Hockey Love is Still Alive and Well in Oil Country
Despite the fact that it was less than 24 hours since the Edmonton Oilers lost their sixth straight game to Phoenix Friday night, thousands of Oilers fans flocked to Rexall Place on Saturday afternoon to watch their team take part in a light-hearted skills competition. For one afternoon, all of the frustration of the 2013-2014 season was forgotten as the fans roared their approval for their team. The turnout may seem surprising for a team that has struggled so much of late, but it simply proves that Edmontonians love their hockey. And more importantly, they love their Oilers.
The event experienced so much popularity that organizers had to pull away some of the curtains covering part of the upper bowl. Fans young and old came to cheer for their favourite players and enjoy the display of skill from the Oilers players. The players were surely encouraged by the large turnout and obvious commitment from their fans to come to the competition. The player’s competitiveness showed through, highlighted by Jordan Eberle’s disapproval of Taylor Hall’s apparent “cheating” after he knocked a pylon in the fastest skater competition. The fans loved the show, cherishing a somewhat rare opportunity to cheer for their Edmonton Oilers.
Pee Wee Skaters Get Involved in Skills Competition
A great aspect of the afternoon’s events was the inclusion of Pee Wee hockey players, who got the chance to compete on the same ice as their idols. The Oilers players, for their part, happily interacted with the young players. The fans were especially excited when one young player got the opportunity to shoot on Bryzgalov in the shootout competition. He didn’t score, but it was probably the opportunity of a lifetime.
Players Have a Little Fun and Entertain the Fans
Taylor Hall fumbled the puck in the shootout competition, likely because a player on the sidelines slid a second puck between his skates as he broke in on Bryzgalov. Ryan Jones celebrated a goal in the three-on-three drill by sliding the length of the ice on his knees and doing his best Nail Yakupov impression.
Bryzgalov had some fun of his own, lighting up the three-on-three drill by stealing the puck, skating the length of the ice, and taking a shot on Ben Scrivens. Scrivens was unable to retaliate, as he was tripped in his own end and forced to return to his net.
Players took to twitter during the and after the event, thanking the fans for their support and sharing the fun from ice level.
That’s it gazzy @lukegazdic With the bomb #100.8
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (@RNH_93) January 25, 2014
The support today at the skills competition was great! Thanks to everyone for coming out and enjoying it.
— Sam Gagner (@89SGagner) January 26, 2014
It was no surprise when Taylor Hall won the fastest skater competition with a time of 13.986 seconds. He was the only skater to break the 14 second mark. Ryan Smyth won the accuracy shooting competition, hitting the four targets on a minimum four shots.
The biggest upset of the day came from Luke Gazdic. He was the only player to shoot over 100 mph, winning the hardest shot competition with a speed of 100.8 mph. He was also the only forward to advance to the second round of the shootout competition. He ended up losing that competition to Martin Marincin. The rookie defenceman was the only player to score twice on Bryzgalov.
I have gained experience writing for the sports section of The Gateway, the campus newspaper for the University of Alberta and blogging for puckrant.com. I am completing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with aspirations to try my hand at sports writing for a career.