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Kevin Lowe on Play On! street hockey and the run for the Cup


Throughout his 40-year involvement with professional hockey, one often-underappreciated trait has served Kevin Lowe as well as any other in his Hall-of-Fame career: an impeccable sense of timing.

It famously served him well as a player, from his 1979 selection as the first NHL draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, joining Wayne Gretzky to help usher in the last of hockey’s true dynasties, to joining the New York Rangers in time to end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought. And it served him equally well in the front office, teaming with Gretzky again to assemble the roster that enabled Canada to capture a first Olympic men’s hockey gold in 50 years.

Now he’s hoping to bring that sense of timing to his newest gig, sitting on the board of directors of Play On! Canada. As the organizer of mass-participation street-hockey festivals across Canada, Play On! is returning after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus with eight city stops this summer.

Of particular interest to Lowe is the sixth stop on the tour, scheduled for Sept. 10 and 11 in the ICE District outside of Rogers Place, the current home of the Edmonton Oilers. With the team just eight wins away from capturing its first Stanley Cup since Lowe was one of the team’s alternate captains in 1990, the hope is that the event in the Albertan capital might even have a special guest of honour.

But as somebody who has been lucky enough to spend quality time with Stanley on six occasions over the years, he knows that summer is always the busiest time for hockey royalty.

“I’m not sure whether we could even do that or not,” said Lowe, who credits playing street hockey over the potholes of his native Quebec for helping his skill development as a youth. “I know that it has a tight schedule. So I’d have to try to … I won’t even go there. But yeah, it’d be nice to have.

“It’s a great event anyway, but let’s put it this way, any time the Stanley Cup is around, it’s amazing, the allure and the attraction that that thing has.”

Hockey’s greatest antique is currently the object of fancy for two of the sport’s current stars, with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and his Colorado Avalanche rival Nathan MacKinnon – who both played in Play On! street hockey festivals growing up – leading their teams to within touching distance of the cherished chalice.

For Lowe, currently an alternate governor of the team’s parent, Oilers Entertainment Group, the final four of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, between Edmonton and Colorado in the West and the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers in the East, offers him a unique perspective.

“When I look at the two teams, I think there’s no reason why the Oilers can’t or shouldn’t advance,” he said before Thursday’s Game 2. “And then, you know, obviously if they get to the finals, and it’s kind of the same reaction.