Lost in the fog!

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

There were times when it looked like a polished and slickly-produced Broadway show, and times when it felt like it was just you, Mess, and a few buddies sitting around a locker-room, or a bar, or somebody's rec room, sharing colourful, and off-colour, stories about the NHL's last great dynasty.

Intimate and homey one minute, then loud, proud and wonderfully-staged the next, last night's Oil Country Homecoming at the Winspear hit all the marks.

For a concert hall packed with adoring fans, all too willing to shell of $350 a pop to get up close and personal with Edmonton's favourite son, there was some great inside stuff.

Guest of honour Mark Messier and his friends took everyone behind the scenes, from his early, nervous days as a teenager to the 1990 Stanley Cup championship that marked the end of his Edmonton era.

COOL AS EVER

Messier, looking cool as ever in a dark blue suit, white dress shirt and tie, received a standing ovation when he walked on stage the first time, on a set that included five Stanley Cup banners and three President's Trophy banners flanking a giant screen TV made up to look like a scoreboard.

The stage had a bar at one end (can't have a decent Oilers reunion without a bar) and a dressing room set-up on the other. In between were the bandstands, adorned in copper and blue.

Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Dave Semenko all received standing ovations upon their introductions. Glen Sather, Al Hamilton, former Calgary Flame Jim Peplinski, Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson, CHED's Rod Phillips and Edmonton Sun columnist Terry Jones also shared tales of championships and hangovers.

Anderson couldn't think of a story he could tell in mixed company, but settled on the one about Messier wrecking his Porsche. Semenko talked about touring with Stanley, then bathing in mouthwash and Visene for team photo day, driving his new Trans Am into Northlands Coliseum, right up to the dressing room door.

Tom Cochrane told a Messier yarn, and then sang Big League.

And how many times are you ever going to see Joey Moss singing La Bamba in front of a full orchestra? It was gold all night long.

Former Oilers media director Bill Tuele told the one about Messier almost standing up a president of the United States in a golf game. The Oilers had some days off in California and Messier made the most of them, so much so that he barely made his 9 a.m. tee time with President Gerald Ford, scampering out of the bushes at the last second, wearing his trademark loud beach shorts and a T-shirt, with no clubs in sight.

VAGUE RECOLLECTION

Some of the stories have been lost in the fog, with each player relaying his own vague recollection, but it was all great.

"The interesting thing about this ceremony," said Sather, "is I'm finding out a lot of things about you guys that I didn't know happened."

Sather recalled a kid that had an edge to his game that couldn't be ignored, and an untamed spirit that made him Mark Messier.

"He did all the things I wanted him to do," said Sather. "And maybe some things that I didn't want him to do, but he was like most kids - he had to live his own life.

"And he went on to become one of the most important people in my life."

It wasn't all about parties. The underlying theme in all the tributes was friendship.

Lowe talked about when he was a young kid coming out west for the first time in his life, not knowing a soul, how the Messier family took him in.

"They made me feel like I was home."

Messier recalled the Oilers' first game in the NHL, inside deafening Chicago Stadium, where there were two fights in the first few shifts, how everyone on the bench looked at each other in amazement.

"It really hit home. We're in the NHL!"

Coffey talked of the effect Messier's leadership qualities had on his teammates.

"He could lead by example and he could lead out on the ice.

"Anybody who knew you or played with you is better for it. We're proud of you."


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