SUN Hockey Pool

Stalls & memories

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

You'd think by now they'd be tired of hearing about Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier and the old Oiler glory gang.

You'd figure by now they'd resent giving their stage away again, this time for the double whammy that is Coffey's banner-raising night and Gretzky's first game as a coach in Edmonton, with a Messier banner-raising on deck when they play the Rangers in New York.

Ryan Smyth sits in Coffey's stall in the Oilers dressing room.

"I didn't know until pretty well three years ago when I was digging around in the hatch under my seat and saw No. 7 under there, that it was his," confessed Smyth.

No. 94 says why would any Oiler not want to be part of these special moments, even if it means slipping to second banana, as was the case when the only outdoor game in NHL history was upstaged by Gretzky, Messier and the old-timers lead-in game at the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium.

"I'm exceptionally disappointed I'm not going to be playing in the game," Smyth said of tomorrow night's affair with Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes in town.

"I've been part of all the other ones we've had here -- the one for Wayne, the one for Jari and the one for Grant," he said of Gretky's 99, Kurri's 17 and Fuhr's 31 being raised to the roof.

Shawn Horcoff sits in Gretzky's old stall.

"The first question when everybody comes into this room is 'Where did Gretzky sit?" says equipment man Barry Stafford, who may become the first skate sharpener ever to get mentioned by a guy having his banner raised to the roof, having been the mechanic who found No. 7 a booster button for speed.

Horcoff loves his location in Gretzky's stall and doesn't mind that it's a tourist attraction.

"I grew up idolizing those guys. That's one of the main reasons I wanted to play here. I think it's important to have tradition. I want to be part of something that continues their tradition."

Smyth says it has occurred to him that with the injuries to himself and Horcoff, the guys who sit in Coffey and Gretzky stalls, that maybe mysterious forces are at play as they come to town for the event.

"Let's not go there. It may make (Steve) Staios nervous about New York."

Steve Staios knows he sits where Mark Messier used to reside.

"I knew it on Day 1," he said. "I always thought of it as a pretty high honour."

Staios hopes he's in the lineup when Messier has his New York Rangers banner-raising night when the Oilers visit Madison Square Garden in January.

"I played with Mess in Vancouver."

And he's glad he'll be in the lineup to witness Coffey's night tomorrow.

"I grew up wanting to BE Paul Coffey. That was a long time ago. Now I've managed to get to know him. He lives near me on a lake in Ontario."

When you suggest that the five-time Oiler title team has to be wearing on today's teams, Staios looks at you like you're nuts.

"Are you kidding? These nights are incredible. To look out there and see Jari Kurri in his full uniform, Grant Fuhr in goal ... they're a huge part of what hockey here is all about."

Ty Conklin currently sits in Fuhr's stall, Marc-Andre Bergeron has a lease on Kurri's digs, Fernando Pisani is the current resident of Kevin Lowe's location and Chris Pronger just moved into Glenn Anderson's place.

Coach Craig MacTavish, who sees Raffi Torres sitting where he used to hang his helmet, says current management, which includes GM Lowe, coaches Charlie Huddy and Craig Simpson and scout Dave Semenko, tries to underplay the glory days except when it comes to special occasions.

"We're in the here and now," he says.

"But these days do come along and we hope they provide inspiration."

Lowe says nobody around the team is living in the past, especially with the potential for a new future in the new NHL.

"This team has to develop its own identity and have its own success."

Some day maybe Ryan Smyth may have his banner raising, and some scribe will drop by to talk to the new resident of the famous stall where both he and Paul Coffey used to reside in the Oilers dressing room.


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