Glen Cameron Sather, "Slats" to most people, was the most successful hockey executive of the 1980s as Edmonton Oilers coach and general manager when the team won the Stanley Cup an unbelievable five times between 1984 and 1990.
Born in High River, Alberta, in 1943, Sather helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the Memorial Cup for junior hockey in 1962-63. He also had a 10-year career as an NHL player. As a pro, he was known as an honest player, a hard worker, but not exceptionally skilled or flashy. Sather was also much traveled in the hockey world. He played for the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars in the NHL and the Edmonton Oilers in the World Hockey Association before it merged with the NHL.
In 1976-77, Sather resigned as a player and took over as coach of the Oilers, where he began to unveil his true talent. In his second year as WHA coach, Sather took the Oilers to the playoffs in 1977-78, where they lost to eventual league champs the New England Whalers. The next season, Sather helped purchase the contract of a 17-year-old player named Wayne Gretzky from the Indianapolis Racers.
The Oilers had a fantastic 1978-79 campaign, finishing first in the league standings during the regular season though losing in the WHA finals to the Winnipeg Jets. Later that summer, Edmonton became one of four teams to join the NHL along with Winnipeg (now Phoenix), Hartford (now Carolina) and Quebec (now Colorado).
During their first NHL season, the Oilers began to show promise and Wayne Gretzky was starting to show signs of being a superstar. Sather was made general manager of the team as well as coach in 1980, just before the NHL Entry Draft that year. In that draft, he picked future superstars Paul Coffey, Andy Moog and Jari Kurri. In the next year's draft, Sather selected goalie Grant Fuhr. Meanwhile, Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson, already on the team, started to emerge as superstars and the Oilers dynasty was underway.
By 1982-83, Edmonton had reached the Stanley Cup finals against the New York Islanders, who won the Cup for the fourth straight year. But the following season the Oilers became almost unbeatable. They won the Cup that year and three more times in the next five years between 1983 and 1988. Sather faced another big challenge in coaching the Oilers after Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. He acquired goalie Bill Ranford from the Bruins and Mark Messier took over as team captain. With these important changes, the Oilers won the Cup again in 1990.
Sather is famous for his trademark "smirk" behind the bench. While some have described his look as arrogance, consider that Sather has the best winning percentage in the playoffs of any coach in the history of the game. Internationally, he led Team Canada to the 1984 Canada Cup championship and was general manager of the Canadian team that won the World Championship in 1994, Canada's first since 1961.
After tumultuous years in Edmonton under an ownership of some 37 men, Sather resigned from the Oilers shortly after the 1999-2000 season ended and signed on as GM with the New York Rangers just a couple of weeks later. He immediately brought credibility to a team that had missed the playoffs the last three years and he was eager to accept the great challenge that was Broadway.