was slide the puck into the empty net to seal the deal for Dallas. Unfortunately for him (and somewhat incredibly), the puck skips on him just before he’s about to shovel it into the yawning cage. Stefan then falls and Oilers center Jarret Stoll picks up the loose puck, fires it up the ice to Ales Hemsky, who scored on the breakaway. Edmonton still dropped the decision in the shootout, but the strange play earned the Oilers a point in the standings, which was huge at the time.
11 Ryan Smyth’s Fastest Hat-Trick in Franchise History
Wayne Gretzky has so many franchise records that, just by chance, some of them will be beaten every now and then. Of course he has many untouchable franchise records, and one of those was thought to be the fastest hat trick in Oilers history, a feat Gretzky achieved in just 2:18.
On Oct. 12, 2006, Ryan Smyth beat Gretzky’s record by 17 seconds when he put home three third period goals in 2:01. The first two came on the power play, and the last one (which was also the 5-4 go-ahead goal) came at five-on-five. The goals turned out to be big for the game too, as the Oilers held on for a 6-4 victory.
10 Shawn Horcoff's Triple Overtime Winner
They didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but the Edmonton Oilers’ 2006 Cinderella run to the Finals was full of incredible moments and games at Rexall Place. The first one from that run on our list is Game 3 of Edmonton’s second-round series against the Sharks.
Trailing 2-0 in the series and playing the first game at Rexall Place, the Oilers needed a win or they’d find themselves against the ropes down 3-0. The game went deep into overtime, and that’s when the drama unfolded. Of course there was the huge glove save Dwayne Roloson made on Jonathan Cheechoo in OT. Finally, 2:24 into the third overtime, Shawn Horcoff ended the game on a feed from Ryan Smyth, who had returned to the game after collecting his teeth from the ice in the second period.
9 Oilers Complete Upset of the Decade
Sticking with the 2006 playoff run, the deciding game of Edmonton’s first round series against Detroit is a definite highlight. First off, the Oilers were huge underdogs against the President’s Trophy winning Red Wings. When they found themselves up 3-2 in the series with a chance to close it out at Rexall, fans were giddy.
The Oilers came out flat in Game 6, and they found themselves trailing 2-0 after two periods; the Red Wings had not surrendered a two-goal third period lead all season, to give an idea of how grim things looked. Then, spring superstar Fernando Pisani chipped in two quick goals by the 6:40 mark of the period, tying the game. Detroit restored its lead at the midway mark of the period, setting the stage for Ales Hemsky’s two dramatic goals—with the last one coming with just 1:06 remaining in the period, sealing victory for the Oilers.
8 Oilers comeback against Dallas
The Edmonton Oilers of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s had several epic playoff battles with the Dallas Stars. From 1997 to 2003, the Oilers faced the Stars six times, which is unprecedented when you consider how the playoff matchups worked back then.
Edmonton was bested by the Stars five times, but the first time they met (1997), the Oilers emerged victorious in seven games. Of course that memorable Todd Marchant overtime clincher in the seventh game occurred in Dallas, but Game 3 in Edmonton was a doozy. Trailing 3-0 with under five minutes to go in regulation, the Oilers tied the game and forced OT, which is when captain Kelly Buchberger played hero. What a game.
7 Oilers force Game 7 in Cinderella run
People who were lucky enough to be there say it’s the most dominant effort an Edmonton Oilers team has ever put together. Trailing 3-2 in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, the Oilers needed to beat the ‘Canes in Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Raleigh.
The Oilers came out flying and Fernando Pisani got the Oilers on the board early in the second period with a power play marker. Edmonton added two more power play goals and an even-strength tally on route to a convincing 4-0 win, forcing that seventh game in Raleigh. The Hurricanes were held to just 16 shots on goal in Game 6.
There is no record of what occurred two days later in Raleigh.
6 Sam Gagner’s 8-Point Night
On Feb. 2, 2012, something very remarkable happened at Rexall Place. A 22-year-old named Sam Gagner achieved something that hadn’t happened in the NHL since 1989: he recorded eight points in a single NHL game. This is something that had been achieved by 12 other players in NHL history, but nearly all of them happened between 1976 and 1989, the highest scoring era in the sport. This happening in 2012 was absolutely unheard of.
The Oilers entered the third period in a 3-3 tie, and Gagner had three points in the bank. Edmonton exploded for five goals in the third, including a 3 goal, 2 assist period for Samwise. He tied the franchise record for points in a game (shared with Gretzky and Coffey), and it could be another 23 years before anyone else achieves this feat again.
5 Third Stanley Cup
The Oilers beat the Flyers in the 1985 Stanley Cup Finals in five games, and two years later the stage was set for a rematch. The Flyers fought a little harder in this series and battled back to tie the series 3-3, after going down 3-1.
With Game 7 back on home ice at Northlands Coliseum, the Oilers still liked their chances. In the opening minutes of the game, however, Philadelphia found itself on a two-man advantage and capitalized, going up 1-0 just 1:41 into the contest. Luckily, Messier answered with the equalizer just six minutes later, and the Oilers never looked back. Kurri and Anderson added goals, and they won their third Stanley Cup with the 3-1 victory.
4 Second Stanley Cup
The Oilers faced the Flyers for the first time in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985, and they ended up skating away with the Cup in five games. This was the last season the NHL used the 2-3-2 format (for home/away games), and since Philly had the better regular season record, they had the first two and the last two of the series on home ice.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, Edmonton made sure games six and seven were unnecessary by posting a convincing 8-3 win over the Flyers in the fifth and final game. Gretzky set his likely unbreakable record of 47 points that playoff season, including a four point effort in the series-closing game at Northlands.
3 Fourth Stanley Cup - Gretzky's Last Game as an Oiler
The Oilers would win the Stanley Cup on home ice for the last time in 1988 against the Boston Bruins, but the circumstances surrounding the game played at Northlands Coliseum on May 26 were peculiar. Game 4 was played in Boston, and with the score tied at 3 at 16:37 of the second period, there was a power failure at the Garden.
The game was postponed, and it was decided that the series would go back to Edmonton for Game 4 and it would start with a clean slate. Edmonton was technically listed as the road team, and they skated away with a 6-3 victory in Game 4, sweeping Boston and claiming their fourth Stanley Cup in five seasons. After this win, Edmonton was officially a dynasty.
The game may still be bittersweet for Oilers fans though, as it proved to be Gretzky's last game as an Oiler. He would be traded just over two months later to the Kings.
2 Gretzky’s “50 in 39”
Wayne Gretzky has tons of NHL records that will likely never be beaten, and his “50 goals in 39 games” is a record that will likely stand for the rest of time. Perhaps his most impressive individual feat, Gretzky achieved it in the most dramatic fashion on home ice on Dec. 30, 1981.
Through 37 games in 1981-82, The Great One had 41 goals. It looked likely that Gretzky would soon become the third NHL player to score 5o goals in 50 games, and perhaps even the first to accomplish the feat in fewer than 50 games.
Gretzky exploded for four goals in his 38th game of the season, putting him at 45 heading back home to Northlands for a match against the Flyers. Gretzky scored five goals that game, sliding his 50th of the season into an empty Flyers’ net with just three seconds remaining, cementing his new NHL record.
1 The Oilers have Arrived
Heading into the 1983-84 season, the Edmonton Oilers had already established themselves as one of the NHL’s elite teams. They’d recorded back-to-back 100-plus point seasons, and they were swept out of the Stanley Cup Final by the New York Islanders in 1983. In May 1984, the Oilers would get another shot at the Islanders, this time with a little more experience under their belts, having learned a few things from the prior spring.
After splitting the first two games in New York, the series headed back to Edmonton for games 3, 4, and 5. That’s where the Oilers started to dominate the series, winning games 3 and 4 by identical 7-2 scores, and then cruising to a 5-2 victory in Game 5 to claim the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Oilers also became the first original WHA franchise to win the Cup, and just the third non-original six team to win it.