For most Canadian sports fans, July 1st is viewed upon as a special day on the calendar. Not only is it the day people across this country are given the opportunity to celebrate just how wonderful Canada is, but it also marks the opening day of free agency in the NHL.
With that said, yesterday was an extra special day for the Edmonton Oilers and their long-suffering fan base.
While Peter Chiarelli was doing his very best to try to upgrade his current roster via free agency, the organization’s new prized pupil took the ice for the first time as an NHL player. As thrilled as fans were to see the team go out and sign defenceman Andrej Sekera and centre Mark Letestu to multi-year deals on Wednesday morning, the real news of the day was the arrival of Connor McDavid.
As nice as landing a highly sought after UFA target must have felt to those across Oilers Nation, the first day of the team’s annual Orientation Camp easily topped it. With all due respect Sekera or any other player this organization could possibly acquire between now and their season opener on October 6th against the St. Louis Blues, nothing will rival what Oilers fans felt yesterday.
P.Chiarelli when asked how it feels to have McDavid, Nurse and Draisaitl at development camp .”Makes you tingle.” pic.twitter.com/UIfxbi0n8w
— Gene Principe (@GenePrincipe) July 1, 2015
As if McDavid’s presence wasn’t already enough, the fact both Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse were also at the same camp did signal a turning point of sorts for this franchise. And after hearing Chiarelli’s response to how he felt about having such a talented trio at one developmental camp, it is obvious the reality of the situation has not been lost on this management team.
[Related Article: Sekera Move Signals A Change In Direction]
Whether you want to believe or not, there is a very good chance of the Oilers current setup eventually turning into something special. With that being the case, the “new regime” has done their best to keep expectations in check for both the team and its new superstar player. To their credit, we have not heard a single peep from any prominent figure inside the organization about what the future might hold for this group and it is a refreshing change of pace.
Quieting The National Media
Despite large chunks of the national media and various fan bases across the league going on at great length about how unhappy the former Erie Otters star forward “appeared to be” with the idea of playing for the Oilers, the kid has done his best to defuse the situation. And yet these silly rumours continue to make the rounds.
Whether it was just a matter of seizing the moment to get his point across or simply a coincidence, McDavid decided to take it a step further on Wednesday. The following little nugget was delivered to the local media after yesterday’s on-ice session.
“Today was a lot of fun,” said McDavid. “The fitness testing wasn’t a whole lot of fun but really cool to throw on the Oilers gear, the gear that I want to play the rest of my life wearing. It was very special to put on and to step onto Rexall…with all the history, it was a lot of fun.”
While you can pretty much guess what the reaction was to those comments in this neck of the woods, here is a small sampling for your reading pleasure via twitter.
Today, Connor McDavid said that Oilers gear is the gear he wants to spend the rest of his life playing in.. ???
— Matt Barwick (@therealfoz) July 1, 2015
@Sun_Tychkowski DID YOU HEAR THAT TORONTO!!! HE’S OURS!!!
— Goggles Paisano (@tigersam99) July 1, 2015
— les lester (@lesterthebaddes) July 1, 2015
The pressure this kid is going to have to deal with is absolutely ridiculous and for him to come out and say what he did, is pretty impressive. While he may only be 18-years of age, McDavid clearly understands how this media thing works. In a span of roughly 30 seconds, the youngster managed to not only put this fan base at ease but also throw a wrench into the plans of any media types who were planning on using this angle in the future.
No matter how you look at it, yesterday was a momentous occasion of sorts for the Edmonton Oilers. For the first time in ages, this organization has become relevant again. There is no question the last decade has been pretty rough, but that light at the end of the tunnel is finally starting to shine through. Hopefully, hockey fans across the country can put their disappointment aside and enjoy what could turn out to be once heck of a ride.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.