Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why I Hate Edmonton

Brad Marsh with Flyers Alumni
Some feuds are hereditary. Look around at many of the conflicts around the world today; they go back decades or even centuries. The sentiments are passed down so much that each new generation can feel the exact same as their ancestors, even if the initial conflict was far removed from their own lifespan. This is the case with me and Edmonton.
Growing up in the early nineties, when I was in my hockey-card-collecting prime, there were a few players coveted most by Canadian kids. Eric Lindros was just starting his career and his reign as the Captain of the “Legion of Doom” line. Mario Lemieux was coming off winning back-to-back Stanley Cups and despite injury problems, putting up insane points per game. Toronto fans worshipped Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour and every goalie had a replica of Martin Brodeur’s mask. Of all those players, however, there was still one player who was everyone’s undisputed favorite, Wayne Gretzky. Like any little boy, my list of favorite hockey players would probably look pretty similar. I vaguely knew my Dad played against all of these guys but I never considered he might have a personal opinion of any of them. As I started to grow older and talk about hockey with my Dad, it became apparent things were different any time Gretzky or the mighty Oilers of the eighties came up.

Watch and listen to Brad reminisce about playing against Wayne Gretzky (now Rexall Place) here.

Dad played on a young but talented Flyers team from 1982-1988. They had gritty scorers like Tim Kerr, future Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe, and great goal tending from the late Pelle Lindbergh and after that, Ron Hextall. They were talented, tough and in the mid-eighties they were a force to be reckoned with. In 1985, the young Flyers battled their way to the Stanley Cup finals against the reigning champions, the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were a dynasty in the making, Gretzky, Kurri, Anderson, Messier, Coffey, and Grant Fuhr all would eventually end up in the Hall of Fame. The Flyers lost the series in 5 games.

In 1987, the two teams met once again in the finals. Both teams had essentially the same rosters, the only major difference being the rookie Ron Hextall, in nets for the Flyers. The Flyers had a long road to the finals playing 26 of a possible 28 games and injuries to key players were taking its toll. The Flyers battled their way to game 7 in Edmonton. Each game had been tight and going into game 7 it was anybody’s series to win. Despite another hard effort and an incredible game by Ron Hextall, the Flyers couldn’t finish off the Oilers dynasty. Though they had come so close to hockey’s Holy Grail, they left Edmonton empty handed. Dad lost two Stanley Cups at the hands of the Oilers and after that he never had another shot at the Cup.

Watch and listen here to Brad share memories of Game 5 in 1985 and the fight with Don Jackson which saw all of Don's equipment end up in the stands and Brad's mom hearing some choice 'words' come out of her son's mouth (watch that here) as well as a chat about his second visit to the Stanley Cup final in 1987.

The more I learned about the Stanley Cup, the dynasties and the history; the more I learned about winning and losing, the more I came to realize what that must have meant. Millions of kids around the world play hockey on the street or on the outdoor rink dreaming of playing in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup. Twice my Dad was actually playing for the prize, and twice came up just short of fulfilling that childhood dream so many of us have. 

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