September 13, 2014

1986-87: Oilers Back on Top

The Three Stars:

Junior Players Die In Bus Crash - The bus carrying the Swift Current Broncos to a game in Regina for a December 30th WHL match crashes, killing four players. Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Chris Mantyka and Jason Ruff are all killed. Among the survivors are future NHLers Joe Sakic and Sheldon Kennedy. The Broncos regroup from the tragedy, finish the season, and amazingly win the Memorial Cup in 1989.

Junior Punch Up Ends In Darkness - Leading the Soivets 4-2 on the last day of the World Junior Championships in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, Canada, closing in on a gold medal, finds itself in the most infamous and vicious bench clearing brawl in hockey history. The melee lasted over 20 minutes. The officials, unable to do anything, left the ice and had the lights turned out. Both teams were disqualified and Finland is awarded its first ever gold medal at the event.

Rendez-Vous '87 - For the second time the NHL All Star Game features the NHL All Stars facing off against the Soviet Union. In this exciting two game event in Quebec City the NHL wins one game 4-3 and the Soviets win one game 5-3. 20 year old Valeri Kamensky - a future Nordique - sparkles in the second game scoring two brilliant goals.

Season Highlights:

  • In order to speed up the game the NHL introduces delayed off-sides.
  • Detroit drafts Michigan State University star Joe Murphy first overall, but Detroit fans wanted Detroit born Jimmy Carson, who went 2nd overall to Los Angeles.
  • Phil Esposito takes over as GM of the New York Rangers, fires coach Ted Sator and makes a series of trades that labels him as "Trader Phil."
  • Espo should have hired Scotty Bowman. Hockey's winningest coach was fired by the Sabres.
  • On November 20th, 1986 Montreal and Boston stage a full scale brawl that gets Boston Mayor Ray Flynn promising police action if it ever happened again.
  • Toronto's Borje Salming is accidentally cut by a skate, requiring more than 200 stitches in his face.
  • LA Kings coach Pat Quinn is expelled by NHL president John Ziegler for signing a deal and taking money to become Vancouver's GM while still working for the Kings.
  • Doug Jarvis plays 964 consecutive games, a NHL record.
  • Wayne Gretzky scores his 500th goal in just 575 games, another NHL record.
  • Gretzky would have to hire someone to expand his trophy case yet again. He leads the NHL in all scoring categories with 62 goals, 121 assists and 183 points (runner up Jari Kurri had 108 points!). Gretzky won his 7th Art Ross, 8th Hart and 5th Pearson.
  • Gretzky also won his third Stanley Cup. The Oilers returned to Stanley Cup finals and defeated Philadelphia in an epic seven game series. 
  • Ron Hextall, Philly's feisty goalie, is spectacular in defeat and is awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. This despite a vicious slashing of Oilers forward Kent Nilsson in game 7. 
  • Mario Lemieux finishes third in NHL scoring with 54 goals and 107 points but sits out 17 games with a bad back that would plague him for his entire career.
  • Ray Bourque scores 95 points and wins the Norris trophy as the league's top defenseman. He finishes as runner up in the Hart Trophy balloting. 

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