From Where I Sit – Thanks Oilers

Over the last several weeks, gallons of ink have been spilled writing about the Stanley Cup playoffs in general and the Oilers’ Cinderella story in particular. That’s not counting tattoo ink for the truly obsessed fan.

How to adequately describe what’s gone without resorting to cliché? I’m most grateful for what this run for the cup has done for the psyche of Edmontonians, Albertans, Canadians, and indeed anyone who hopped on for the ride.

This near win re-establishes the Oilers as a legitimate contender for the cup. It also spotlights all those regular people who made the past few weeks so gripping to watch. Tell me, honestly, that you didn’t tear-up watching first our anthem (then the American one) sung a cappella by 17,000 proud spectators at the Rexall. I was lucky enough to be there one night. What a class act.

To drive in Edmonton after the loss and see Oilers car flags still flapping; to see Go Oilers signs replaced with signs of thanks; to see flags flying on balconies, on overhead cranes and at jobsites — did my heart proud. As one fan told me, “if I could have hung my car flag at half mast, I would have.” Not one person I’ve encountered has been anything but proud — sad but proud. The odd crank writes to the paper talking about bigger global issues (war, hungry people, and the environment) and suggests redirecting the Oiler money to saving the world. Yes, there are real-life tragedies, inequities, sorrow and sadness and most of us are making some concerted effort with money or labour to address those issues. To wish away any celebration or joy until the problems are all resolved is naïve at best and mean-spirited at worst. The Oilers gave our troops in Afghanistan a welcome diversion from the horror they face each day and a shared connection with those at home in Canada.

What a wonderful gift was the opportunity to hoot, holler, swell with pride and marvel at the incredible combo of talent, luck and momentum that was Playoffs 2006. How nice to be part of, and an observer of, fan mania. While most of us didn’t dye our hair, tattoo anything, party on Whyte Avenue or repaint our vehicles — we can understand those who chose to. Wasn’t it nice to be drawn together with people of all ages, nationalities, and world addresses in a spirit of pleasure and joy rather than some disaster like the 1987 tornado or 9-11 or the tsunami? To forget mundane and worldly issues for just a few hours or days. To sit white-knuckled during penalty kills, to cringe and cover your eyes as the clock ticked down (whether we were ahead or down), and to witness sheer guts in a team that wouldn’t say die.

I don’t envy Kevin Lowe’s job of keeping this new and improved team together. Only two months to training camp you say? Thanks Oilers, it’s been a blast from where I sit.

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