Edmonton Oilers Close Out Rexall In Style

Wayne & Janet Gretzky & Paul Coffey
Wayne & Janet Gretzky & Paul Coffey /

The Edmonton Oilers delivered what the franchise’s fan base and alumni deserved, Wednesday night, with both a victory on the ice, and then a ceremony to close down Rexall Place that was second-to-none.

Tonight’s 9 Things will focus on both, since (as it turned out) one was very much related to the other:

9. My God, I love Bob Cole. What a treat to have him preside over the final curtain call of this great old barn. Felt like old times, except he was describing a young #97 dominate an opposition, instead of a young #99.

8. It was classy of the hometown fans to treat Kevin Lowe the way they did, when he took the mic on Wednesday. Say what you like (and some of it will be true), Mr. Lowe has dedicated the better part of his adult life to the Edmonton Oiler, and deserves a measure of respect. Good job, fans.

7. I keep checking the transaction wire to see if we didn’t pay more for Patrick Maroon than they told us. What an addition he has been, scoring two more goals tonight, while flanking Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle with a gritty, imposing style that the Edmonton Oilers have sought for a decade.

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6. I found it particularly interesting that, during the post-game ceremony, Head Coach Todd McLellan received a loud and sustained ovation. If the 17,000 in attendance on this night was any indication, the fan base respects it’s new bench boss and is placing a considerable amount of faith in him.

5. It was difficult to say goodbye to our Northlands Usher Nicole, who has been so good to my family over the years. Not only was she great to us & watched Our Kid grown up over the seasons, she conducted herself with grace & patience with thousands of fans both good and not so good. Some nights, I wondered how she kept her sanity. Thank-you, Nicole.

4. On a night when the rink is filled with people named Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, even Connor McDavid…there was something particularly poignant about the fact that Ryan Smyth got the longest, loudest and most emotional ovation of the entire evening. If there was ever any question whether Smyyty was one of the all-time favorites in this town, it was laid to rest tonight.

3. It was classy to give “The Fans” the 1st Star on the night. Otherwise, it would surely have gone to Taylor Hall, who really played as if he truly gives a damn about this franchise. Hall didn’t take a lazy step all night, had a goal and 2 assists in 17:58 TOI, and in particular…went to the hard areas of the rink shift-in and shift-out. It was a welcome to the team’s regrettable performance on Saturday. What a player. Sure hope he’s back next year.

2. There was going to be a “Gretzky” moment on this evening, and Gretzky delivered. Walter Gretzky, that is. One of the most famous and beloved Hockey Dads in the world was honored, in a clever slight-of-hand. All season, Edmonton Oilers alumni have been celebrated, signing their jerseys for long-time season ticket holders. Tonight, after seeing Gretzky highlights on the Jumbrotron, most expected #99 to step out into the isle with his sharpie. But the alternative was pretty special.

1. There are moments in Rexall Place that I will never forget as long as I live. Few of them, though, can compare to being in the crowd that stood with a minute left in regulation time, tonight: A crowd that stayed standing, roaring, as their young Edmonton Oilers finished off a dominating 6-2 performance over the rival Vancouver Canucks. It as not as tear-jerking as the Paul Lorieau Anthem reprise (Bravo!). But for a fan who desperately wants this bunch to finally succeed…the ovation was a whist-ful, hopeful, dare-to-day-dream into the future and what may hold.

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I do have one more post-game column to come, on the weekend. But it sure feels like the season ended tonight.

Good-bye, Rexall. I and my family will miss you.