Edmonton Journal article (Fans rally behind Oil Kings)May 19 2012 at 4:43 AM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Fans rally behind Oil Kings
By Manisha Krishnan, edmontonjournal.com
May 18, 2012
Karen Maxwell reacts to the first period goal scored by the Oil Kings in a game against the Shawinigan Cataractes. Edmonton Oil Kings Fans, family and biletts gathered at the Clareview Earls restaurant to cheer on the WHL team competing in the Memorial Cup in Quebec.
Photograph by: Shaughn Butts , edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - You didn’t have to be watching the TV screen to know when the Edmonton Oil Kings scored Friday as they won their first Memorial Cup game.
The roar of nearly 150 fans packed into Earls Clareview and excitedly waving their silver and red pompons was a dead giveaway in the 4-3 victory over the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
“It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing for these kids,” said Sherry Pysyk, whose son Mark is the Oil Kings captain.
With her hand clasped over her mouth, she admitted her anxiety was getting to the best of her.
“I can’t even watch. That’s how nervous I am.”
Her fears were allayed when Henrik Samuelsson scored the fourth goal, sealing his team’s victory with six minutes remaining in the third period.
Forward Kristians Pelss gave the team its debut goal, just two minutes and 41 seconds into the first period.
Many of those in attendance were friends and family members of the players, proudly wearing their red and blue jerseys, as well as staff from the Oilers and Oil Kings franchises.
Joe Sheen, who billets Pelss at his Sherwood Park home, said he’s delighted with how far the team has come.
“The year before, I think there were a lot of lessons that they learned by losing, and now they’ve gained momentum and strength as a group. They’ve just gotten better and better,” he said.
“The Oil Kings will win one way or another. They’ll play like champions.”
Servers made their way around the room among banners and flags, offering patrons drinks, T-shirts and even temporary tattoos featuring the team’s logo.
“I look at this bar tonight and I’m absolutely thrilled with the turnout we’ve gotten,” said Steve Hogle, vice-president of communications and media content for the Oilers.
“It’s amazing how this team has captured the spirit of the city.”
The atmosphere was much the same over at Average Joe’s All-Star Bar in Sherwood Park, where about 100 people were getting in on the action.
“We didn’t realize how big of a following they had, because I guess they’ve never really made it this far,” said Paige Zuk, general manager of the bar.
“I’ve never seen this before for WHL.”
Support for the Western Hockey League champions has grown steadily over the past few weeks, with more than 12,000 spectators on hand at Rexall Place last Sunday to see their Game 7 victory over the Portland Winterhawks.
This is the first time the club has competed for the Memorial Cup since it was brought back to Edmonton five years ago, although earlier versions of the team made numerous appearances in the playoffs from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the bar scene, another loyal follower took in the action from the comfort of his living room.
Wayne Telfer, 58, has been an Oil Kings Founders Club member and season ticket holder since 2007. He rarely misses a game.
“I really enjoy watching the junior players play because it’s still about the game, it’s still about passion for the game,” said Telfer, who grew up playing hockey in Sudbury, Ont. and later coached his son’s bantam team.
Although he won’t be surprised if the Oil Kings go all the way, he thinks the experience players are gaining is just as valuable as the trophy.
“There are teams that have never even gone to the Memorial Cup, and here’s their opportunity,” he said.
Oil Kings spokesman Ryan Ohashi said they’ve definitely benefited from all the attention.
“I know for the guys, they can feed a lot off the crowd,” he said over the phone from Shawinigan.
“A lot of them, they’ve been here for a lot of years where maybe the fan support wasn’t as good before as it is now. For them to actually be able to see that progression, I think that’s great.”
The Oil Kings will play two more teams in a round-robin format. The top team automatically advances to the championship match, while the second- and third-place finishers duke it out in a semifinal.
The next game is against the defending Memorial Cup champs, the Saint John Sea Dogs, on Monday at 5 p.m.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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