It’s just over 3,200 kilometres from Rexall Place to Madison Square Garden.
Different country and certainly a very different city.
At first blush, there appears to be little in common between the capital of Alberta and the business capital of the world.
Except there is this hockey thing. A love of puck for a hardcore group of fans. Rabid Rangers pride and loyal Oilers faithful, these fans are as passionate and vocal as any. The Oilers have won five Stanley Cups, the Rangers four.
Another real bond exists between these clubs that has left a lasting impression on both NHL franchises for over 50 years: Glen Sather.
The longtime coach, general manager and executive will be honoured by the Oilers with a banner raising at Rexall Place on Friday ahead of Edmonton’s game against the Rangers.
When Sather was playing for the junior Oil Kings and later for the Rangers, little did he know that it was him who would be a driving force between the two.
The list of links is long.
Firstly, there’s Bruce MacGregor. The Edmontonian was Sather’s teammate with the Rangers, and later joined the Oilers’ front office and became a close confidant for so many years.
Former Ranger Don Murdoch was given a second chance by Sather.
Remember, it was Sather who traded Mark Messier to Broadway.
Adam Graves and Kevin Lowe were part of the Oilers when they won their fifth Stanley Cup before being dealt to New York, where they would help win the Rangers’ first Cup in 44 years in 1994.
Craig MacTavish, to whom Sather had given a new lease on hockey life, would win key face-off after face-off for those Rangers. In total, seven former Oilers dressed in Broadway Blue and won the Cup that year: Messier, Graves, Lowe, MacTavish, Glenn Anderson, Esa Tikkanen and Jeff Beukeboom.
Ron Low would coach both teams under Sather’s stewardship. Longtime Rangers farmhand John Muckler was Sather’s right-hand man in Edmonton — and the man Sather replaced at the Garden.
Coincidentally, Wayne Gretzky’s last stop was in New York, where he finished his career in 1999.
And the very next year, Sather himself would return to Madison Square Garden as president and general manager, for a chance to put his name on the Cup an elusive sixth time.
Sather the player to Sather the suit. Edmonton to New York City. And now, with the banner being raised to the roof, a return.
Full circle in so many ways.