Edmonton Oilers defenceman Kris Russell is what some in the hockey world would call a “grey beard.”
The 34-year-old has played 938 games in the NHL regular season and playoffs. However, that pales in comparison to the 1,468 contests logged by Kevin Lowe.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Russell laughed Thursday afternoon. “It’s hard to imagine those kind of numbers to be honest.”
“I don’t particularly love the attention, to be honest,” Lowe said before Wednesday’s win over Nashville. “We said you have to be a Hall of Famer to get (your number retired). I would have been fine not being a Hall of Famer and not having my number up there. I’m just pleased with the success we could have. The memories are always there.
“It’s not so much about statues and homages. For me, the memories are in my gut.”
Those who worked with Lowe over the years remember him not just for his hockey ability but for how he treated people.
“I haven’t ever played with somebody who was that well-connected with everyone in the room,” said former Oilers player, coach and manager Craig MacTavish.
“He’s equally engrossed in a conversation as he was that one year the Queen was here as he would with somebody he met on the street who had a story.”
“He is the best coach I ever played for. Kevin Lowe, as a coach, was amazing. He was demanding. He treated everyone the same,” recalled former Oilers player Georges Laraque. “It was with him I had my hat trick.
“My best year in the NHL was with him.”
Lowe won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers and one with the New York Rangers.
“He’d always be good, always be consistent. The bigger the game, the better he was,” said former Oilers defenceman Paul Coffey. “Kevin didn’t care about points. He cared about championships.”
Lowe will become the eighth Oiler to have his number retired, joining Al Hamilton (3), Paul Coffey (7), Glenn Anderson (9), Mark Messier (11), Jari Kurri (17), Grant Fuhr (31) and Wayne Gretzky (99). The former head coach and general manager also has a banner in the rafters of Rogers Place.
Russell wore No. 4 before changing to No. 6 at the start of this season.
“I was very thankful to get the opportunity to wear No. 4,” Russell said. “Selfishly, I think it’s great for me to be the last guy to wear it before it goes up for Mr. Lowe.”
630 CHED will have full coverage of Friday’s ceremony with The Faceoff Show beginning at 5 p.m. The ceremony is scheduled to start at 5:45 p.m.
The game between the Oilers and Rangers gets going at 7:30 p.m.
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