How Edmonton geared up for Game 2

How Edmonton geared up for Game 2

With Edmonton's wintry weather, tonight's "orange crush" of hockey fans in and around the Ice District looks more like an orange slush.

But that hasn't deterred fans from turning up at downtown bars to cheer on the Oilers in Game 2 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Finals against the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. MT). 

5:30 p.m.

There's still three hours before the puck drops, but it's nearly standing-room only at the Mercer Tavern across the street from Rogers Place. 

"We had the full national anthem on Wednesday sung in here," said Mercer manager Joel Eden of the bar festivities for Game 1 of the series. "You couldn't even hear yourself think."

He said he has added staff and security for the playoff run but the crowds have so far behaved themselves. 

Fans in the bar described the atmosphere around the arena as the static charge of rubbing a balloon on your arm. 

"We're witnessing greatness right now," said one fan in an Oilers jersey. 

A couple wearing Connor McDavid jerseys who had stopped into Mercer for a drink before going to the game lamented the cost of the tickets but agreed it was a worthwhile expense. "Back in 2006, we went to all the games we could and we just missed it over the 11 years," she said. "We might have to sell our first-born child, but oh well."

And while some might find the atmosphere downtown a little too electric lately, a pair of Irish hurling fans were there to throw cold water on that idea. "Over here, they're very quiet," said Jimmy Higgins, the more talkative of the two. "They wait until the team scores, then they get excited. But the rest of the game they're very shy."

"Too shy, too quiet. That's bad for the game."

'It was surreal'

One lucky fan in a blue jersey and a blue wig shared his special story of attending Game 1 on Wednesday.

Jeff Carter Jr. from Leduc said that after settling into his seat at Rogers Place, a woman sat beside him. But it wasn't just any woman.

"She said she was Connor McDavid's mom," he said. "And I thought she was joking at first but it was her and then the dad came down 10 minutes later.

"The whole game I just kept looking over at them. I think they were as nervous as Connor, to be honest," he said. "They weren't saying anything, they were out of their seats the whole time. Oh man, I couldn't even say anything to them — it was surreal."

7:15 p.m.

Fans are already streaming through Ford Hall, the grand atrium of Rogers Place, on their way into the arena.

More than 1,000 fans will watch the game tonight on big screens set up in the atrium for a viewing party.

Stew MacDonald, the chief commercial officer for the Oilers Entertainment Group, said the excitement is building earlier than usual.

"They were here a little bit earlier tonight and we've got a holiday date tonight and a Friday night, which worked out for us, so I think the atmosphere is going to be terrific in the building this evening," MacDonald said.

"Our fans have been so patient, so passionate and to be able to reward them with playoffs in our first year in Rogers Place, just looking around here, it couldn't be better."

He also took some time expound upon the "Orange Crush" origin story for the CBC's Zoe Todd.

"It started from our fans when we introduced the orange jersey in our last year at Rexall Place as a bit of a nod to our past," MacDonald said. "And it went over so well we said let's carry it over to our first year here and it just kept growing and growing."

And has it ever grown.

One Oilers fan inside Ford Hall donned his Fred Flintstone costume for the occasion. Why exactly?

"I saw the orange and I just went for it," said the man, who described the atmosphere downtown as "just insane."

"I really tried to bring the orange crush."

8:00 p.m.

Thirty minutes until the puck drops and it's over to the Denizen Hall bar for a ticket draw to tonight's game.

Patrons chant "Let's go Oilers!" as the bar staff pull names for four pairs of Club Seats for tonight's game.

Jana Meleshko won a pair and is taking her friend Nicole.

"I just came for a beer and to watch the game here and now I'm going!" she said.

8:30 p.m.

Game time!