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The Kings select coach Glen Sather to take the helm...
During September, 1997, Glen "Slats" Sather became the first member of the Edmonton Oilers organization to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The native of High River, Alberta, had come full circle with the franchise that put Edmonton on the map. After coaching the Oilers to a record of 95-76-7 in three seasons in the World Hockey Association, Sather remained at the helm when the club entered the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979-80.
He would stay behind the bench for 11 seasons, coaching the Oilers to four Stanley Cups during that span. Edmonton won a fifth Cup in 1990 with Sather as the general manager. He would become the Oilersí bench boss one last time in 1993-94 before leaving the organizationís front office on May 19, 2000.
In 842 regular season NHL games as the Oilersí coach, Sather compiled a record of 464-268-110, ranking him seventh on the all-time coaching list for wins. In 127 Stanley Cup playoff games, Sather posted a record of 89-37-1, which ranks fourth on the all-time coaching list for playoff wins. He received the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHLís Coach of the Year in 1985-86.
In light of his endless accolades, it is ironic that Sather was actually being used as a scapegoat when he was hired to coach the Oilers near the end of their 1976-77 season in the World Hockey Association (WHA).
With just 18 games left, the Oilers trailed Calgary for the final playoff spot in their division. Sather, the Oilersí captain at the time, was suddenly made player/coach by general manager Bep Guidolin.
Sather would later say Guidolin needed a "scapegoat" behind the bench to accept managementís wrath for another poor season. But the Oilers would reach the playoffs under Sather, who became inspired to coach full-time.
It would be a great career move. Although Sather was known as a hard-nosed player in the NHL and WHA, he is remembered most for his work behind the bench and in the front office as the Oilersí general manager for 21 seasons.
The Ď80s Oilers
Sather recalls the first time he saw Wayne Gretzky occurred when the Oilers first played Gretzky's original team, the Indianapolis Racers.
"I thought Wayne must be a stick boy or some kid who hung around with the team," he told Milt Dunnell of the Toronto Star. "Then, the game started and he went around one of our veterans like he was a lamp post."
When the Oilers acquired Gretzky and Sather was the general manager, Sather knew he had to surround his superstar with players who suited his creative, offensive-oriented style. Sather built the Oilers of the Ď80s around speed, finesse and a high-tempo passing game that saw the defencemen jump into the attack. Sather would also use offensive stars Gretzky and Jari Kurri as penalty killers, which led to shorthanded goals.
A Coach Who Cared
Mark Messier, an Edmonton native, was the heart and soul of the dynasty. His character was undeniably shaped by Sather, whose coaching success was undeniably shaped by Messier.
Glen SatherSather used Messier early in his career to set a precedent. Messier had missed a team flight to St. Louis and Sather subsequently demoted him to the Oilersí Central League farm team in Houston. Messier notched three assists in four games and Sather promptly promoted him back to Edmonton.
In a separate incident, after Messier was an established star, Sather ripped into him after a practice. In response, a shaken Messier yelled back at Sather in front of the entire team.
"Afterward, Messier was teary-eyed and emotional," wrote Rick Carpiniello in Messier, "Sather took back everything heíd said."
"In front of the entire team, he admitted he was wrong. He made sure to point out to the team how much he respected Messier. The next time the Oilers were together, all of the players talked about the Messier-Sather set-to and how important that moment might have been in the teamís history."
Former Oilers defenceman Jeff Beukeboom recalls the epic exchange in Carpinielloís book.
"It was so strong," said Beukeboom. "Everything that happened at that instance affected the team tenfold. Slats is always proud and confident, and itís the only time Iíve ever seen him back down a little bit from anyone."
In Carpinielloís book, Beukeboom credits Sather for his player-development abilities.
Glen Sather"He was on his toes around his players and trying to teach them that little bit extra, or always trying to test them in a good, positive way."
"He always tried to get the best out of his players. When you needed to be brought down a notch, he was always willing to do that, also."
Beukeboom also stressed Satherís knack for influencing his players off the ice.
"He tried to teach you an attitude, a way of carrying yourself, a way of being a professional on and off the ice that made you a stronger, confident, and better person and player overall."
Sather also coached Team Canada on a couple of occasions, guiding his country to a Canada Cup championship in 1984. He also served as the general manager and coach of Team Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
After a 24-year career with the Oilers, Sather became the 12th president and 10th general manager of the New York Rangers on June 1, 2000. Sather became the teamís coach after he unceremoniously fired Bryan Trottier during the 2002-03 season.