By Rob Ficiur
On the opening night of the 2014-2015 NHL season, the Edmonton Oilers celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first Stanley Cup championship. Invited to the game and the events was Bow Island resident Elaine Ell. Elaine worked nine years as the Oilers assistant public relations.
Elaine said the highlight of the 30th anniversary celebration was being invited to this event. Though she has not worked for the Oilers for more than two decades, they sent her a written invitation for thirtieth anniversary celebration. Kevin Lowe, the Oilers’ President, emailed Elaine to invite her to a reception for the team and staff at his home.
Elaine shared many memories of her working with the Oilers. Her main job was to set up interviews for the media with players. When the Oilers were the new and rising stars in the early 1980’s there were many media requests for interviews. She also made sure that the Oilers’ game notes were ready for the media before each game. This including updating the statistics and injuries. Elaine wrote articles for the Oilers’ Game Day magazine and made public speaking presentations for and about the Oilers. This demanding job often kept her at the rink late at night then she had to be back in morning to prepare for the next game.
Elaine knew the Oilers well. She first met Glenn Sather when he played with the Edmonton Oil Kings (1962-63 season). Years later Elaine was on a flight to Minnesota for wheel chair basketball. The Oilers were on the plane heading to play the North Stars. She suggested to Glen that they hire her to work for the team. They did. Glen Sather was quite a prankster. After a dinner once he asked Elaine if she wanted a dessert. When she said she did, Glen brought it to her…loaded with salt.
Dave Dryden, a goalie for the Oilers (1975-1980) was one of her favorite people. Dave suggested to Oilers owner Peter Pocklington that the team should buy Elaine her first car. Pocklington agreed he would if the Oilers beat the New York Rangers in their pre-season game. After the Oilers lost that game, the team brought Elaine down to the dressing room. Pocklington told Elaine she could go to his car dealership and pick out a car. Dave Dryden made sure the car had hand control put in and then he helped teach her how to drive.
Elaine had a chance to be goalie during an Oilers practice. Dryden got Elaine (and her wheel chair) on to the ice. She had Dryden’s goalie stick to protect her form the shots. Dave Driscoll hit her with, but she survived.
Elaine was with the Oilers for two Stanley Cup seasons (1984 and 1985). The team gave her a Stanley Cup ring both years. Not every team is as generous with the staff as the Oilers were.
Thirty years later, the Oilers were celebrating that 1984 championship. Elaine repeated (several times) that being invited by the team to the celebration was the highlight. Thursday before the opening game, the staff and players met at the home of team president Kevin Lowe. Here she talked to Kevin, Wayne (Gretzky), Mark( Messier), Glen (Sather), Craig (Mac Tavish) and others. She was touched when Kevin thanked everyone and mentioned Elaine by name.
Friday night, the day after the season opener, the Oilers had a special concert at Rexall Place. In between the musical numbers, the program highlighted the careers of the 1984 Edmonton Oilers. Every player from that Stanley Cup winning team was there except Kevin McLelland (coach in the AHL) who joined them by satellite. Elaine was touched again when Wayne mentioned her by name. Elaine was proud of Oilers fans when they gave former owner Peter Pocklington a standing ovation. Yes, he had traded (sold) Wayne Gretzky, but he brought the team five Stanley Cup championships.
Elaine has her own opinions about the current Oilers and she was not afraid to share those with current General Manager Craig MacTavish. She said that rookie defensemen (and top prospects) Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom should be in the minor leagues if they are not going to play regularly with the Oilers. She was impressed the MacTavish listened to her opinion. Now, less than a month later, both players are in the minors fine tuning their skills.
Elaine knows the personal side to these players. When Oilers fans were frustrated with the team wanted Kevin Lowe (former GM) to be fired. Elaine is more tolerant than the average fan partly because she knows them as people; and partly because she knows how hard they work at their jobs.
The final highlight of her 2014 Reunion visit was a comment from Kevin Lowe. He said Elaine must be in Edmonton for opening of their new arena. No wonder Elaine thinks the Oilers are a first class organization.