EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) The Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup 30 years. Mark Messier thinks that team would still be a force today.
''The players are faster (today), that may be true, but Mike Gartner still holds the fastest time around the rink for any hockey player,'' Messier said Wednesday at Rexall Place. ''The difference nowadays is players are probably trained better so they can sustain the shift longer.''
Messier then gestured to Wayne Gretzky, sitting beside him on the stage.
''(But) because of the guy sitting to my left here, I would stack us up against any team on any day in any era and I would take my chances,'' Messier said.
Messier and Gretzky were on stage with other members of the team that beat the New York Islanders in the spring of 1984, launching a dynasty that brought the Alberta capital five Stanley Cups by decade's end.
It was the greatest show on ice, an offensive juggernaut led by Gretzky, Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Glen Anderson. And when everything went wrong, goalie Grant Fuhr was there to make the save.
The Oilers, led by general manager and coach Glen Sather, were the vanguard of the free-flowing European game, a crisscrossing offense in a league where forwards were drilled to stay in their lanes.
Messier said he remembered early in his career ending up on winger Bill ''Cowboy'' Flett's side of the ice.
''He looked at me and he says, `Get the hell out of here!''' Messier recalled. ''He was kind of in the old school of up and down the wing kind of hockey, and we're trying to play this more weaving style, more innovative European style. I think as time wore on, obviously we knew that the style of play that we were introducing forced the league to play and change because of us.
''If they were going to compete against us, they were going to have to skate and up their talent level as well. Looking back on it now, it's quite gratifying to everyone in here that we were able to have that big an impact on the league.''
The Oilers won the 1984 Stanley Cup after being swept by the Islanders in the 1983 finals.
''We weren't quite committed to the level to become a Stanley Cup champion (in 1983), and I'm not trying to say that to take anything away from the Islanders, because they deserved to beat us,'' Gretzky said. ''Winning that Stanley Cup (in `84) had a lot to do with the fact that we had learned from the Islanders.
''Hitters have to hit, and if they're going to do that, then the offensive guys better take a hit to make a play. That's what separates champions from good teams. As a group everyone did that.''