"There were so many good memories," states Jari Kurri, asked to choose one as the pinnacle of a remarkable NHL career. "Scoring 70 goals, to be able to play in the playoffs all those years and to be able to come up and play well in the playoffs -- as a player, you can be very proud of that. Ten years with the Oilers and five Stanley Cups. But if there was one memory that would stick out, it would definitely be that first Cup."
Kurri was into his fourth season as a member of the Edmonton Oilers in 1983-84. It had been a spectacular regular season Jari scored 52 goals and 61 assists as the Oilers finished first with 57 wins, 18 losses and 5 ties.
Edmonton needed to lose in order to learn how to win. In 1982-83, they had gone to the final only to watch the New York Islanders win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship, doing so in a demonstrative four-game sweep. The spring of 1983-84 exacted revenge in every way.
Facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Stanley Cup final, Edmonton blanked the Islanders 1-0 on Long Island in Game 1. New York rebounded with a 6-1 smack at the Oilers, which only infuriated Edmonton. Back home for Game 3, the Oilers pumped 7 goals past the Islanders' Billy Smith in a 7-2 win. Game 4 reflected the same 7-2 score. Game 5 sealed the deal, with the Edmonton Oilers dumping the Islanders 5-2. It was the first Stanley Cup championship in the franchise history of the Oilers, a first for future Hall of Fame members Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, coach Glen Sather and yes, Jari Kurri, the first Finn to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup.
"I didn't really know how big the Cup was until I saw the reaction of the city -- the fans and the other players," he grins. "It wasn't until I saw the effect the Cup had on everyone in Edmonton that I realized how important it was. It really woke me up to what an achievement it was."
He punctuates the thrill once again. "Winning the first Stanley Cup was a thrill. We were all very young at the time. We had so much fun on the ice and we were hungry to win but we were close as a team off the ice. That was a big part of our success."
"1984. Winning the first Cup. You can't beat that!"
Kevin Shea is the Manager of Publishing and Editorial Services at the Hockey Hall of Fame.