Several teams have played as the Tulsa Oilers over the years and in different leagues but professional hockey in Tulsa has always carried the Oilers brand name.
This Saturday night, the team will celebrate its 90th birthday as a franchise, which puts it among one of the oldest professional sports teams in North America.
Hockey Begins in the Oil Capitol
On January 1, 1929, the Oilers took to the ice in their first game against the Duluth Hornets in the Tulsa Coliseum in downtown Tulsa as part of that building’s grand opening activities.
That building, which was located eight blocks east of the Oilers current home in the BOK Center, stood from 1928 until 1952, when it was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike in September of that year.
In their history, the Oilers have called three downtown locations home; the Coliseum, the Tulsa Assembly Center/Maxwell Convention Center and the BOK Center.
Though there’s no way to absolutely confirm who gave the team its moniker, it is rumored that oil baron William G. Skelly gave the Oilers their name, though, he also gave the same name to the baseball team. To avoid confusion in those days the hockey team was often referred to as the Ice Oilers, a name which is still in use among some older fans to this day.
Success From Year One
The Oilers won the American Hockey Association championship in their first season as a franchise, and things took off from that point. Legend states that the team was rumored to be so good that after claiming the 1929 AHA title, the Oilers challenged the Montreal Maroons of the NHL for the Stanley Cup, which was allowed at the time, but never received an answer back from that club.
Oilers Hall of Fame History
Several Hall of Fame players has had a stop in Tulsa on their professional resumes. Players like Duke Keats, Bill Cowley, Grant Ledyard, Pat Quinn, and John Vanbiesbrouck all donned the Oilers sweater over the years.
Championship Seasons, Affiliates and Longevity
The Oilers saw success in their first season as previously mentioned, and have hoisted their league’s trophy on several other occasions as well. In fact, the Oilers have won titles in 1929, 1968, 1976, 1984 and their most recent title in 1993 as part of the former Central Hockey League.
The Oilers are currently the ECHL affiliates of the St. Louis Blues, but in the past, they have sat at the family tables of the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets (twice), Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, among others.
At present the current version of the Oilers has been in business for nearly thirty years, making them second only to the Tulsa Drillers Texas League Baseball club that was born in 1977.
All of that history and so much more will be celebrated on December 22 when the Oilers will don special commemorative 1928-era jerseys when they take on the Kansas City Mavericks in the BOK Center.
Follow Rich Lohman on Twitter at @SinBinOilers.