Close, Controversial Call Spoils Farewell to Rexall

Last Night was, in all likelihood, my last night at Rexall Place — err, Northlands Coliseum. Don’t forget SkyReach Centre.

Many a memories under that roof over the last three decades and, for a second there, it seemed like Connor McDavid was going to make my farewell an unforgettable one. Taylor Hall threw the puck on goal and it squirted out to the Next One at the far post for what looked like a sure tap-in from section 221, row 28, seats 3 and 4. McDavid had been the Oilers’ best player all night — his speed is a sight to behold and television doesn’t do it justice — but controversy ensued.

From our vantage point — and the homer standpoint — there was little doubt the Oilers had pulled even with less than five seconds left in regulation. The referee nearest the net initially signalled goal and the crowd went wild, but Jonathan Quick — the Los Angeles Kings’ all-world goaltender who has been rounding into form — reached back in desperation and gloved the puck as it was crossing the line.

In the moment, it really seemed reminiscent of this goal (minus the overzealous celebration):

Goal or No Goal?

McDavid’s arms went up, but his eyes went skyward. The puck was in Quick’s glove and the referees were going upstairs.

Realizing what had happened, my first thought was: Wow, what a save — the former goalie coming out in me. My second thought was: Oh no, it can’t end like this — the former fan (pre-journalist) coming out in me.

So we waited, on pins and needles, through a lengthy video review. The war-room was going to decide the outcome, for better or worse. When you’re at the game, you don’t get the commentary aspect — aside from the inquisitive girlfriend next to you and the drunkards behind you — so the suspense was mounting. The lack of immediate replays on the big screen furthered my suspicion that Quick stole one, that the happy ending everyone was hoping for wasn’t in the cards. Call me a pessimist, but that was my gut feeling. As much as I wanted to see some 3-on-3 overtime — live at the NHL level for the first time — I knew it was every bit as likely we’d be heading for the exits sooner than later, wondering what might have been.

Then the verdict came and . . . much to everyone’s chagrin, but not necessarily to my surprise, the evidence was inconclusive and the call on the ice stood — no goal.

Wait, what? I could’ve sworn the call on the ice was a good goal. Was I seeing things? Not according to this screen grab:

Of course, I didn’t see that until I was already in the cab heading back to the hotel after trudging out the exit and past the Great One’s statue in a stunned silence like everyone else — failing to fully appreciate and soak up what was another entertaining (and presumably my final) experience at Rexall Place. It was still sinking in as I started to launch my social media apps. By then, the Twitterverse was already blowing up with homemade zoom jobs like this:

(Please forgive that typo of “pick” instead of puck … I feel shame!)

Followed shortly by slow-motion videos like this:

The more I watch it — and stare at it — the more it seems they might have got it wrong. That we all might have got robbed of extra time. It also gives me flashbacks of another robbery at Rexall Place that I had the privilege of witnessing — a less disputable but equally remarkable one:

I’ll never forget that epic run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, having attended at least a half-dozen of those home games — as the inebriated fan, instead of the aspiring reporter — with mixed results but more elation than heartbreak (until the end). My memories are a bit foggy for obvious reasons, but they range from high-fiving grannies to chanting “Shirts Off for Horcoff.” Fun times indeed, and what an electric atmosphere — from the anthem to the three stars.

Those were the good ol’ days, but Sunday night exceeded my expectations for a run of the mill regular-season game. It was a thrilling, if disappointing send-off should I never set foot in that building again. #FarewellRexallPlace

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.