Edmonton Oilers among Scotty Bowman’s greatest teams in new Ken Dryden book

Article content

Ken Dryden has led an interesting life as a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, lawyer, politician, author and businessman, who is an officer of the Order of Canada.


Article content

Yet, Dryden wanted to tell the story of Scotty Bowman, the greatest coach in NHL history, and pursued the project for the better part of a decade.

Instead of writing a straight biography on the winningest coach in NHL history with 14 Stanley Cups, Dryden decided to shift the narrative in his most recent book entitled Scotty, A Hockey Life Like No Other.

“Scotty’s is a story that had to be gotten down, he has lived a life that is unlike anyone else and it’s a life that nobody else will live again,” said Dryden, who is signing copies of the book Saturday (3:30–6 p.m.) at Chapters West Edmonton Mall. “He’s now 86 years old and has seen everything up close in terms of hockey for over 70 years and he remembers everything. So the conversation had to be had, and the question was how to do it?


Article content

“Usually what happens in something like this is that it becomes a catalogue of war stories and that’s fine and those stories are fun and they’re nice. But that’s not the essence of Scotty and that’s not the essence of the experience he has had in his lifetime.”

Instead of a chronological timeline, Dryden decided to get Bowman’s opinion on what teams he regarded as the best in NHL history and have those teams match up against each other in an elimination series.

Among the eight teams are the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, who captured the first of five Stanley Cups by dethroning the New York Islanders dynasty.

“I think it’s clear the kind of feeling Scotty had for them,” Dryden said. “It wasn’t like the New York Islanders where the pieces were added from one year to the next and the continuity of the team kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger.


Article content

“The Oilers were literally out of their league when they started as they moved from the WHA to the NHL. And then they were this fast-rising, this explosion in terms of the pieces coming together and in such a spectacular way and of a style of game that was consistent with the players and one that was just different than the NHL had experienced.”

Bowman talks with great admiration of the Wayne Gretzky-led Oilers who realized what it took to win walking past the Islanders dressing room following the 1983 final where they were swept by New York.

Bowman talks of the “live puck era” where average shooters were suddenly putting up superstar numbers and superstar goalies were suddenly like Swiss cheese.

Gretzky put up unthinkable offensive numbers, which will never be matched, the Oilers came together as a young group and revolutionized how the game was played led by head coach and general manager Glen Sather.


Article content

“It seemed as though it was the Islanders turn, but it was almost before their turn came to be realized when the Oilers were suddenly there,” Dryden said. “And for a couple of years as good as the Oilers were, it was almost more exciting to see how much better they were going to be the next year and the year after that.

“In some ways the Islanders were not getting their due for the kind of achievements they had because the Oilers were just this team that who knew how good they were? And who knew how good they were about to be? So instead of focusing on the champion and the Islanders and the depth of their achievement of winning year after year, a lot of the focus was on the Oilers.”

Bowman explains in the book how the Oilers, “their game was all attack.” Being able to send Gretzky and Jari Kurri over the boards followed by Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson it was impossible to match up with them for an entire game.


Article content

Bowman was particularly fond of Messier, whose mean streak reminded the longtime coach of Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe.

“One of the things that I found most interesting as he was talking about all three of them is that the way you played against them is not the way one would think you would play against them,” Dryden said. “Where you would just focus on them and take them on, mano a mano, and deal with it that way.

“No, that’s not how you play against them. If you turn it into a personal contest, the three of them will destroy you, because they love that contest and the Rocket and Messier have this point of explosion. Gordie Howe less so. Gordie was much more calculated and conscious than it was with Richard and Messier.”

In the chapter on the Oilers, Bowman talks of having to face Messier as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres just prior to a ruling being handed down to the centre for breaking the cheekbone of Calgary Flames defenceman Jamie Macoun in an earlier game. Messier ran the game against the Sabres according to Bowman, scoring the tying and winning goal in a 5-4 victory, and was then suspended the following day.

“It was that scary reaction whose depth you didn’t know that was different from others,” Dryden said. “But it might also have a greater depth that you’re not even seeing at that moment and that’s part of what made it scary.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.