Farewell, Pardubice Prince – And Thank You.
This is a difficult post for me to write. Truly. It may sound over-the-top, dramatic, or even downright silly to many of you, but the trade of Ales Hemsky is a tough pill for me, and many other Oiler fans, to swallow.
This is the end of an era.
I have been both dreading and preparing for this day for at least the last four seasons, Hemsky long being a rumoured trade chip for the Oilers in light of their apparent depth on the wing and Hemsky’s declining offensive output.
I won’t dive into statistical analysis here in an attempt to persuade the non-believers of his ability to take on tough competition night in and night out, all the while driving play towards the opposition net and making those around him better…
I won’t try to ruin the image that the likes of Mark Spector have constructed, of a soft European skill guy who dipsy-doodles more than he bishy-bashes, by reminding you that the broken body of Ales was caused by nightly sorties into the corners, the tough areas of the ice, against the biggest, baddest, toughest defenders in the league…
I won’t even try to dissuade the Anti-Ales League from the belief that he was a disappointment as an Oiler by stating that he was a top-5 RW in the league for a 5 year stretch, posting 0.92 points per game on one of the most deeply inept teams in modern NHL history, and sits at 8th on a ridiculously talented franchise scoring list.
No. I won’t do that at all.
Instead, I’ll simply say this. Ales Hemsky was my introduction to hockey, to the Oilers, to my passion.
Game Six, Detroit, 2006. Hemsky scores arguably the two most important goals Oil Country had seen in 16 years. Since that night, I cannot count how many times Ales Hemsky has caused me to rise from my seat, laughing with joy and amazement at the wizardry on display.
A sublime skater. A supreme passer. A magician with the puck. A quiet man, one who perhaps didn’t appear to put in the hard-work his adopted blue-collar town expected, but who made everything seem so effortless on the ice.
He may not have been the talent that could drag a franchise along behind him. But he was one of the most exciting, talented and awe-inspiring Oilers ever to pull on that hallowed uniform. Hemsky came to the Oilers a baby-faced teenager, and left it a man; he grew up before our eyes, leading the way on a hopelessly doomed team.
And, last night, he said goodbye in style, with two goals including his patented cross-crease deke. It was like he knew this was it, and he was going to get the Rexall Faithful on their feet one last time.
For me, Ales Hemsky is the Oilers. Tough, skilled, fast, exciting. I want to thank Ales Hemsky for his service, from the bottom of my heart, and wish him the best of success on whichever lucky team secures his services in the future. Twelve years is a hell of a run, and while I wanted you to be the one to take it all the way home, it simply was not meant to be.
Give ’em hell, Hemmer.
Once an Oiler, always an Oiler.