EDMONTON -- Ninety-five fans arrived at Edmonton International Airport on Sunday morning, most wearing Edmonton Oilers jerseys in orange, blue and white. Some wore hard hats. Two wore orange spacesuits.

Al Sim lugged a special carry-on: a nearly life-sized replica of the Stanley Cup. As if he were Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame, he wore white gloves.

“I don’t want to touch it,” Sim said. “No one in our group is going to touch it. I won’t let anybody touch it. Nobody touches it until we win it.”

The fans chartered a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so they can be there when the Oilers play the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

The Oilers haven’t won the Cup since 1990. This is their first appearance in the Cup Final since 2006, when they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the Carolina Hurricanes but lost Game 7 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And now they have a chance to become the second team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the Cup Final and win the Cup, after the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I think that’s the attraction for a lot of people making this jaunt,” said Curtis Palichuk, who helped arrange the charter. “We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can do this. It’s definitely once in a lifetime.”

When the Oilers lost the first three games of the series, Palichuk figured they would force Game 5. But Game 6?

Game 7?


“It didn’t look good,” Palichuk said. “We were confident they were going to win one game but never imagined that they’d bring it this far. It’s almost the perfect storm. You couldn’t have written a better story.”

Palichuk is managing partner of Wilde Advisory Group in Vegreville, Alberta, about an hour east of Edmonton. He remembers the Oilers glory days, their championships in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990, and he’s a season-ticket holder.

He and some business associates started organizing the charter with North Cariboo Air at 4 p.m. Friday, two hours before Game 6 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, because they had to get the process started in case the Oilers won. They had to put up a refundable payment.

“You can’t transact banking on the weekend, right?” Palichuk said.

Basically, they reached out to their network of colleagues and clients, asking everyone to tell two friends too.

Sure enough, the Oilers won 5-1 in Game 6, forcing Game 7.

“It was the highest energy of anything I’ve ever experienced, period,” Palichuk said. “The crowd was totally into it. The loudest I saw was 110 decibels, but they said it hit 120 during the game. I don’t know if that’s confirmed or not.

“It’s hard to describe that energy. I cannot believe how many people we ran into that we knew, many of whom are on the charter.”

They ended up with 95 names and had to wrangle passport information for everyone for the manifest. They got it done by 12:30 p.m. Saturday.


Each person on the flight paid $2,540 Canadian, and the total cost was $242,000. Some will sit in suites for Game 7. Others bought tickets on their own on the secondary market.

It will be a priceless experience, especially if goalie Stuart Skinner, captain Connor McDavid and company pull this off.

“The stars are aligning,” Palichuk said. “The guys are dialed in. Skinner’s on his game. McDavid is a man possessed. If he has to do it himself, he will. Yeah, it’s fun. I can’t describe it.”

Sim traveled to Raleigh when the Oilers lost Game 7 in 2006. If they win the Cup in Sunrise this time, he will drop his gloves. He will touch the replica Cup and share it with everyone in the group as if it were the real thing.

“When we win it,” he said, “we’ll party like rock stars with it on the way back.”