During the lead up to the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, hockey enthusiasts buzzed with anticipation about a kid from Ontario with game-changing potential. Connor McDavid drew attention from across North America, with fans from coast to coast eagerly anticipating the chance to have him take their team to the next level.
“McDavid was the first player since Crosby with that kind of pizzazz. He was a bright, new face for hockey,” says Edmonton-based sports writer Marty Klinkenberg.
When it was announced that the Oilers had won the lottery, Klinkenberg contacted Globe and Mail sports editor Shawna Richer to celebrate his city’s win. It wasn’t often that a young player held so much promise, and the two were excited about what this meant for Edmonton’s long-downtrodden team.
Over the next several weeks, Klinkenberg’s professional life began to revolve around McDavid. He was hired by the Globe and Mail and started an assignment, closely following McDavid’s entry into the NHL. Throughout the spring and summer, he watched as the young prodigy prepared for a life in the public eye.
“The expectations on McDavid were heavy. Social media created a pressure on him greater than any I’ve seen before,” says Klinkenberg, “I have a son, Matthew, who is almost the same age as Connor. So when I saw all of these expectations, I thought about how he would cope.”
With nicknames like McSaviour, McHockey and even McJesus, McDavid brought a new hope to Oilers fans. And throughout that first year, Klinkenberg watched from the stands and press box, recording every detail as McDavid mania came into full swing. He gathered these stories in his new book, The McDavid Effect: Connor McDavid and The New Hope for Hockey, to be released this month.
The book examines more than just McDavid’s on-ice wins and losses. Klinkenberg uses his inside perspective to paint the picture of McDavid’s role in a city on the cusp of change. As the Oilers prepared for the new ICE District to open, the once-thriving heart of the oil and gas industry slowed, leaving Edmontonians desperate for a beacon of hope. Deep in the sea of uncertainty, McDavid appeared.
This month, Klinkenberg will release this highly anticipated read at the opening night of Edmonton’s nonfiction literary festival, LitFest. On Thursday, October 13, at the Stanley A. Milner Library, amidst the hotbed of downtown development and shifting skylines, Klinkenberg will celebrate the many McDavid effects that are still taking place.
“Hope springs eternal for Oilers fans. Now, with the new arena ready to open, and McDavid ready to burst out of the gate again, I think we’re going to see dramatically better performance on the ice,” says Klinkenberg. “He’s the newface of the NHL, and it’s time for a new era.”
This article appeared in the October 2016 issue of Avenue Edmonton.