Team was toast of town in 1960s
Franchise made seven straight appearances in Canadian final
By Joanne Ireland, Edmonton Journal
May 15, 2012
In 1963, when the original incarnation of the Edmonton Oil Kings won their first Memorial Cup, the Royal Alexandra Hospital had just opened, cassette tapes and pop-top soft drink cans had just been introduced, and Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs was the year's top song.
An airbus ticket to Calgary would set you back $11.
Three years later, when the Oil Kings were again crowned Canadian junior champs, CBC had just begun broadcasting in colour and construction of Edmonton's 27-story CN Tower was completed.
Those were indeed the days, said Bob Falkenberg, a defenceman who spent four years with the team that was the toast of the town. The Oil Kings made 10 trips to the Memorial Cup, a run that included seven straight appearances from 1960-1966, and they laid claim to the championship title in 1963 and again in 1966. Those memories have been revisited with the 2012 Oil Kings on their way to the national showcase.
"Do I have an affinity for them? Absolutely. Those are my boys," said Gregg Pilling, another alumni who has been watching the current Oil Kings take centre stage.
"It's great to see the Oil Kings back in business and back on top of the heap again."
The Oil Kings on Sunday earned a trip to the Memorial Cup when they defeated the Portland Winterhawks in Game 7 of the Western Hockey League final. They will face the Shawinigan Cataractes on Friday when the Canadian championship gets underway.
The alumni sent a congratulatory message to the Oil Kings on Monday.
"It's a different era, a different setup, but it's a great experience," said Falkenberg. "We're really rooting for them to do well down there. It's not an easy thing to win.
"We had a great run," he continued. "I was here for four years and fortunate enough to go to four (Memorial Cups) and win two. I mean, when I got here, they'd already been there three times. It was the way that team was built. When you were an Oil King, you were expected to win. That was instilled in you."
The Oil Kings made their last trip to the championship in 1972 - 20 years before captain Mark Pysyk was even born.
"They were the cock of the walk back in that era," said Pilling. "They had gone so many years to the Cup - and there was lots of pressure on us. It was always an uphill battle in the West because the easterners wanted to keep the Cup."
By the mid-1970s, attendance had started to dwindle and, with new owners at the helm, the team was moved to Portland for the 1976-77 season. A second Oil Kings franchise tried to make a go of it in 1978-79, and the Edmonton Ice flew the WHL flag from 1996-98, leaving the door open for the Edmonton Oilers to bring back major junior hockey for the 2007-08 season.
"After the (Edmonton) Flyers left, the Oil Kings were a big deal in the city," Falkenberg said. "It was a great time to be playing hockey in Edmonton. Once you made the team, you got an Oil Kings jacket and that was a big deal to wear that around town.
"But back then, I don't know when you started out if it was so much the start of your road to the NHL. Certainly, after you played a couple of years, you'd start thinking about pro hockey, but now if you go play junior hockey, your heart is set on being a pro."
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