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Connor McDavid first to skate at Rogers Place

Center joined on ice at new arena by group of Oilers, youth players

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid on Thursday became the first person to skate at the Edmonton Oilers' new downtown arena.

The 19-year-old center led a group of teammates and local minor hockey players for the opening skate at Rogers Place, which will officially open later this month.

"It was cool. It's pretty special. This building is absolutely amazing," McDavid said. "To be out here today is pretty special."

The estimated $483.5 million (Canadian) arena is to be completed by Sept. 10, when the Oilers will host an open house.

The Oilers will play their first preseason game at Rogers Place on Sept. 26 against the Calgary Flames, then host the Flames again Oct. 12 for their season opener.

Rogers Place replaces Rexall Place, initially Northlands Coliseum, as the home of the Oilers. The Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League also will play at the new arena.

Video: RAW | Connor McDavid's first skate at Rogers Place

"I think it's just exciting to be here, everyone is kind of anticipating that first game here and getting here for training camp and all that," McDavid said. "I think there is a lot of steps to go. There is still some stuff that needs to be finished up and touched up throughout the concourse and all that."

The brief skate was one of many scheduled leading up to the official opening of the arena to get the ice up to proper conditions. It provided Edmonton media woth their first chance to see inside the building.

"Obviously, the first thing you notice is how beautiful it is on the outside," McDavid said. "It's an amazing look on the outside, then you come in and see this. It's a pretty special place. It'll be a great place to call home."

The first event at Rogers Place will be a Keith Urban concert, on Sept. 16.

Video: RAW | McDavid leads charge onto Rogers Place ice

According to Bob Nicholson, CEO and vice chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group, the Oilers wanted to make the first skate at Rogers Place an event.

"We went through a whole bunch of different scenarios. But this area was built for the Oilers first and foremost, so we wanted the Oilers that were in town to get on it and we wanted to make sure that young kids have a dream," Nicholson said. "They have a dream of putting on the Oilers jersey, and working with Edmonton Minor Hockey is important for us. So we had a random draw and we also invited local kids from the community. There is 100 ways we could have gone; we thought his was the most appropriate."

Due to ongoing construction, the Oilers have not had an opportunity to see their dressing room in the new arena. Many areas of Rogers Place remain off-limits as crews work around the clock to finish the job.

"I've been walking around the building and have been pretty impressed," Nicolson said. "It's the best in the world and to see players on the ice is great. That's why [owner] Daryl Katz built it, to make sure the Oilers have something special, and the first place it starts is right here on the ice."

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