Edmonton Oilers fans pack downtown, others in Florida for Stanley Cup Game 7

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Hours before puck drop Monday in the deciding game for the Stanley Cup, Edmonton Oilers fans overwhelmed streets in the Alberta capital, while others who travelled to Florida out-shouted and matched fans of the rival Panthers jersey for jersey.

A few hundred fans gathered outside Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Fla., outside Miami, for tailgate parties before Game 7.

A rough eyeball count under palm trees put about half in the Oilers camp, half for the Panthers.

At one point, the Edmonton faithful’s chant of “Go Oilers Go” overpowered the local contingent’s cry of “Let’s Go Panthers!”

“It’s insane,” said Oilers fan Richard Haas, who travelled from Edmonton with his fiancée, Alyssa Dudek.

“I’m looking for Panther jerseys in this crowd, which is just mind-boggling to me. I think it just shows something about the Edmonton Oilers’ fan base. Oiler fans are different, 100 per cent.”

Dudek added, “It feels like a home game right now. It didn’t feel like this for Game 5, but Edmonton has shown up in a really big way for Game 7.

“It’s close to a once-in-a-lifetime thing and people have shown up in droves.”

Oilers fan Mike Reimer made the trip from Edmonton on a red-eye flight after Game 6.

“It has been a 34-year drought since we won. We were in the Cup final 18 years ago and I’m still devastated from that,” said Reimer, sporting a blue and orange-striped Oilers tuxedo shirt.

“I had to be here to witness a possible end to that streak.”

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The Oilers won their fifth and last Stanley Cup in 1990.

They hoped Monday to turn back the clock to 1942 – the last and only time an NHL team came back from three games down in the final to sweep the final four.

In Edmonton — 5,000 kilometres and two time zones away — a wave of fans sluiced merrily through downtown sidewalks, streets and patio bars to the continuous primal honk of car horns.

They came mainly in shorts and Oilers jerseys, happily baking in the summer heat amid the pounding of drums and random chants, while police attempted to keep some from spilling into traffic.

“I just have to be here to experience this camaraderie,” said Angelique Bedard, sitting in her wheelchair festooned with Oilers pompoms and flags.

“It’s just beyond words.”

About 16,000 showed up to watch the game on the big screen inside the Oilers downtown home Rogers Place, with thousands more watching on surrounding monster monitors.

With an hour to go before puck drop, police announced the plaza viewing areas were full and urged residents to stay away.

The watch parties have become a staple of the Oilers two-month playoff run and created instant celebrities, including Mama Stanley, whose real name is Mary Loewen, dressed head-to-toe in silver to resemble the Cup.

If she hasn’t cheered on fans, she’s posed for pictures.

In St. Albert, on Edmonton’s outskirts, a seniors home has posted TikTok videos of residents dancing in Oilers jerseys and face paint, garnering tens of thousands of views.

There have been other celebrations in pockets across Canada, which has not seen one of its NHL teams hoist the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

“We cheer them on every single game of the season,” said Derrick DeMone, an Oilers fan in Sydney, N.S.

“I haven’t felt like this since I was a young boy, I’ll tell you that.”

DeMone’s home is something of a shrine to his favourite team, with Oilers jerseys, blankets and pillows decorating the inside and several Oilers flags flying outside.

In Saskatchewan, Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch’s hometown was set to host a watch party at the local rink.

In Ottawa, federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was born north of Edmonton in Peace River, Alta., said she grew up with the Oilers dynasty that won five Cups between 1984 and 1990.

“I think today, the captain of all of Team Canada is (Oilers Captain) Connor McDavid, who’s a great Ontario boy,” Freeland said in Vaughan, Ont.

“And I want him to know that all of us are cheering for him.”

— With files from Rob Drinkwater, and Gregory Strong in Sunrise, Fla.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press


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