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Bill Hunter shaped the Edmonton Oilers as “Alberta Oilers” in 1971. Bill Hunter was among the members of the World Hockey Association (WHA). The Oilers started to play in the Western division of WHA when Ray Kinasewich was the coach. Team changed its name to Edmonton Oilers when Bill Hunter was the coach half way through the season and the next year. Many big names like Jacques Plante and Norm Ullman were associated wih Edmonton and Oilers played good competitive hockey during 1970s. WHA was struggling so teams were offered a way in National Hockey League. WHA had to continue stammering because NHL has internal disagreements within the NHL.
Oilers also used one of their two extended picks against Gretzky and Mark Messier was chosen by Sather in that year’s NHL initial draft so they had two young center players. Oilers were defeated by Philadelphie Flyers in the first round and were fourth in the division in that first year. That regular season ended on a tie for league lead points for Gretzky and Marcel Dionne.
Oilers kept on improving as they moved into the 1983-84 regular season with a superior team that nearly won it all. Gretzky, Anderson, Messier and Paul Coffey kept ripping up the league with inspiring numbers to improve their team record with 446 goals in a regular season. The Oilers run-and-gun style left goalie Grant Fuhr with a lot of action, which he was more than up to face. Edmonton met against New York Islanders in the finals, won five games, and had their first Stanley Cup in their hands.
1988 off-season had an appalling turn of proceedings. There were serious fiscal problems, Oilers made a deal for franchise player Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in return for players and cash. Team lost paradoxically to Gretzky and the Kings in the first round of the contest and had third position in their divison. John Muckler became the coach in 1989-90 and Oilers came back in into action and got second in the Smythe division with 90 points. They were losing by 3-1 against Jets but they turned around the corner and came back with straight three wins to win that series.
Small market Canadian teams were the major problem for Oilers to cope with. Stars like Curtis Joseph and Doug Weight left for greener pastures but Oilers kept on trying. They played hard working style of hockey but to no avail. Oilers were defeated by Dallas Stars in the post season for four times in a row leaving behind another contest rivalry. In 2002 Stanley Cup contest, Oilers qualified for the Conference quarter finals but lost it against Stars in tight six game series.
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