Kevin Lowe, the best Edmonton Oiler, closes the book on 40-year career

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It’s the end of an era for the ultimate Edmonton Oiler.

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After 40 years, five championships and enough memories to fill three lifetimes, Kevin Lowe closes the book on one of the most unique and enduring relationships in all of sports.

A career that spanned from rookie to captain, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, president and finally deputy governor came to an end with his retirement Tuesday morning.

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No mixed emotions, no need to wipe away a tear after promising Mess not to do this. This is a good day for the original Oiler.

“I’ve been blessed all along,” said Lowe, who walks away to focus on his family. “I am 63 years old now and Karen has often taken a backseat to a lot of things. We could never really plan a trip, especially during hockey season.

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“Now we can make plans to go see our grandchildren, travel a little bit and do the kinds of things I always hoped we could do.”

Lowe said there’s nothing to tip the scales in favor of retirement, just the desire to relax and enjoy life.

“My dad died when he was 48, so I guess I have borrowed time,” he said. “It seemed like now was the time. The grandchildren are beginning to arrive, they are occupying a large part of our life, which we love.

Lowe’s roots with the Oilers run deeper than anyone else’s, dating back to the summer of 1979, when he became the club’s No. 1 draft pick. He won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton as a player, serving as the heart and soul of the Oilers dynasty. As general manager, he put together a team that advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

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Edmonton Oilers Kevin Lowe, left, team manager Lyle 'Sparky' Kulchisky, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky hold up the Stanley Cup after leaving David's restaurant in Edmonton on May 21, 1984. The Oilers won their first Stanley Cup on May 19, 1984.
Edmonton Oilers Kevin Lowe, left, team manager Lyle ‘Sparky’ Kulchisky, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky hold up the Stanley Cup after leaving David’s restaurant in Edmonton on May 21, 1984. The Oilers won their first Stanley Cup on May 19, 1984. file photo

He scored the first goal in Oilers history, past Tony Esposito and providing an assist to Wayne Gretzky for the Gran’s first career point.

He holds the Oilers records for most regular season games played (1,037) and most playoff games (172). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020, had No. 4 retired from him in 2021, and was awarded the Order of Hockey in Canada later that year.

“I’m speechless when I think about it,” said Lowe, who plans to write a book about the four-decade career. “I never imagined it would last 40 years. When I was first drafted and came here in September of 1979, I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t even think I’d make the team.

“I never took anything for granted. I just put my head down and worked hard and it just evolved the way she has.”

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As general manager from 2000 to 2008 and then president of Hockey Operations for seven seasons, Lowe also presided over some of the club’s most difficult years, but his work overall in Edmonton is unparalleled.

“There were a lot of good days and a lot of bad days, but it’s like a marriage, you don’t give up because you’ve had tough times. You’re in this for the long haul. As long as no one told me it was over, I kept doing my job.”

His relationship with this organization is unique in the sport. If you’re counting the number of people who started out as rookies, helped create a dynasty, and held just about every job in the organization over a 40-year period, you don’t need a lot of fingers.

“It doesn’t happen often,” he said. “I’m sure there aren’t many examples of that. But I was very proud. I was never really looking around to see what was on the other side of the fence to see if the grass was greener anywhere else.”

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Edmonton Oiler general manager Kevin Lowe speaks to the media at the team's offices in a 2006 file photo.
Edmonton Oiler general manager Kevin Lowe speaks to the media at the team’s offices in a 2006 file photo. file photo

Lowe says he owes much of this to his mentor, Glen Sather, who called to offer his congratulations earlier Tuesday, as well as to the city of Edmonton.

“He was the first to sign me and he was the one who gave me an opportunity as an assistant coach and then as a head coach. And he gave me a lot of help and advice to be a GM.

“I owe a lot to Glen and the city of Edmonton. It’s a great city with great people and a great place to live. All of my children grew up there and call Edmonton home.”

Lowe was part of the leadership group that started the sense of family in the Oilers organization that players like Duncan Keith and Mike Smith still admire today. That, as much as the dynasty, is a legacy that he treasures.

“Very few have had the impact that Kevin has had, both on and off the ice,” Oilers president Bob Nicholson said. “He is a teammate, leader and friend to many in the organization. We congratulate him on an incredible race and we are excited for this next chapter.”

The next chapter is husband, father and grandfather. And an Oilers fan. That part will never change.

“It’s not like I’m leaving town or anything,” he said. “I will continue to go to the games and support the organization, it has been a big part of my life.”

rtychkowski@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rob_tychkowski

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