FORT McMURRAY, AB (January 11, 2015) – More than 1,700 McMurrayites packed the Casman Centre on Saturday night to watch as the number 7 was unveiled in the rafters of the rink in honour of former Oil Barons forward, and current Florida Panther, Scottie Upshall (Fort McMurray, AB).
Upshall’s number was the third to be retired in franchise history, alongside #18 for Richard Warwick and #6 for Chris Phillips.
The pre-game ceremony featured Upshall as well as his former Oil Barons teammate Nick Roberts, former Oil Barons head coach and current Alberta Junior Hockey League Vice-President Fran Gow, Oil Barons Secretary Karen Brebant, Scottie’s parents Scott and Amanda, as well as his brother and fellow former Oil Baron Brent Upshall, who was joined by fiancé Shannon Nash and daughters Emma, Grace, and Avery.
A video tribute to Upshall opened the ceremony, featuring highlights of his 1999-2000 season with his hometown team, in which the 16-year old forward scored 52 points (26 goals, 26 assists) in 52 regular season games, and added six points in five games at the Royal Bank Cup, at which the MOB captured its first national championship.
It also highlighted his time captaining Team Canada at the 2002-2003 World Junior Hockey Championship, his being drafted sixth overall in 2002 by the Nashville Predators, and his more than 500-game NHL career, which has taken him to Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbus, and now to Florida with the Panthers.
The video also featured messages from former Oil Baron teammates Colin Murphy, 2000 team captain Rob Staudinger, former assistant coach Kevin Higo, and former Oil Barons broadcaster Dan O’Toole, who recorded a video message alongside his FOX Sports 1 co-anchor Jay Onrait.
“People always ask me ‘what was it like coaching Scottie Upshall, and what kind of player was he?’” said Gow in the ceremony’s opening speech. “Your compete level, your ability to play with determination, and above all, a lot of courage, was evident with us in 2000.”
“He fit very well into our team-first mentality, and I think that was the biggest thing for our success that year, was our ability to play well as a team; and Scottie, you were a big part of our success that year.”
Upshall was then presented with a commemorative ring on behalf of the Oil Barons organization, before the number 7 was unveiled by local minor hockey player Tyson Britt, leading to a rousing round of applause as Upshall approached the podium to give his own remarks.
“Most of my childhood memories have taken place on this very ice,” said Upshall. “It started at about age 4 or 5 with my dad Scott. It wasn’t until I was about 6 or 7 and played minor hockey here in Fort McMurray that I learned just how much organized hockey means to me, and what it means to be part of a team.”
“I learned so much [in 1999-2000] from my teammates,” he added. “Things like being a good professional, a loyal teammate, a leader, and a true soldier on the ice. Without that group of guys, there would be no Royal Bank Cup banner hanging here, let alone mine.”
Upshall reserved his final words for the Oil Barons fans, who gave him a lengthy standing ovation after his speech was concluded.
“Without your support, nothing would be possible for these young kids, like I was, to dream of one day putting on this jersey and playing hockey in front of you guys,” he concluded. “Thank you very much.”
Prior to the ceremony, Upshall spoke with the current Oil Barons team in the dressing room before spending the better part of an hour signing autographs alongside Florida Panther teammates Shawn Thornton and Shane O’Brien in a packed Casman Centre lobby.
Upshall returned to Edmonton later that night to prepare for the Florida Panthers’ eventual 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night, in which Upshall recorded an assist.
The Oil Barons would like to express their sincere gratitude to Scottie Upshall, as well as to his family members and to the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Fran Gow, for their assistance in making this special night possible.