For nearly five years, the Mercer Tavern on the corner of 104th Avenue and 103rd Street has been a popular destination in Edmonton's bar scene.
Today it sits in the shadow of Rogers Place on the edge of the downtown core. But for a while the view out of the pub's open-air windows was of a massive parking lot.
The inaugural season at Rogers was a good trial run for the pub to get ready for the playoffs. Mercer Tavern co-owner Devin Pope says that when the Oilers kicked off their season last fall, the rush of fans into the pub took some getting used to.
"We did get it handed to us the first couple of games," said Pope. Paring down the kitchen menu and the addition of another bar has helped smooth things out since, he said.
'Mentally good for the city'
On Wednesday, when the Oilers hosted their first playoff game in 11 years, the staff at the Mercer were ready and waiting.
"There was an Oilers jersey coming in at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a workday and that put a smile on my face," said Pope.
Pope said while the rush of fans for playoff hockey is great for the sale of beer and food, what makes him happiest is what the playoff vibe is doing to the downtown core, an excitement that has been lacking in the heart of the city for many years, he said.
"This is a new life, a new vibe. It feels like a whole new city, kind of, and I'm super excited to be here for it. I mean, it's like mentally good for the city, like it's nice to see people smiling and cheering on their home team when they couldn't do that for 11 years."
'Lineup of almost 100 people'
Just off Whyte Avenue, United Cycle brand manager Kelly Hodgson and his staff have been working around the clock to get Oilers jerseys, T-shirts, car flags, wigs, and you name it on the shelves to prepare for the rush of fans.
On Wednesday morning a lineup of fans looking to get suited for the playoff run had formed outside their doors.
"For the last five days — and Wednesday being the paramount day — we had a lineup of almost 100 people in the front door, looking to get car flags, looking to get jerseys," said Hodgson.
"It's a nice injection into our economy for sure and a good energy," said Hodgson. All of the store's owners came in and helped staff on Wednesday to deal with the flood of fans, he said.
"The city really needed something like this with the tough economy out there and a lot to feel sorry about."
Game 2 of the series happens Friday night in Edmonton.