Edmonton Journal

Blues’ bench boss recalls improbable playoff run


St. Louis Blues interim head coach Drew Bannister wasn’t here for a long time, but he had a good time as an Edmonton Oilers defenceman during their improbable playoff in 1997 when they knocked off heavily favoured Dallas in the first round in Game 7.

“Yeah, a long time ago, great run ... I certainly remember the big save (Curtis Joseph) on (Joe) Nieuwendyk (in OT), then it goes the other way not too far later ... somebody who hadn’t scored a lot but had a lot of breakaways (Todd Marchant) puts it in the back of the net. Pretty terrific time,” said Bannister, who was only 22 then after being acquired from Tampa at the trade deadline for Jeff Norton, yet played all 12 playoff games that spring, including Round 2 against Colorado and Patrick Roy.

Bannister was the second player taken by the Lightning in the 1992 draft after Roman Hamrlik went first. He played 34 league games for the Oilers in 1997-98 but was dealt to Anaheim for fellow blueliner Bobby Dollas in January 1998.

The playoffs is what he remembers clearly.

“I had been playing with Kevin (Lowe) but he was injured at that point and Mush (Bryan Marchment) went out in the first game (playoff ). Boris Mironov and I played a lot together but they (coach Ron Low) were moving people around. There was a young group of us, myself, Dan McGillis,” he said.

Bannister, who replaced Craig Berube as Blues head coach on Dec. 13, remembers his first two Oilers trades like they were yesterday.

“I got traded on the plane (at the deadline, March 1997) when I was with Tampa ... back then there weren’t a lot of cellphones and I found out from one of the media because we were in the air when the deadline passed. He hinted at it. He had called in (to check on any trades) and Terry (coach Crisp) told me when we landed,” said Bannister.

“Then I got traded the day of a game in Anaheim, after the morning skate. I just grabbed my stuff and went over to the other room (about 20 feet away). I played against the Oilers.”

Bannister was on Canada’s gold medal-winning world U20 team with Anson Carter, Mike Peca, Jeff Friesen, Jason Allison, Bryan McCabe and Nick Stajduhar. He was a fine junior defenceman, but had a nomadic playing career.

Bannister, 49, who was coaching the Blues farm team in Springfiel­d when he got the call to replace the Cup winner Berube, played 164 NHL games. He had stops in Vegas (IHL), Cincinnati and Binghamton (AHL) along with a series of games in Finland, Russia, Germany, England and Scotland. He got the coaching bug in Europe and went right into junior coaching in Ontario. He was an assistant in OHL Owen Sound, then the head coach of the Sault Greyhounds after Sheldon Keefe.

“I was player-coach my last two years in the U.K. (Hull in England and Braehead in Scotland),” said Bannister. “I still wanted to be playing and I was still pretty good, at least for that league. Plus, I was putting the team together, finding players with a team budget. I was running practices.”

While there, he applied for a junior job as an assistant coach in Owen Sound, and it took off from there. He was head man in the Sault, shortly after Darnell Nurse left. The Blues hired him for their AHL farm team in San Antonio in 2018. He’s had stops there, Utica and Springfiel­d, all Blues affiliates, all preparatio­n for getting back to the NHL, but behind a bench, not on the blue-line.

 ?? ?? Drew Bannister
Drew Bannister

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