The Edmonton Oilers hiring of Archie Henderson as director of pro scouting to replace Duane Sutter isn’t exactly a headline grabber, but it provides a walk down memory lane for me — a return to a time when I was a teenager cheering my face off in the cheap seats, not somebody toting a notepad. In other words, it’s been awhile.
Long before I got to know Henderson in press boxes around the NHL – he’s been a scout for the Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals and most recently the Detroit Red Wings – when I was scribbling at the dailies, I was watching big Archie kicking backside and taking names in the old WCHL with the Victoria Cougars in the mid-1970s.
I was a fan of the New Westminster Bruins, who played out of a rickety, cramped rink called Queen’s Park Arena. Henderson was a nose-bending hammer in an era when every team had plenty of them in the toolbox. Henderson, who was all of the six-foot-six and 220 pounds he was listed at, was a giant in those days.
Archie had hands the size of frying pans and his willingness to use them was legendary. Henderson didn’t give one crap how tough Punch McLean’s Bruins were, and trust me, they were stupid tough, an absolute gong show on ice. Henderson had a job to do and he never needed a written invitation to do it. In 1976-77, Henderson had 208 PIM, one of eight, yes, eight, Victoria players with 100-or-more-PIM.
That Victoria team had Curt Fraser on it. The 200 PIM guys where Archie, a guy named Leroy Heck and Brent Gogol. The Bruins of that season had Brad Maxwell, Stan Smyl and Don Hobbins, all 200 PIM guys, as well as a big kid named Barry Beck. It was absolute mayhem inside of QP on a lot of nights and Archie was one of those visiting players who was always smack in the middle of the melee.
Archie mauled and brawled his way through the WCHL and was drafted by the Capitals in the 10th round in 1977. He was a career minor-leaguer in 11 pro seasons, although he did get into 23 NHL games with the Caps, Minnesota and Hartford before rule changes slowly started squeezing guys like him out of the game.
Typical of most tough guys, Henderson, who had seven pro seasons with at least 200 PIM, is one of the most affable guys you could hope to meet off the ice. Henderson’s history with GM Ken Holland pre-dates his tenure as Detroit’s western scout. He and Holland played together in the AHL with the Binghamton Whalers in 1982-83. No surprise at all Holland made this hire.
Yes, Tyler Wright’s hiring as director of amateur scouting is another case of a former Oiler returning to Edmonton, but this is more about his relationship with Holland and the job he did in Detroit than it is about his history here. Wright played just 41 games with the Oilers over parts of four seasons after being selected 12th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
Far more important, Wright returns to Edmonton with eight years of experience as a director of amateur scouting – six seasons with Holland in Detroit after two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Steve Yzerman, who took over from Holland in Detroit, let Wright go so he could bring in former teammate Kris Draper.
Like everybody in the scouting game, Wright had some hits and misses running the show in Columbus and Detroit. In 2012, the Jackets took Ryan Murray second overall ahead of Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba and Matt Dumba and then selected Oscar Dansk 31st. In 2014 with Detroit, the Red Wings took centre Dylan Larkin with the 15th pick. Solid, even with David Pastrnak still available.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Henderson also goes back a stretch with Oilers associate coach Jim Playfair. They were teammates with the Nova Scotia Oilers in 1984-84. They also crossed paths as rivals, getting into a scrap in February 1986 when Henderson was with the Maine Mariners.
- With Wright and assistant GM Keith Gretzky involved in scouting, I wonder what, if anything, happens to Bob Green, director of player personnel. Gretzky and Green have worked together for three seasons, so there’s a relationship, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN
After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.
- When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
- Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
- How much – $1000/team
- Teams – Groups of Four (4)
- How – Book your team here
As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.