Oilers to retire Hall of Famer Coffey's jersey

Updated: October 17, 2005, 8:21 AM ET
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Paul Coffey is going back home to the scene of his greatest hockey triumphs.

The 44-year-old Hall of Fame defenseman will have his No. 7 retired by the Oilers on Tuesday night, before Edmonton takes on Phoenix -- and former teammate and current Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.

Coffey, drafted sixth overall by the Oilers in 1980, played 21 NHL seasons -- including his first seven in Edmonton. He was a key member of three of the franchise's five Stanley Cup-winning teams. But in the fall of 1987, he refused to report to the team, demanding instead a contract renegotiation. Two months later, he was dealt to the then-lowly Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I remember looking around that [Penguins] dressing room thinking to myself `What have I done? I've just left arguably the best hockey machine of the'80s,"' Coffey said recently from his car dealership, located north of Toronto. "But I remember saying to myself `This is what it is. This is where you are. Work hard and let's get out of it."'

Coffey went on to win another Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1991 and later played for Los Angeles, Detroit, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Carolina and Boston. With Detroit, he won his third Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman.

Coffey ended his career as the 10th-leading scorer in NHL history, with 396 goals and 1,135 assists in 1,409 regular-season games. He is second only to Ray Bourque in terms of points by a defenseman.

Coffey's defensive partner Charlie Huddy, now an Oilers coach, said his former teammate's end-to-end speed was unmatched.

"A lot of times, he'd get to the red line or the other blue line and end up coasting the rest of the way," Huddy said. "He just had an unbelievable way he could glide, as strong as he was."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press