Enter sandpaper man McClelland

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

It's considered one of the biggest goals in Edmonton Oilers history.

It was a tally that sent them on their way in the Game 1 of the 1984 Stanley Cup final against the New York Islanders.

"I was just trying to hit the net," said Kevin McClelland. "I didn't want Slats (Glen Sather) to yell at me for missing the net when I got back to the bench.

"I was just in the right spot at the right time. You have to give a lot of credit to Dave Hunter and Pat Hughes, they really did all the work in the corner on that play. I just shot the puck."

McClelland's third-period goal was the difference in the contest as the Oilers went on to win the game 1-0.

Despite losing the following contest 6-1 - where McClelland assisted on Randy Gregg's goal -- the Oilers went on to win the next three games of the series at home, in the two-three-two format, to win their first Stanley Cup.

It was an extraordinary way to end the season for the Oshawa native, who started the year with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was actually in the minors when traded to Edmonton midway through the year.

"When I heard I had been traded, I had been sent down to the minors by Pittsburgh," McClelland said. "I was in the lobby of a Best Western when the girl behind the counter told me I had a call from Glen Sather and I was thinking 'Yeah right.'

"Then after I was told I had been traded, the first thing I thought was where their farm team was, which at the time was in Moncton. So I thought I was going to Moncton."

McClelland never went to Moncton. Instead he joined the Oilers, who, at the time, were cruising through the regular season. They went on to win 57 games that year and collected 119 points - 37 points better than the second-place Calgary Flames.

In short, he went from a team languishing at the bottom of the standings to a Stanley Cup contender.

"I never thought I was going to go play in Edmonton," McClelland said. "I figured 'how was I going to play on a first place team, when I couldn't even play with a last-place team?'

"But the guys were great. They really took me in and helped me out."

With the Oilers heavy on talent, but perhaps light on grit, McClelland came in and filled a much-needed role for the club. He racked up 127 penalty minutes in 52 games to go along with 28 points.

In the 24 games with the Penguins that season McClelland had two goals, six points and 62 penalty minutes.

"He was able to bring that grit element to that fourth line," said former Oilers defenceman Charlie Huddy. "If you're going to go a long way in the playoffs, if you're going to go on to win Stanley Cups, you need those role players, you need that fourth line to be able to grind it out.

"He wasn't afraid to be physical, throw that big check, go into the corner grind it out and get his big body in front of the net. He was another piece of the puzzle that you need in order to be successful."

McClelland's physical contribution cannot be understated. Not only in the final where the Islanders had some bruisers of their own with the likes of John Tonelli, Duane Sutter, Butch Goring, Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies, but also in the second round against the Flames.

The Oilers needed seven games to get past Calgary that season in a bruising battle that set the tone for future series between the two teams.

"You could say all of Alberta locked the doors and turned their TV sets on to watch it," McClelland said. "That series against Calgary was real intense. There were a lot of tough series against Calgary."

McClelland went on to win four Stanley Cups with the Oilers. He then moved on to play with the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets before calling it a career and jumping behind the bench.

He's currently the head coach of the Central Hockey League's Colorado Eagles, leading the team to the championship series this season.

"I'm really enjoying it here, it's great," he said. "Chris Stewart (president and general manager) has done a great job from the start having established this franchise six years ago. They sell out every night and it's a great atmosphere. Unfortunately this year we came up a little short."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos