EDMONTON, AB - The artificial crowd noise has been silenced and North Division miniseries matchups are a thing of the past. No more empty arenas and - fingers crossed - fewer Zoom interviews.
National Hockey League fans have returned to arenas and the Edmonton Oilers have been assigned back to the Pacific Division.
Slowly but surely, the hockey world is settling back on its axis and members of the Orange & Blue are eager for the prospect of normalcy in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Travelling to the United States, connecting with fans and facing each League opponent are aspects that the team is looking forward to when the puck drops on Wednesday.
Video: RAW | Tyson Barrie 10.11.21
"The Battle of Alberta was fun, but ten times was probably a bit much," joked defenceman Tyson Barrie, who signed a three-year contract with the club in the off-season after leading all rearguards in points last year with 48.
"It will be nice to get back to our normal divisions. Even to have the fans here in pre-season, it was very invigorating. It's a good matchup for our team to get back into our division and conference, too."
A customary NHL schedule means an 82-game slate, as opposed to last season's 56-game irregular season, as well as a busy travel itinerary with road trips across North America. Even with newborn son Leo joining the Barrie family and demanding attention at home, the offensive defenceman is excited to dust off his passport and be a tourist again.
"There are so many good rinks and spots around the League," Barrie, the former Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leaf, said. "It's exciting to get back to that. It will be cool to play in Seattle for the first time and to see the new rink. Vegas is always a crazy one. There are so many good cities, it's hard to name them all."
Barrie isn't the only one pleased to welcome a real regular season. Head Coach Dave Tippett detailed his outlook on the upcoming campaign and what, specifically, he is anticipating fondly.
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 10.11.21
"I think for all the players and coaches, there are two key things: One, fans. We didn't get to be part of any fans last year, so that's a big part of it," he started.
"And two, just getting back to a normal schedule where you're playing other teams. You're enthused to go into Vegas; you're enthused to go into Seattle. It will be a fun game just because they're new."
Like point-producing blueliner Barrie, the Oilers coach has circled select dates and road swings on the calendar. As a former Senior Advisor with the Kraken, Tippett will get an opportunity to see the 32nd NHL franchise and what they have built on Dec. 3 and Dec. 18 when Edmonton makes visits to the Pacific Northwest. "It will be a fun game for me to go there, just to see the building and stuff," he said.
But a return to common practices, such as touring, battling with every team and interacting with fans, is unbeatable.
"To get back to a normal schedule with fans, everybody is looking forward to that," Tippett said.