NHL playoff hockey finally returns to Edmonton

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NHL playoff hockey finally returns to Edmonton

The chants of "Let's go Oilers," could be heard throughout Rogers Place hours before any of the action hit the ice.

Wave after wave of fans decked out in their orange jerseys streamed into the arena in anticipation of the first playoff game to be played in Edmonton in 11 years.

Some who couldn't get tickets lined up to buy $80 tickets that got them onto the Rogers Place concourse, but they'd have to watch the game on television screens.

Brolin Badger and his friend Daniel McLaren lined up at 5 p.m. to get their hands on the concourse tickets.

"I think it'll be awesome to be here for the first time in 11 years, " said Badger decked out in his McDavid jersey. "The last time, I was four years old, so I don't really remember it."

There were plenty of fans at the game who vaguely remember what the 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Finals was all about.

Playoff memories 

In Ford Hall, at least a thousand fans packed into the huge space to watch the game projected onto a wall.

Gurmen Aujla was in Grade 2 during that run and remembers the city going crazy. Now, the 18-year-old university student is taking it all in even though he couldn't get a ticket for the game.

"It's been a fun time, I've enjoyed being here these last couple of hours, I just feel like there's no better place to play hockey than in Edmonton," he said.

With single-ticket prices hovering anywhere from $450 to several thousands, Ford Hall turned out to be a much cheaper option for a couple of thousand fans.

For Kar-Wing Koo, who lives a block away from Rogers Place, watching the game in his condo just wasn't going to cut it. He said shortly after 5 p.m. he could hear cars honking on the street and there was a buzz everywhere so he and his friends came to watch the game at Ford Hall.   

"We were joking, we thought this place might fall, we didn't think it would be able to handle everybody jumping up and down," said Koo. 

Meanwhile, on Whyte Avenue

While the orange crush flooded Rogers Place, fans in matching jerseys streamed into bars and restaurants along Whyte Avenue.

"The thing I remember from the last playoffs is Edmonton just vibrating," said Leanna Wodinski, who watched Wednesday's game at a sports bar with her husband. "It was so exciting just to be a part of it all, so that's what I'm excited for this time."

Brandon Nielson has a slightly different recollection.

During the last Oilers playoff run in 2006, street riots became a nightly affair. At the time, Nielson worked at a bar near Whyte Avenue and described those nights as "pandemonium."

"The more we won, the crazier it got on the street," he said. 

Chilly spring weather may help cool Oilers fever this year by discouraging fans from partying on the street, Nielson added.

"Hopefully we show a little bit more decorum this time," he said. "But I'm excited about things that are to come in the future because I think we're going to have a good team for a while."

Daniel Kim, Ronan Van Rooig and Jack Eshelman have vague memories of those riots — they were seven years old at the time.

Eleven years later and the three friends are old enough to join the crowds at bars along Whyte Avenue.

"It really brings the city and the community together and we're all really hyped," Van Rooig said.

"Listen, I've been a fan for my entire life," Eshelman interrupted. "I'm so excited."

"I just love everyone coming together and just seeing everyone super happy," Kim agreed. "I love Edmonton — I love my city."

It was a common theme on this night as the magic of post-season hockey finally returned to Edmonton. 

Game 2 against San Jose is in Edmonton on Friday.