EDMONTON — The stakes are high for the Edmonton Fire Department.These Stanley Cup playoffs. Ask their fans.
They crowd Rogers Place in their thousands before every game. Every side street is full to the brim. The arena has a formal and free tailgate party. There is live music and a huge screen for the game. A line can be seen snaking around blocks hours ahead of last Sunday's puck drop.Oilers For the .
It's exciting enough to see the Oilers on a postseason run. But it's even more thrilling when they face off against the Flames. Fans have waited 31 years for the next chapter of the legendary playoff series.This round is as widespread in the province than cattle farms. The passion it inspires among some supporters may outweigh the on-ice intensity.
“I told my wife that if Edmonton beats Calgary, and wins the Stanley Cup we must name our child Darnell.” [after Oilers' defenseman]One tailgater said this before the Oilers' 4-1 win over Game 3. “She said she couldn't have an,” he added. [Oilers] I don't want tattoo so I am pushing for the name.”
What would he really want in a tattoo, given the choice?
“Just like an enormous Oilers logo, and then like some players' faces around. He laughed. “I want people know that this team is part of our family. They're almost a family member.
The sentiment could be extended also to the larger Oilers' community.
On game night, there are no orange or blue sweaters, but there is a healthy number of Flames fans wearing red-and-black. To a steady chorus of “Let’s go Oilers!” strangers give each other a pat on the back. Kicking every few minutes. It all happens against the backdrop of a pulsing beat from each direction. It sounds like the nervous heartbeats of hockey fans.
Edmonton fan shows off her custom sweatshirt, which is not embroidered with the last name of a player but her mother. This keepsake was passed down through generations, as well as a love for the game.
Calgary fans have been engaging in playful taunting of their Edmonton counterparts. They offer bets about how fast each side will finish the series. One promises a round if they win.Drop the gloves in Game 3.
Outside the tailgate, a couple of friends dressed in Oilers flags marched up 102 Street shouting, “I love Connor!” Edmonton's captain might hear the fanaticism and even see them in the dressing room.
It's pandemonium in the best possible way. As the warm-ups draw near, the atmosphere erupts with anticipation. This day, the series is tied 1-1. The tension is real outside. It's all that out-of-towners had hoped for.
“We drove like four hour to get there,” said a 20 year old fan who came with her roommate for Game 3. “As soon a we discovered it was Edmonton and Calgary we were like, “we're going!”
“It's unique, you know?” We hate Calgary. Calgary hates us. Only one team is allowed to play [to the next round] You don't even know how many years it will take. [a playoff run] “Will it last? What's next? But we're here now, and it's great to be a part of this and feel like we're there all the time.”
Calgary had big plans for its second-round watch party.
Perhaps Mother Nature is a fan of Oilers.
After a severe windstorm had damaged outdoor facilities, it was clear that inclement weather would be predicted for the game night. This could mean snow, more wind, or sub-freezing temperatures.
You are invited to experience the unpredictable mid-May Canadian weather.
Calgary pulled the chute at its viewing party. However, they invited fans to view Game 3 from the Saddledome — for free. The Red Lot was fully operational and ready to go for Game 4.
Dallas Kitt (Flames manager of Events), was relieved. Kitt had been instrumental in the inception of outdoor viewing in the playoffs in 2019. It has only increased in popularity.
Calgary offers 5,000 free tickets every game day at 9:15 a.m. In minutes, tickets sell out.
“It was a way of giving back to the community. [offer] Kitt stated that this is a chance to see what watching a Flames match looks like for those who aren't able to afford tickets. “During playoffs, tickets inside Saddledome can be very difficult to find, so everyone is super excited to get inside. But, we wondered, “How can this energy be brought outdoors and made available to Calgarians for them to experience the same experience?”
Kitt jokes that the centerpiece of Red Lot is a 40-foot TV screen. Kitt says it “feels like Canada's biggest TV.” The Flames score with a goal horn. Local celebrities and Flames alumni will make appearances. Country acts have been performing in Canada thanks to a partnership with the Canadian Country Music Awards.
Basically, if Kitt & Co. do their job right, the entire evening is a nonstop party.
She said, “It's quite fun during intermissions and at any TV timeouts.” “We do nothing but get the crowd involved and the music moving. That's what we do. [of it] It is quite high-energy and you can see it on the broadcast.
Kitt declined to claim all the credit. Kitt attributes the success of Calgary’s Red Lot to the people who work there, as passionate about their team as the ones up north in Edmonton.
Red Lot is truly made possible by the fans, she stated. “The energy and excitement are all on them. They are so excited to be here, and you can just feel it through the excitement. We're so excited to see all of that outside the Saddledome for people to enjoy.
It's the most popular ticket in town, besides the Saddledome. Everyone just wants to be there, and feel the energy.
The chants echo for blocks around Edmonton's Ice District.
“We want the Cup… We want to see the Cup …”.”
The Oilers won game 3. They won Game 3.
Edmonton streets are crowded with fans. The traffic is at a standstill. It is a warm Sunday evening and the sun has yet to rise. Monday is a holiday.
Who will stop now?
“We met at the [tailgate]”It's a beautiful thing,” says one fan as he wraps his arm around another wearing identical clothing.sweaters. “[Our group] He was chirping with Flames [fans] We started chirping, and then they began chirping at our faces. It was quite funny. We watched the game together, so now we know that we are also good luck.
Maybe they all returned for.
Edmonton led by 3-0 at the end of the first half. Then, Calgary nearly lost the lead. Calgary attempted to tie the score, but was unable to hold on.It was the Flames' second goal of regulation. It was a major blow in Flames' 5-3 loss. They were back in Calgary and face elimination in Game 5. ).
It was in that third period, as the Flames were mounting their comeback, that a Calgary sweater-clad fan proposed to an Oilers fan at Rogers Place. They said yes. A house divided, 'til death do them part.
Fans poured into the streets, still soaked in twilight, when Game 4's final horn was sounded. Someone wisely secured Wayne Gretzky’s statue near the street and increased security to avoid the inevitable crowd. The effigy became a jungle gym, as well as a photo op after Game 3. The crowds will only grow if the Oilers keep winning.
People stop further down Gretzky to snap photos of two men lifting their homemade cups made from garbage cans. Half a dozen of their friends are cheering on “Sweet Caroline” from nearby. Another person takes a video and laughs.
Continue on to the Ice District, and you will hear only car horns blasting loudly as drivers are hounded by fans. Passengers are able to reach out from the gridlocked traffic and high-five joyful pedestrians as they crisscross intersections. Everyone is patient. Everyone behaves. However, the honking won't stop for hours.
One woman surveyed the scene and said, “I've never seen anything like it before.”
“I know,” replied her companion. “It's madness.”
The mood will be darker one hundred eighty-six kilometers south of Calgary. Red Lot's supporters will feel betrayed by the Flames' almost complete come-from-behind win. They will be anxious about Thursday and the future of their team.
Calgary is in it though. As defensemanIt should be after Game 4. Who says the Flames can't win 3 consecutive games? It's been done before. Why not?
Calgary knows what Calgary has in store. The Flames will see a fiery volcano of black and red erupt in support of them, far from the orange and blue tsunami.