Physical toll had Oilers exhausted

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

Both teams were high in skill and had little problems filling the net.

Yet the 1984 Cup final between the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders was a battle of attrition, won by the team willing to go the extra distance. It was an important lesson the Oilers had learned the year before.

"I remember the different emotions that go from game to game and series to series," said Charlie Huddy. "Just the physical and emotional wear and tear.

"Back then, we were having back-to-back games, then we had a day off for travel and we went and played back-to-back again. It was tough.

"At the end playing against the Islanders, a team we had lost to the year before, we had a lot of respect for them and we knew it was going to be a tough series."

Despite the impressive array of offensive talent featured on both sides, the series was extremely physical.

"All the games were physical, that's just how the game was played back then," said Pat Conacher, who took Dave Hunter's spot in the lineup after the Oilers forward had injured his spleen on a hit along the boards.

"The games certainly weren't as quick as they are right now, but players had to fight through everything. We all got away with a little extra as far as finishing checks, they let us take an extra step. But not only that, you had to fight through checks and guys basically interfering with you.

"Every shift was a battle, not just with the big hits, but fighting through checks to get through the puck, going through traffic. And if you weren't willing to do those things, you would win the puck battles and you definitely wouldn't win hockey games."

Dr. Randy Gregg said the Oilers pushed it to the limit.

"I remember the absolute exhaustion at the end of those games," he said. "Now when we coach our kids we tell them about that feeling at the end of a game knowing that there wasn't one more ounce of energy you could give to that game.

"I remember during the playoffs, especially those series against Calgary, there were games upon games where the defence would just sit there for 20 minutes after the game and we still hadn't taken our skates off because we were so exhausted," he added.

"When you give it all like that it leaves you with a good memory."

Much was made of the lessons learned from losing to the Islanders the previous season. The biggest point hit home after the Oilers walked past the Islanders dressing room the year before.

"I think that first year we kind of took it for granted and thought that it would be easier then it really was," said goaltender Grant Fuhr.

"They showed us just how hard it was. Walking by their dressing room, lots of guys were sitting there wearing ice bags and things, it kind of gave you an idea of the type of commitment it took to win it."


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