Sather played three junior seasons starting in 1961 with the Edmonton Oil Kings. His professional career started in 1964 with the CPHL Memphis Wings and Oklahoma City Blazers, joining the Bruins at the end of the 1966–67 season and playing in 5 games.
Sather played 10 full seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and another with the Edmonton Oilers of the World Hockey Association (WHA). He played 739 regular season games as a pro, scoring 99–146–245 and earning 801 minutes in penalties. In the playoffs, he added 77 games played and scored 2–6–8 with 88PIM. His career as a player ended at the conclusion of the 1976–77 WHA season.
Sather was named player-coach of the Oilers with 18 games remaining in the 1976-77 World Hockey Association season. In his first game as player-coach, the Oilers defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-4, with Sather himself scoring a goal 1:11 into the game. He retired as a player after that season, but remained as head coach, a post he maintained when the Oilers joined the NHL in 1979–80. In 1978, then-Oilers owner Peter Pocklington came to Sather and asked him whether he should take advantage of an opportunity to acquire Wayne Gretzky. Sather replied, "Whatever you have to do, get him." This was considered a risky proposition in 1978, as many scouts and hockey pundits, notably Howie Meeker, considered Gretzky too small, and unlikely to ever make it in the pro ranks. Upon acquiring Gretzky, Sather allowed him to live with his family.
In 1979, the Edmonton Oilers were absorbed into the NHL. After taking them to the first round of the playoffs in their inaugural season, Sather was promoted to President and General Manager, and named Bryan Watson as head coach. On the advice of Barry Fraser, his chief scout, Sather selected Paul Coffey in the first round, Jari Kurri in the fourth and Andy Moog in the seventh. After a 4–9–5 record to start the 1980–81 season, Sather stepped back behind the bench and demoted Watson to an assistant (Watson retired after the season). While his record was only 25–26–11 the rest of the way, the young Oilers caught fire late in the season and swept the heavily favoured Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the playoffs. It was a signal of what was to come. Again on the advice of Fraser, Sather selected Grant Fuhr in the first round and Steve Smith in the sixth round of the 1981 draft. The 1981–82 season saw the Oilers charge out of the gate as never before. They scored an NHL-record 417 goals, paced by Gretzky's 92 goals and 212 points. They rocketed to second place in the league behind only the New York Islanders, but were upended in the first round by the upstart Los Angeles Kings.
This was the start of a tremendous run for the Oilers, who made it to the 1983 Finals (losing to the Islanders) and then winning the Stanley Cup in five of the next seven seasons. The team made the playoffs with Sather as the sole head coach from 1979–80 until 1984–85. In 1985, Sather named top assistant John Muckler as associate head coach and began splitting most coaching duties with Muckler. Sather won the Jack Adams Trophy in 1985–86 as the NHL's coach of the year. In the 1988 offseason, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers finished the season third in the Smythe Division, and then were eliminated by Gretzky's Kings in the first round of the playoffs in seven games. Afterward Sather relinquished his title of head coach to Muckler, but remained general manager of the Oilers.
For the 1989–90 season, the Oilers returned to the Finals where they again faced the Boston Bruins, winning in five games for their fifth Stanley Cup.
While the Oilers remained competitive during the first half of the 1990s, it was obvious they were no longer the powerhouse they had once been (they last won the division title in 1986–87). This was mainly because key players such as Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Esa Tikkanen left to seek higher salaries elsewhere (caused in part by the Gretzky trade in 1988). It has been argued that the high turnover came about from Pocklington's cost-cutting moves in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Oilers' decline was precipitated by poor scouting and drafting in the 1980s. This was largely overlooked during their glory years, since their stellar records resulted in them drafting fairly late and Sather was fairly adept at making trades to fill in the pieces. However, the lack of depth in the minor-league system finally caught up with them when the last veterans from the dynasty years left town. This left the Oilers so bereft of talent that Sather was forced to rush many prospects to Edmonton before they had sufficient time to develop. While the Oilers dropped to third in the Smythe Division in 1991 and 1992, they had enough heft to make it all the way to the Conference Finals both years. The bottom fell out in 1993, when the Oilers missed the playoffs for the first time in their NHL history. Of the 17 players that Sather chose in the first round from 1982 to 2000, only Jeff Beukeboom in 1983 and Jason Arnott in 1993 turned out to be successful for the Oilers. This deficiency was particularly crucial as the Oilers' precarious financial situation in the 1990s kept them from paying their top players enough to keep them in Edmonton, and also locked them out of the market for top free agents.
After four years out of the playoffs, the Oilers returned to the playoffs in 1997 and would make the postseason in four more seasons. In 1997 and 1998, they managed first-round upsets of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, respectively, backstopped by goaltender Curtis Joseph. However Sather was unable to retain Joseph, who signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1998–99, and the Oilers were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs by the Stars from 1999 to 2001. Sather left the Oilers organization in 2000 and was succeeded as general manager by outgoing head coach Kevin Lowe. However, the deficiencies in player development under Sather would hamper the Oilers for several years to come. Since winning their last Cup in 1990, they have only finished with 90 or more points five times and won only six playoff series—three of which came during a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2005-06.
In 2000, Sather joined the Rangers to become their president and general manager. He hired Bryan Trottier as head coach in 2002. The former Islander great, hated by Ranger fans, was fired 54 games into the 2002–2003 season. He then hired Ron Low as coach in 2003, who also proved to be a failure. Both times Sather was forced to take over as head coach; his record as Rangers coach was 33–39–11–7 over 90 games. That pushed his NHL career win total to 497, 19th all-time.
Some good, young players were also drafted during his tenure as the Rangers general manager, such as Henrik Lundqvist, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Carl Hagelin. The team greatly improved after the lockout under Renney, making the Stanley Cup playoffs four consecutive years. After the Rangers lost in the second round of the 2007 and 2008 playoffs and were struggling to make the playoffs in 2009, Sather fired Renney and replaced him with John Tortorella. The Rangers made the playoffs as the seventh seed but ultimately lost in the first round to the Washington Capitals in seven games. The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2010, resulting in some fans holding a rally asking the team to relieve Sather of his position as general manager. The Rangers would later advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 with Tortorella's replacement, Alain Vigneault. He would step down as the general manager on July 1, 2015.Sather stands nineteenth in regular-season coaching wins all-time in the NHL. Teams for which he served as head coach for the full season had winning records in 8 out of 11 seasons and missed the playoffs only once. With the Oilers, his teams finished first in the regular season three times and also set numerous scoring records.
As head coach of the Oilers, he won 89 playoff games and lost 37 en route to four Stanley Cups in five Finals appearances.
Stanley Cup Champion as head coach: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988. Edmonton Oilers.
Stanley Cup champion as President/General Manager: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990. Edmonton Oilers.
The Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic in Edmonton, Alberta, was named in his honor.
Outside of the NHL, Sather was instrumental in building Canadian national teams for the 1984 Canada Cup (tournament champions), the 1994 Ice Hockey World Championship (Gold Medal winners) and 1996 World Cup of Hockey (Finalists).
Sather was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum in 1996. - Click here to read his Bio
Sather was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 2010, he was elected as an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in the “Legends of the Game” category.
On December 11, 2015, Sather's banner was lifted to the rafters of Rexall Place before a regular season game between the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers.