Ahhhh, hockey, how I love thee.
Ahhhh, playoff hockey… how much MORE I love thee.
Edmonton has been gripped by hockey fever since the Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. Back then, I had lived in Edmonton for 18 months, had left my first job, was starting to seriously consider Bible school, and was way too broke to be attending any games.
Now, I’ve started a new job, been married for nine years, and am still too broke to attend a live playoff game…
But I could go to Rogers Place – the new hockey arena – and join what felt like the rest of the city in watching the away-game on the big screen.
First Period: Preparation
Our friends invited us to the Watch party at Rogers place. You get in for $5 and can watch the game on the big screen. If the Oilers had been playing at home, by all accounts we’d be spending hundreds of dollars on nosebleed tickets. But for this away-game we could soak in the atmosphere and watch the game for the cost of a pricy coffee.
We all had our jerseys on – me, Ben, even Jenny! Jenn sported her running harness both for asthetic (Oilers colours!) and practical (comfortable) reasons, her Newtrix, and her MuttMuffs – we knew it would be loud!
We met our friends (who had our tickets) at Ford Hall, where the party was already started. The music was booming, and the Montreal-New York game was playing on the screen. We located our seats and asked if they had anything announcing the play-by-play of the game, and Guest Services provided us with an FM transmitter that would’ve relayed some information from the home-game announcers to a user’s headset, but not the exact play-by-play. I figured I could use my phone to stream the play-by-play, but the delay was so far back that I would miss the atmosphere and the action itself. Thankfully, as the game was streamed from a TV into the arena, I could hear more of what went on than I would’ve if it had been a home game.
We got to our seats, posed for pictures, and even got photo bombed by the cousin of a friend of Ben’s. The national anthems were sung – the whole house singing Oh Canada, remaining on their feet and singing The Star Spangled Banner.
Then… puck drop!
Second Period: Shots on Goal
The Oilers scored two fairly quick goals in the beginning of the second period. I felt bad that I had sent Ben to the concession for a drink for me, but he came back with food just as the second goal was scored and the crowd was screaming. As the game progressed, we started to believe that we COULD win this game – and this series – and move on to the next one. We cheered for our goals, for blocked shots, for penalty kills, for close calls. We cheered for each other, for our players, for our town.
Third Period: Gettin’ ‘er done, Bringing it Home
The Sharks scored a goal in the third period, and the tension ramped up. Nails were bitten, particularly when Edmonton got a penalty for too many men on the ice. The last five minutes, I couldn’t hear any of the play-by-play, so I screamed at Ben to tell me when something was going on. The cheers grew even louder, our eyes grew wide with incredulity as an Edmonton player went to shoot into an empty Sharks net and broke his stick. The last minute of the game, all you could hear was the shouting and cheering and screaming of thousands of Edmonton Oilers fans, on their feet, wanting to be heard all the way in San Jose. Edmonton’s team captain sealed the deal, and with an even louder roar, Edmonton Oilers fans raised the roof on Rogers Place.
I’ve been to hockey games before, particularly a memorable one in New York City, but nothing compares to this. As we left Rogers Place, buzzing with the thrill of the game, thousands of people flooded the hallways. Chants of “Let’s go Oilers!” and “We want the Cup!”, honking horns, and jubillant celebration could be heard at the arena, on the train, and on the road on the drive home.
I’ll never forget this game, and I can’t wait to see what round two will bring!
LET’S GO OILERS!!!