Stuff of Legends: Glenn Anderson
Bill Kellet provides his latest Stuff of Legends on long time Edmonton Oilers great, Glenn Anderson. We hope you enjoy the latest installment of Stuff of Legends.
by Bill Kellet
If Hollywood ever decided to create a movie based on the life of the Hall of Fame career of Glenn Anderson, rest assured they would cast actor Robin Williams as the lead.
Why you ask?
1. Anderson has an uncanny resemblance to the diminuitive comedian, and
2. both have parralells between their careers and their private lives and both treat life as a gift, which is to be lived from day to day.
This is also how Anderson chose to play his game; aggressively. He, take no prisoners and most of all, no regrets. He was carefree, yet down to business. Freewheeling yet defensively responsible.
Glenn Anderson is what would be considered the first true power forward in the game, streaking to the net with reckless abandon and never giving up on a play. The man simply known as “Andy” by his peers forged a career that was elegant and graceful, yet dirty and underhanded, he was a player that all 30 teams would have dearly loved to have, and the reasons why were every time he took to the ice.
Glenn Christopher Anderson was born October 2, 1960 in Vancouver BC Canada. Growing up in nearby Burnaby (the same city that Joe Akic hails from, and just a few streets over from where Cliff Ronning grew up).
Anderson learned at an early age that to get anywhere in life you had to fight for things. Not much is known about his childhood, except that he spent a lot of time on the mean streets in and around Vancouver, an experience he credits with toughening him up.
During his junior career Anderson did not stay in one place very long. He learned to play hockey at the Burnaby Winter Club, a hockey program which has produced many NHL stars including Mark Recchi, Brett Hull, Ray Ferraro, Bill Ranford, and Karl Alzner just to name a few. It was there that Anderson learned discipline and also got him off the streets he so frequented. His play at the BWC would catch the eye of junior scouts, and he was soon recruited to the Bellingham Blazers, then of the BC Hockey league.
Anderson would play the 1977-78 season for Bellingham and rack up a mind boggling 131 points (62 goals, 69 assists) in just 64 games. It would be the first sign of his greatness.
Because of this Anderson was turning heads all over junior hockey and he was soon called up by the New Westminster Bruins of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He would end up playing in only one game for them producing one assists in his lone outing. However, the name Glenn Anderson was already circulating throughout the ranks, and he would soon get the break he had been craving.
In 1978-79 the University of Denver recruited Anderson for their hockey program. Figuring on playing hockey while getting an education seemed like a good idea, he agreed to attend for that season. Anderson would dazzle in his lone season there, scoring 55 points in just 41 games, but being a rebel at heart.
Unfortunately, University didnt agree with Anderson, and he soon went searching for other opportunities. That is where he was picked up by the Seattle Breakers of the WHL for 1979-80 season.
Having been a player coveted by many NHL teams at the time, the Edmonton Oilers rolled the dice on Anderson selecting him in the 4th round, 69th overall in the 1979 draft. The Oilers had directed him to Seattle, as they felt him playing junior hockey would make it easier to call him up the next season. Anderson competed in the World Juniors that year for Canada and ended up only playing 7 games in Seattle, but he garnered 10 points and was now being considered a shoe in for the NHL.
His first season in Edmonton came in 1980-81 and he showed management why they had so much faith in him.
Though not as rough and tumble as he had come to be known, garnering only 24 penalty minutes, Anderson showed his explosive jets and his mean streak. He would score 30 goals in his rookie season. The beginning of a remarkable career.
Not only did Anderson demonstrate that he had NHL level talent that season, but come playoff time he was able to elevate his play. The playoffs were something he would become a well known contributor to for most of his career. Anderson scored 12 points in just nine playoff games that year.
The Oilers were only rounding into the mighty group they would become.
The early eighties were still a learning curve for the youngsters and Anderson was just one element in the nucleous that made up this extremely young squad.
Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe and many others would dominate the league like no one before them. Glenn Anderson was quickly becoming one of the leaders in that department.
From the start of his rookie year (1980-81) into the 1985-86 season, Glenn Anderson would record seasons of 38, 48, 54, 42 and 54 goals. His playoff stats would be even more eye popping, topping out with 26 points in just 18 playoff games in 1984-85.
He was also adding to his PIMs, finally playing the role he was originally said to be. Some said his play had gone from agressive to dirty, and he was not afraid to lay an elbow here or a high stick there. He had learned that intimidation and scoring goals went hand in hand and just like that the birth of the power forward was upon us.
The Oilers would win their fourth Cup in six years at the end of the 1988-89 season and Anderson was a part of every one of them.
However, things were changing in Oilerland. Team owner Peter Pocklington had become involved in some business deals that went sour and was now in debt to the tune of millions of dollars. Things had to be done to salvage his reputation as a savvy businessman, and it was that summer that the unthinkable happened.
Wayne Gretzky, arguably the greatest player of all time, was traded to the LA Kings. It tore the heart out of the Oilers. It would later be followed by dealing favorites like Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and yes even Anderson himself. But he still had one more task in Edmonton, and that would come during the 1989-90 season.
Edmonton was still a good team, but were not expected to compete for the Cup that year. Instead they plowed their way through the playoffs led by the usual characters in Messier, Kurri and Anderson. They faced the Boston Bruins in a thrilling series where they also competed against another former Oilers player who had been a victim of the rebuild. He was Bruins goalie Andy Moog.
Messier and Anderson were the two key pieces to the Oilers puzzle that season and did the unthinkable, leading a Gretzkyless team to the Cup. It was the fifth Cup for Messier and Anderson. Sadly, it would be the last for both in an Oilers uniform.
Prior to the start of training camp in 1991, Anderson learned he had been dealt along with star goaltender Grant Fuhr and tough guy Craig Berube to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a younger package of Vincent Damphousse, Luke Richardson, Scott Thornton and goalie Peter Ing. The deal was widely panned in NHL circles yet it brought the Leafs no closer to glory.
Fuhr would play over his head most nights but the team in front of him wasnt good enough, and with youngster Felix Potvin waiting in the wings and ready to start in goal, Fuhr would be dealt to the Buffalo Sabres.
Glenn Andersons three seasons in Toronto were not memorable. His points totals dipped to a high of 57, while his PIMs soared to 100. It would also mark the first time in his ten year career that Glenn Anderson would miss the playoffs.
It was more of the same the following year, with his penalty minutes ballooning to 117, the most of his career.
Then came the 1993-94 season. The team, along with Anderson struggled. Anderson earned a dismal 35 points in 73 games to that point. There were whispers that he was on the downside of his career already, but some like Mike Keenan refused to believe it. In a move that shocked many, the New York Rangers that season traded one of the highest goal scorers of all time in Mike Gartner to Toronto for Anderson. The move would pay immediate dividends as Andersons’ grit and determination would be just what the doctor ordered.
He played the remaining 12 games of that season for the Rangers and every playoff game that year. Though he only earned 6 points during the playoffs with the Rangers, his grit and sometimes questionable forays into the other teams crease made all the difference in the world. That year the Rangers would win their first Cup since 1954, erasing the longest drought to that point. It would be the sixth Cup for Messier and Anderson who were together once again. Kevin Lowe would also add to his legacy.
Oddly enough this would turn out to be Andersons last great NHL moment. That summer he became a UFA and was signed by the St. Louis Blues. It was a lockout year and the league had cut back to just 48 games. He played in 36 of those games and recorded 26 points.
But it was evident the passion wasnt there and his old legs were getting tired.
The following year he would head off to play in Finland for the Lukka Rauma then for the Augsburger Panthers for parts of two seasons. Andersons time in Europe had shown him that he did indeed miss the pro game and he would soon get an opportunity he couldnt pass up, even though it didnt quite work out as planned.
In January of 1996, Glenn Anderson was signed by the Vancouver Canucks. He was ecstatic to get the chance to play at home, where he grew up. There was only one problem. Canucks GM Pat Quinn had been unaware of the NHL rule stating that a player coming from Europe half way through a season had to first clear waivers. The Canucks argued the point, Anderson argued the point, but in the end a rule is a rule and the Canucks had to place Anderson on waivers. He was soon scooped up by a familiar face…the Edmonton Oilers.
The Canucks were furious as they were assured by all teams that no one would claim him. Many in the Edmonton media claimed it was payback for the Canucks promising not to claim Colin Campbell off waivers from the Oilers in the early eighties, and Glen Sather who was very savvy and apparently very spiteful did not forget the incident.
So Anderson was an Oiler once again, although this time he begrudgingly joined the team. He asked for assurances from Sather that if the team was not in a playoff position come March that he would be moved. Sather gave his word.
Andersons return to Edmonton was met with enthusiasm by the fans and his numbers were not bad, racking up 10 points in 17 games, but it wasn’t the same. The team was chock full of new, unfamiliar faces and their playoff hopes were dwindling.
As the trade dealine approached that season Glen Sather kept good to his word and placed Anderson on waivers once more. Again, a familiar face would become his new home as he was claimed by the St. Louis Blues.
He would play sparingly with the Blues only earning four points in 15 games played but adding five more points in 11 playoff games. After that his time in the NHL would cease. Anderson would spend part of 1996-97 in Switzerland and the other part playing in Italy before he would retire from hockey.
Anderson would return home to North America and rumor has it he had many people waiting for him in revenue services. Apparently he had not kept up to date with taxes. He also endured a battle with an ex partner who was claiming Anderson was the father of her daughter and he was being forced to pay child support. Because of his sometimes wild lifestyle and lavish interests, Glenn Anderson struggled to make it in life after hockey as his money issues were catching up to him.
Anderson would end his NHL career two goals short of 500, earning 498 goals, 601 assists for a total of 1099 points; most of them earned with the Oilers.
He was also proud of his career playoff numbers which would total 214 points in just 225 playoff games. Playoff seemed to be his expertise as he had five playoff overtime goals, ranking him third behind only Joe Sakic with eight and Rocket Richard with six. He also had 17 career playoff game winning goals which still sits fifth on the all time list.
On June 17, 2008 Anderson was told he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something which many felt was a long time coming. It had been long thought that he was being held out of the hall because of his rather promiscuous ways and his cocky demeanor, but even the NHL brain trust could not deny greatness when it came time to do the right thing.
On January 18, 2009 The Edmonton Oilers retired Glenn Andersons jersey, and it would bring with it the largest turnout in the city since the first Heritage classic was held there. Glenn Anderson was loved and respected in the Alberta capital and no matter what team he suited up for, in the hearts and mind of hockey fans he would always be a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
Glenn Anderson learned at a young age that life was a tough business, and he took every lessen he learned to heart. He has had a brilliant career highlighted by an amazing 6 Stanley Cup victories and numerous playoff achievements, many which may stand for ages. He has had triumphs and tragedies in both his professional and personal life, but in the end he always came out on top. His career is not only Stuff of Legends its also a great story to tell, one that would make for a great Hollywood script.
I just hope Robin Williams can skate.