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Grant Fuhr was the main man between the pipes during the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980’s. On a team that featured legends such as Gretzky, Messier, and Kurri; Fuhr was the netminder that earned a reputation for being one of the most clutch goalies of his era. Indeed, Gretzky refers to Fuhr as the greatest goalie in NHL history. A five-time Stanley Cup Champion, Fuhr’s legendary career was capped off by his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Drafted 8th overall by the Oilers in the 1981 NHL Draft, Fuhr wasted little time making his mark and establishing himself with the team. In his rookie season (1981-82), he played in 48 games, winning 28 to set a new franchise record for wins by a goalie in a season and pacing the club to first place in the Campbell Conference. Along the way, he won 23 consecutive games, still an NHL record for a rookie goalie. Going into the playoffs, the Oilers had high expectations but ultimately bowed out in the first round thanks to a shocking upset by the Los Angeles Kings.
That was just the beginning for Fuhr and the Oilers as a preeminent force in the NHL. He represented the team at the 1982 All Star Game, his first of 7 appearances at the League’s annual celebration of its best players. Along with Andy Moog, Fuhr was part of a goalie tandem that saw a decade of dominance in Edmonton—the pair led the team to first-place finishes in the Smythe Division and Campbell Conference every year from 1981-82 to the 1986-87 season. Regular season supremacy spurred on by the most potent offensive force in NHL history was an rite of passage for the Oilers. Fuhr himself was a contributor to that attack, as he set an NHL record for assists by a goalie in a season, notching 14 helpers in the 1983-84 campaign.
Fuhr was the man for the Oilers dynasty that won four Cups in five years from 1984 to 1988. He had surpassed Moog as the true #1 goalie in those years, and playoff success entrenched that status. In 1984, as the Oilers won their first Cup in franchise history, Fuhr played all but two games that spring, including all five games in the Finals, where the Oilers crushed the Islanders and usurped their place at the top of the mountain.
Were it not for an errant pass by Steve Smith in Game 7 of the Campbell Finals in 1986 that caromed off of Fuhr’s leg an into the back of the net, the team likely would have won five straight championships to equal the mark of the late 1950’s Canadiens. In 1987-88, Fuhr played in 75 games in the regular season, winning 40 of them in his most dominant calendar year. The summer previous, he played every game for Canada at the Canada Cup, backstopping one of the greatest assembled squads in history to gold. His NHL regular season campaign merited the only Vezina Trophy win of his storied career. In the playoffs, Fuhr lost only two games from start-to-finish, including a sweep of the Boston Bruins in the Finals.
Injuries and off-ice problems plagued the final years of Fuhr’s tenure in Edmonton. He missed the Oilers’ final championship run in 1990 due to injury, and a lengthy suspension in 1990-91 reduced his impact with the team. He was traded to Toronto that summer, where he stayed for a season and a half, before moving on to Buffalo to mentor a young Dominik Hasek. In 1995-96, he joined the Blues (and Gretzky joined him at the deadline) where he revitalized himself, playing an NHL record 79 games including 76 consecutive contests. Though he never regained the form and success of the Oilers years, Fuhr retired in 2000 having won 400 NHL games, five Stanley Cups, and earning a place in the pantheon of the all-time Greats of Hockey.
written by Richard McAdam