EDMONTON, AB - While Darnell Nurse looks to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks once when the NHL resumes play, ironically, it's a Chicago icon that helps fuel his fire.
Many sports fans see Michael Jordan as one of the greatest competitors of all time. Of course, 'The Last Dance' documentary has recently brought his competitive streak and championship mindset back into the spotlight.
Now 22 years removed from the Bulls' last championship, Nurse is drawing inspiration from 'Air Jordan' to help himself take on a new challenge: playing with no fans in the building.
Make no mistake, 18,500 screaming fans have a tremendous effect on playoff atmosphere. They can help with momentum shifts in a game and even provide a boost prior to puck drop. For example, when asked to reflect on the 2017 postseason, forward Zack Kassian was quick to reference the pre-game energy at Rogers Place in an episode of Oilers In-Depth: The Podcast earlier this season.
"It was insane," Kassian stated. "When we came out for warm-up in game one, everyone was in their seats, everyone was shaking the glass and everyone was cheering. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
"I kept hearing from the '06 run when they made it to the finals, 'this place is crazy, this place is crazy. Just wait.' Once the playoffs started, this place was so loud. It was outrageous. The energy in the building that trickled down to the players was second to none."
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However, the 2020 Qualifying Round and Stanley Cup Playoffs will see players having to create their own excitement, without the help of their hometown faithful cheering them on.
While he doesn't prefer the scenario, Nurse believes creating excitement within will help he and his teammates overcome the challenge.
"Have you watched 'The Last Dance' with Michael Jordan?" asked the Oilers rearguard when questioned about the challenge of playing in front of no fans. "I think that's a perfect example (of what we can do).
"His mindset in a lot of those games of creating your own environment, creating your own fire. I think that's a test that everyone that is in this situation is going to have to go through - having the ability to create your own excitement.
"Yeah, there are no fans there and yeah, you might be playing in a HUB city but there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. That should be enough motivation to get anyone going."
And like Mike in '91, Nurse eyes his first championship ring this fall. He and his Oilers teammates will need 19 more wins to turn this Stanley Cup opportunity into reality.