NHL Games, Nothing New To Oklahoma City

The last time the Edmonton Oilers played in OKC, this guy was there. Photo via NHL.com
The last time the Edmonton Oilers played in OKC, this guy was there. Photo via NHL.com

The Edmonton Oilers will travel way south to face the Texas Stars this September. It’s not as far south as Dallas, but it’s a trip. A trip that I hope the NHL, the AHL, and Oklahoma City all find useful in their own imaginative way. This, however, isn’t the first time that an NHL game has been played in Oklahoma City. Since 1990, Oklahoma City has played host to four different NHL games, ironically enough, one featured the Edmonton Oilers.

Here’s that list of games with a recap via the Oklahoman:

December 1992 New York Islanders vs. Edmonton Oilers

Although the glory days of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders are long in the tooth, to the novice spectator, Sunday night’s historical National Hockey League game in the Myriad Convention Center was the best money could buy.

To the Oilers and Islanders , it was the just the continuation of a still-heated rivalry – except by two very frustrated former champions – and this time it was New York that came away with a 4-1 victory before a crowd of 11,110.

Steve Thomas and Tom Fitzgerald scored two goals apiece for the Islanders , who broke a two game losing streak, improved to 11-15-4 and slipped past the Philadelphia Flyers for fifth place in the competitive six-team Patrick Division.

What’s more, the Islanders snapped a string of 11 winless games against Edmonton, dating back to Feb. 14, 1989. That is when New York last beat the Oilers, 5-3, in Nassau Coliseum in Long Island.

“We’ve been waiting for guys to step up, and Steve and Tommy did that tonight for us,” said the Islanders ‘ Al Arbour, who coached this franchise to an unprecedented four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. “We had a very good, solid hockey game tonight.

“We did some smart things. We kept our mistakes to a minimum.”

Although neither club provided much on the scoreboard until the Isles took control on Fitzgerald’s two third-period goals, those in attendance to the first regular-season game between major-league teams in Oklahoma City were entertained with booming body checks, obviously unrehearsed flips, a couple of stray fists and several fine saves by Islanders goaltender Glenn Healy.

The only glitches were four stoppages in the first period when the south net continuously popped off its magnets and when Isles captain Patrick Flatley apparently took a stick in the face and lay at center ice for about three minutes before being escorted to the trainer’s table.

Edmonton, winner of five Stanley Cups in the last nine years, fell to 11-17-4. Those familiar with the franchise say the Oilers’ poor record is traditional this early in the season, but Edmonton has yet to show any strong signs of pulling out of its current doldrums.

The Oilers dropped their second straight game, and for the second outing in as many nights, they only scored one goal. Edmonton was a 3-1 loser at Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Edmonton was first to score in Sunday’s game, that coming on Brian Glynn’s goal at the 3:30 mark of the opening period. With 14 seconds left on a tripping penalty by the Isles’ Uwe Krupp, Glynn beat Healy on a slapshot from the point.

It was all Islanders from there, though. Thomas scored the first of his two goals against Oilers’ netminder Ron Tugnutt with 4:04 remaining in the first period. Thomas shoved the puck over Tugnutt’s right shoulder from the right circle.

Thomas put New York ahead for good with 8:04 remaining in the second period, darting past Edmonton defenseman Luke Richardson and banging a rising shot past Tugnutt.

It was Thomas’ 11th and 12th goals of the season and first goal in five games.

“We played really well tonight, and it’s nice to end my slump,” Thomas said. “Plus, we needed to get a win and two points in the standings. That’s what counted the most.”

Fitzgerald added his two goals in the third to more or less assure the victory. His first was with 16:49 remaining and while the Isles were short-handed, sweeping in on Tugnutt and shooting the puck underneath the goaltender.

New York had a 4-1 lead with 1:15 left when Fitzgerald, denied another short-handed goal about 10 minutes earlier on Tugnutt’s nice pad save, scored on a 25-foot slapshot from the right circle.

Healy faced 27 shots, stopping 26. Tugnutt snuffed 29 of 33 attempts by the Islanders .

“Glenn made some big, tough saves tonight,” Arbour said. “He played very, very well.”

September 1994 St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars

Curtis Joseph showed Thursday night why he is one of the premier goaltenders in the National Hockey League. He could be even better this season – now that the St . Louis Blues have some capable defensemen.

Joseph, AKA “Cudjo,” stopped all 12 shots he faced in just over 34 minutes of work as the Blues rocked the Dallas Stars 6-2 in a special exhibition game beore 8,934 spectators at the Myriad Convention Center.

Aside from getting help from a defense remodeled through trades and free-agent signings over the off-season, Joseph received plenty of offensive support Thursday night. The Blues , who had this one in hand by the end of the first period, got two goals apiece from Igor Korolev and Al MacInnis.

It was the first game between the two Central Division rivals since the Stars swept a best-of-7 first-round Western Conference playoff last season.

Joseph was 0-4 in that series, allowing 15 goals behind a shaky defensive unit. However, the effects of new blood are already beginning to show as Dallas struggled to get any good chances on the 27-year-old stopper.

“Of course, that was not ( Dallas ‘) same lineup that we faced in the playoffs,” Joseph said. “They had some guys sitting out tonight.

“But we have added some leadership and some grit that we lacked. I think we’ve got the key ingredients that it takes to win.”

St . Louis was 40-33-11 last year, with Joseph winning 36 of those games. The NHL’s workhorse between the pipes, Joseph sported a pretty salty 3.10 goals-against average considering he faced a league-record 2,382 shots over 71 games last season.

Now Joseph can breathe a little easier. All- Star defenseman MacInnis was traded to St . Louis from Calgary, and blueliners Doug Lidster, Bill Houlder and Steve Duchesne were added. The Blues even signed veteran goalie Jon Casey, a starter for the Boston Bruins last season, to spell Joseph.

Some are saying the Blues are suddenly Stanley Cup contenders.

“Oh, it’s a little early to get excited, but we are playing well in exhibition games,” Joseph said. “I know our fans are definitely talking about it.

“We also have a few guys (new coach Mike Keenan and center Esa Tikkanen) fresh off a Stanley Cup with the Rangers who seem to like what they see. It’s pretty exciting to think about it.”

Joseph left the game to a standing ovation late in the second period with the Blues leading 5-0. Geoff Sarjeant, a goalie probably headed to the Blues ‘ International League farm team in Peoria, took over and allowed late-second-period Dallas goals by Dave Gagner and Todd Harvey.

Dallas played without star forward Mike Modano, who stayed in the Metroplex with a pulled groin. St . Louis was minus All- Star Brett Hull, who reportedly has a virus that causes mononucleosis.

The absence of the two studs disappointed a pro- Dallas crowd and seemed to affect the Stars ‘ lackadaisical forward end. St . Louis outshot the designated host 33-29, though the Stars had few quality chances.

“It looked like a typical pre-season game, but one that did not go too well,” said Dallas coach Bob Gainey. “We had a lot of mistakes, and a lot of those were dictated by penalties and the fact we got behind so quickly.”

Korolev got St . Louis on the board early in the first period, getting two goals off Darcy Wakaluk within a minute-and-a-half span. Vitali Prokhorov added another goal late in the first as St . Louis took a 3-0 advantage.

MacInnis added his two second-period goals, then Duchesne scored late in the third as the Blues improved to 2-0-1 in the preseason.

Dallas fell to 1-1-1. It was the first NHL game in Oklahoma City since the New York Islanders beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in December 1992.

There was plenty of rough-housing Thursday as players tried to impress coaches with less than a month to go before the regular season.

Proven heavyweights Shane Churla of Dallas and Basil McRae of St . Louis – 502 penalty minutes between them last season – got the crowd on its feet 4:51 into the second period by squaring off at center ice.

That fray came on the same play stoppage when Dallas defenseman Craig Ludwig drew a five-minute major for boarding. Then about two minutes later, the Stars lost forward Russ Courtnall to a game misconduct for instigating a fight with Kevin Miller.

September 1997 Boston Bruins vs. St. Louis Blues

Rob Tallas sees some kind of writing on the wall. It’s just a little blurry right now.

Sometime between now and early October, the young goaltender will not have to decipher the misty message. First-year Boston coach Pat Burns simply will tell the 24-year-old if he stays with the Bruins or starts the 1997-98 hockey season with their Triple-A affiliate in Providence, R.I.

“Pat Burns made it very clear at the beginning of training camp that he’s coming here as a head coach who has not seen any of us play,” Tallas said. “I think he’s honest, so I’m just going to go out there and have fun and play with the usual smile on my face.”

There is more to wins and losses, especially during the exhibition season. So, despite the Bruins ‘ 3-2 win Wednesday night over the St . Louis Blues in a National Hockey League pre-season game in the Myriad Convention Center, it remains a question whether Tallas stays with the big club or draws the short straw.

With veteran Jim Carey expected to carry most of the load and the Bruins getting seasoned Byron Dafoe from the Los Angeles Kings in an August trade, it might seem as though Tallas should go ahead and pack his sticks and pads for a 45-minute drive from Boston to its American Hockey League farm.

“With Byron coming here and me being looked at as the third man, it doesn’t bother me,” Tallas said, helping the Bruins improve to 2-1. “He’s had three years in the league, and Jim has four. I’ve had something like three quarters of a year.

“I want to be on this team – that’s the bottom line. But if they send me down to Providence, then I’ll go down to Providence with a smile on my face and play as hard as I can so I can get back up here.”

Tallas was impressive Wednesday, making 22 saves in front of 6,570 fans. He made several excellent stops, including two in the final 40 seconds as St . Louis pulled goalie Brent Johnson for an extra attacker.

Before Dafoe arrived – the Bruins sent their top scorer from last season, Jozef Stumpel, to the Kings – Tallas was tabbed as Carey’s backup. He split last season between Providence and Boston , finishing 8-12-1 with a 3.33 goals-against average for the big club.

Tallas missed the final eight games with an ankle injury as the young Beantowners limped to a league-worst 26-47-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 29 years.

He entered the exhibition with a 3.16 GAA in the preseason, allowing one goal in 19 minutes of Friday’s 2-1 loss to Florida.

“I think ( Boston ) got to see me in a situation last year where I was just thrown in,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure, but I felt like I handled it well. Being put in that kind of situation has made it that much easier for me this year.”

St . Louis , which chose to play more youth than top stars like Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon and Grant Fuhr, had a 1-0 lead on only its third shot. Harry York stuffed a rebound inside the left post only 1:04 into the game.

Boston answered with three consecutive goals. Rob DiMaio tied it with 7:28 left in the first on a right-circle shot, then it was 3-1 after Cameron Mann and Hal Gill scored in the second period.

The Blues drew within 3-2 with 16:33 left in the game. Joe Murphy ripped a shot from the right circle that made its way under Tallas. St . Louis , falling to 0-2 on the preseason, outshot the Bruins 24-16.

Joe Thornton, the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, scored his first point for Boston . He had an assist on Gill’s goal.

October 2002 Phoenix Coyotes vs Los Angeles Kings

The Oklahoma City crowd wanted another shift for their local hockey hero. The Los Angeles Kings wanted another goal for their team.

The Kings got their way, the crowd did not.

Chris McAlpine scored a rebound goal with 10 seconds left to lift L.A. past Phoenix 2-1 Thursday night, in an NHL exhibition game at the new Ford Center.

With 4:15 left in the final period of a 1-1 game, the crowd of 6,364 started chanting “We Want Joe!” The fans wanted more Coyote ice time for Blazers legend Joe Burton, but he did not play in the third period.

Burton played three shifts for a total of two minutes and 13 seconds for the Coyotes . He started the game at right wing on a line with left winger Andrei Nazarov and center Kelly Buchberger.

“I was pretty nervous. It was nice to play the first shift and kind of get the jitters out,” Burton said. “I didn’t play a whole lot, but I had front row seats and that was kind of nice.

“I didn’t have any chances with the puck, but I didn’t feel out of place out there. I just tried not to make any mistakes. It was great just hanging out with the guys and getting a little taste of the NHL.”

Burton played 1:30 of the first period – the first 40 seconds and 50 seconds later in the period. He played 43 seconds in the second period.

Then came the no-Joe third period, and the crowd’s chants.

“That was a little embarrassing, but these fans are great here and I appreciate it,” Burton said. “But it probably wasn’t the appropriate time to throw me out there in a close game.”

Phoenix coach Bob Francis, an Oklahoma City Stars superstar in 1981-82, when he was the Central Hockey League player and rookie of the year, couldn’t help but hear the “We Want Joe!” pleadings from audience.

“It was a situation where I didn’t want to put Joe in a position where he didn’t feel comfortable,” Francis said. “I think he’s the guy who felt the most uncomfortable with the whole scenario. He handled it with class and dignity.

“Obviously I would have liked to have played Joe more, but I didn’t want to put him in a predicament where he was out of his element, because he isn’t in game condition and these guys have been going at it pretty hard for a month now. He’s basically only been skating for three days, so I didn’t want to put him in a condition where he was vulnerable.”

The Phoenix players lined up and waited for Burton to lead them out for their pre-game warmups. The moment was shown on the arena’s four video boards high above the ice.

Burton wore his familiar No. 19 jersey for the Coyotes , after wearing No. 91 in their training camp because veteran Shane Doan has No. 19. But Doan didn’t make the trip, so Burton got his number back.

With one preseason game remaining, the Kings are 6-1 and the Coyotes are 2-4. They open the regular season together Wednesday at Los Angeles.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was introduced by public address announcer Ben Buckland before the game.

Gretzky walked on a red carpet to center ice, but he did not score the first goal, as had been tentatively scheduled. That honor went to Burton instead, with the video ring that encircles the arena showing “Joe Burton #19.”

Burton’s ceremonial first goal came after the second ceremonial faceoff with Los Angeles’ Brad Chartrand. The first faceoff had to be replayed, Buckland explained, because there wasn’t film in someone’s camera.

The game was scoreless until just 17 seconds remained in the first period, when Kings center Jaroslav Bednar scored a power play goal from the right side. The shot came from just inside the blue line, and assists went to defensemen Mathieu Schneider and Jaroslav Modry.

The official score sheet incorrectly stated that the first official goal on Ford Center ice came at 19:42, instead of 19:43, of the first period.

Los Angeles out-shot Phoenix 20-5 in the first two periods, but the Coyotes took four shots in the first 1:18 of the third period. The fourth shot in that span, by Jeff Taffe, tied the game with 18:42 left in the third period. Assists were credited to Radoslav Suchy and Mike Johnson. Overall, the Kings outshot the Coyotes 31-12. KINGS 2, COYOTES 1 Phoenix 0 0 1-1 Los Angeles 1 0 1-2

First Period -1, Los Angeles, Bednar 2 (Schneider, Modry), 19:43 (pp).

Second Period -None.

Third Period -2, Phoenix, Taffe 2 (Suchy, Johnson), 1:18 (pp). 3, Los Angeles, McAlpine 2 (Lilja), 19:50 (pp).

Shots on goal: Phoenix 3-2-7-12. Los Angeles 8-12-11-31. Goalies: Phoenix, Burke. Los Angeles, Potvin.

Huge thanks to Scott Munn and the late, great Bob Hersom for the game recaps. As always, thank you to the OKC Metropolitan Library for the news archives, as well as the Daily Oklahoman.