The Edmonton Oilers conduct their post-game press conferences in the Hall of Fame Room, with windows that face out onto 104th Avenue.
In victory, we have got used to seeing fans, in orange, white and blue jerseys, pressed up against the glass, chanting and singing, hoping to get the players at the microphones to notice them.
On Saturday evening, after a gut-wrenching loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, a loss that puts the Oilers down three games to none, the home team’s players proceeded to the mics. They were there to give the media the defiant cliches that we’re so used to hearing from those who are looking defeat squarely in the face.
But, they were still there. The fans in jerseys. There were horns playing. Chants of “Let’s Go Oilers.” It was as if someone had transformed downtown Edmonton into Whoville, and we were not going to let that Grinchy Colorado hockey team steal our Christmas.
It wasn’t about belief. I don’t think many of us believe the Oilers can dig themselves out of this hole. No, it’s about that connection that’s forged when a team goes on a post-season run. After beating Calgary, the Oilers are playing with house money. We wish for a Cup, but we never expected a Cup. We know that we are in bonus time. If the ride ends, so be it. There are 32 teams in the NHL, and just one Cup. If we measure our worth in championships, mathematics and the law of averages are going to snap us back to reality awfully quick.
The Grinch moment came with a little more than seven minutes left in the third period, with the game tied 2-2. As a power-play was dying, Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard’s shot went off the post. The Avalanche collected the rebound and dumped the puck up the ice. Bouchard, exhausted from a long shift, was muscled off the puck by Avalanche forward J.T. Compher — and Compher’s shot squeezed through the pads of goalie Mike Smith. The puck crossed the line oh so slowly. It was a traffic accident in slow motion. It didn’t even have the energy to hit the back of the net
The Avs would go on to win 4-2. Colorado leads the Western Conference Final three games to none, which shows us all that dogs should not be making predictions by pushing basketballs into wastebaskets.
“It’s a game of inches and it showed there,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “An inch on the other side, and it’s in.”
And, so, despite the defeat, Edmonton sang. They sang as McDavid lamented the turn of events.
Edmonton sang as goalie Mike Smith said “it obviously stings being down three to nothing, but it’s not over till you lose four.”
They sang as defenceman Cody Ceci gave us the oldest of cliches, that the Oilers will take it one game at a time.
They sang as Smith said that “desperation has to be at an all-time high” in Game 4.
And win or lose, they will sing after Game 4, too.