The Glory Barons: The Saga of the Edmonton Oilers

Description

360 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
$32.00
ISBN 0-670-88496-0
DDC 769.962'64

Year

1999

Contributor

Reviewed by Bob Forsey

Bob Forsey is the education officer at the Newfoundland Museum in St.
John’s.

Review

In tracing the development of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s,
this book exposes the secret deals and pressure tactics used by owners
and players as they battled over expansion, free agency, and higher
player salaries.

Hunter begins by explaining how National Hockey League owners first
conspired against expansion during the late 1950s and then adopted it as
a means to access lucrative U.S. television markets. He goes on to
reveal how entrepreneur Peter Pocklington used superstar Wayne Gretzky
not only to build the Edmonton Oilers into a five-time Stanley Cup
winner but also to help him avoid bankruptcy. Pocklington’s debts,
combined with Gretzky’s new contract of 1987, forced Gretzky’s sale
to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, when he was still in his peak playing
years.

Hunter’s book also recounts how NHL Players’ Association President
Alan Eagleson betrayed the union in approving the 1979 merger of four
WHA teams into the NHL. When players realized that the merger was for
“the good of owners” rather than, as Eagleson had claimed, “the
good of hockey,” the union hired the former baseball-union leader Ed
Garvey to investigate Eagleson. Garvey’s report revealed that Eagleson
had misused union funds and made unauthorized loans. During the 1994
strike, union head Bob Goodenough negotiated for, and won, better free
agency rules and salary disclosure. These improvements, Hunter
concludes, led to the subsequent salary inflation that crippled the
ability of small-market teams to sign free agents. In discussing the
threat of franchise losses in smaller markets (mainly Canadian) to the
larger U.S. markets, he shows how Edmonton was able to put together a
group of local investors to keep the Oilers in Edmonton, at least until
2004.

Hunter has written an insightful analysis of the business of hockey—a
business in which players are “assets” to be “bought low and sold
high,” in which fans are losers to high ticket prices, in which
championship teams go to the highest bidders. The Glory Barons is a
superb business primer for all hockey fans.

Citation

Hunter, Douglas., “The Glory Barons: The Saga of the Edmonton Oilers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/494.