As the final seconds counted down on the scoreboard reading 2-1 Oilers over the Kings, the crowd gave a thunderous ovation that left me with goosebumps. For the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers were going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’d avoided the decade of less-than-stellar on-ice performances, but my “rookie” year working full-time in the NHL would end with playoff hockey, and I couldn’t stop smiling. The 18,000 fans leaving the arena deserved this, as did all of Oil Country.
With no disrespect towards any of the other 29 teams in the NHL, I truly believe that Oilers fans are the most passionate and loyal in the league. Some would joke that it’s because there’s “nothing else to do”, but the truth is I’ve never seen a city quite so obsessed with a sports team.
And that’s what I thought in March.
Since then, the playoff fever and “Orange Crush” have grown to levels that I could never have dreamed of. As I write this, all 18,000+ tickets to our road game watch party sold out, just two minutes after the public on-sale. Let that sink in. A watch party.
When I was asked to chronicle my experience in the playoffs as an employee, I thought it would be a cool insight to provide to others hoping to one day work full-time in professional sport. Unfortunately, I started trying to think of things that have happened and quickly realized that the entire month of playoff hockey has been a complete blur. There was Robert Clark singing O Canada from the crowd in Game 1. There was the Kassian mutton chops, the Desharnais OT winner, and the Game 6 series clinch on the road. There was the Round 2 Game 1 & 2 sweep on the road, and the heartbreak of three consecutive losses mired in controversy. And then there’s been the pure elation of leading 6-0 a minute into the 2nd period.
Who knows what will come next?
Days of the week have been replaced by “game day” and “non-game day”. One of my colleagues recently thought it was a Sunday, when in fact it was a Thursday. Weekends don’t necessarily exist in the playoffs. Each win has resulted in massive post-game celebration and followed by an amazing day at work. Each loss has resulted in feeling sick to my stomach and work days that make every phone call and email that much tougher. Any semblance of a personal life has been thrown out the window, as my days have consisted of work, watching hockey, and sleeping (throwing in a few workouts here and there).
It’s the playoffs. It gets hectic. But boy oh boy, let me tell ya (as Don Cherry would say), it’s addicting. As you walk home in your suit at 1 am savoring a massive playoff win and realize you have to be at work at 830am the next day, you either realize that this is “the dream” or it isn’t. For me, at least for now, it’s the best thing in the world.
No matter what happens tomorrow night, I know for a fact that I will spend the rest of my life reminiscing on what an amazing first year it has been in Edmonton. Getting to open up a beautiful new NHL arena, partake in a playoff run that no one saw coming, and ride the highs and lows of an NHL season has been memorable to say the least.
A year ago today, I was in Europe having recently accepted my position with the Oilers. There were a lot of question marks in my life. Now, I’ve made amazing friends/colleagues who have turned into my Albertan family, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Edmonton.
Let’s Go Oilers!