Paul Coffey wiped away tears last night as his No. 7 jersey was elevated to Edmonton Oilers immortality in a ceremony marked by the sound of trumpets, the streaming of confetti, the flashing of lights in a darkened rink and the deafening roar of fans chanting his name.
"All I can say is it's great to be an Oiler," said Coffey, standing at centre ice with his family as a banner bearing his sweater number was raised to the rafters before a game between the Oilers and the Phoenix Coyotes. "I'll always consider myself to be an Oiler and Edmonton to be my home."
It was the first time Oilers great Wayne Gretzky, coach of the Coyotes, had returned to Edmonton as a bench boss.
The Oilers have already retired Gretzky's jersey along with those of Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Al Hamilton.
All were at centre ice with Coffey during the ceremony that began with the 44-year-old Hall of Fame defenceman, dressed in his vintage blue Oilers uniform, taking a victory lap in a spotlight around the rink as fans delivered a standing ovation.
The Coyotes then spoiled the party, however, by beating the Oilers 4-3 in overtime on a goal by defenceman Derek Morris.
The Oilers rallied in the third period like the Oilers of old, erasing a two-goal disadvantage to tie the game 3-3. But a penalty taken by Oilers defenceman Steve Staios late in regulation gave the Coyotes a man advantage in the overtime, setting the stage for Morris's power-play marker.Earlier yesterday, 500 fans jammed the main atrium at Edmonton's city hall to honour Coffey as city officials proclaimed it Paul Coffey Day.
He ended his career as the 10th leading scorer in NHL history with 396 goals and 1,135 assists in 1,409 regular-season games. He is second only to Ray Bourque in points by a defenceman.