Curt Brackenbury

The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s were known for their explosive offense. But the members of the team that weren't great scorers and skaters, were often big, bruising players with little skill. Over the years the Oilers have had quite a collection of tough guys, guys like Semenko, McSorley, McClelland, Dykstra..... but one of the first NHL Edmonton Oiler tough guys was Curt Brackenbury.

Brackenbury had played several years in the WHA, most notably with Minnesota and Quebec. "Brack" played two years in Minnesota (1974-76) under coach Harry Neale, who jokingly referred to Brackenbury as "his idol."

"I love the way he plays. He only knows how to play hockey one way - and that's by getting his hands dirty. He's the ultimate poster boy for hard work."

When the Minny franchise folded in 1976, Brackenbury signed on with the Quebec Nordiques. He stayed with the Nords through to their inaugural season in the National Hockey League.

The aggressive right winger put up 6 goals and 14 points in his first NHL season, but was left exposed in the waiver draft. The Nords had acquired the services of veteran NHL plumber John Wensink, and deemed Brackenbury expendable. That's when the Oilers picked him up.

"He doesn't have a ton of ability but he what he does have he applies to the fullest," commented Oiler coach Glen Sather.

Brackenbury wasn't the toughest fighter in the league, although he was willing to drop the gloves no doubt. His play resembled that of a linebacker than a right winger. He would rumble down his wing looking for thunderous bodychecks. He brought an infectious enthusiasm to a young Oilers team that was a dynasty in the making.

Brack's young Oiler teammates loved having Brack on the team. He was the hardest worker in practice, and brought an infectious energy to the dressing room. Though Brackenbury spent the next season and a half in Edmonton before he finished the 1981-82 season in the minors and was then moved on, he did have a small impact on the success of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers dynasty..

In 1982-83 Brack signed with the St. Louis Blues but aside from 6 NHL games, he spent the year in the minors. It proved to be his last year of professional hockey.

Brackenbury was always the first to admit he was not the most talented player in the league. "I'm not going to make it in this game as a puck handler" he joked. Part of the reason for that is as a 15 year old his family moved from his native Kapuskasing, Ontario to Kamloops, British Columbia. He never played hockey for the next two years. Age 15-17 is a pretty important time in the development life of a hockey player.


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