The most noticeable sign of the NHL club’s place in the Steel City’s hockey history is an American Hockey League championship banner at Centre 200. The Cape Breton Oilers won their one and only Calder Cup in 1993, the shining moment in the franchise’s eight-year history. Their legacy remains alive through the major midget AAA Cape Breton Tradesmen, who wear the AHL Oiler jerseys.
Centre 200 welcomed the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1997. In a room across from the Eagles’ locker room, where the orange and blue Cape Breton Oilers banner is out of sight, Sydney’s QMJHL players often gathered last year in a video room to watch Oil Change, a documentary series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at life in the NHL.
“We use some of their segments in our video sessions to show players about how to compete hard and how they travel,’’ Eagles head coach Ron Choules said. “We travel a lot, so we have a lot of the same scheduling aspects as they do.’’
The Eagles appeared on an edition of Oil Change last season that featured Edmonton scout Bill Dandy. The segment shows Dandy on the road, first scouting a game in Shawinigan between the Cataractes and Acadie-Bathurst Titan, and later a contest in Gatineau, Que., between the Olympiques and Cape Breton.
With the camera close to the ice, Eagles captain Jonathan Brunelle can be seen flying down the right side. The focus eventually turns to a conversation off the ice when Choules and Tandy discuss an unidentified Cape Breton player.
“We got lucky to be on the show, thanks to Billy Dandy,’’ said Choules, praising Oil Change for showing “the way things should be handled.’’ Aside from showing action on the ice, Oil Change touches on different aspects of life in the NHL.
Viewers get access to the video room in which assistant coach Steve Smith, a mainstay on the blue-line from the Oilers’ glory years, instructs young Edmonton defenceman Jeff Petry. Another segment shows Tom Gilbert at the Edmonton airport after the Oilers had traded him to Minnesota. The program is a hockey player’s dream for reality television and one that actually educates them about the game at the highest level.
“Some of the segments are very interesting,’’ Choules said. “When (Oilers veteran) Ryan Smyth is talking about preparation, that’s a big emphasis we always place on our team.’’
Meanwhile, another Oilers influence is a permanent part of the QMJHL’s landscape. The Kevin Lowe Trophy is annually awarded to the league’s best defensive defenceman.
Shawinigan’s Morgan Ellis won last year’s honour, edging out fellow nominees Pierre Durepos of the Sea Dogs and Martin Lefebvre of the Quebec Remparts. Lowe, who won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton and another with the New York Rangers, played for the Remparts before joining the Oilers.
“It’s a heck of an honour,’’ Lowe said about having the award named after him. “It brings me back to my junior days.’’