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Enemy Territory

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers

For all you out-of-towner Oilers fans, as well as those fans who have seen the Oilers play in the not-so-friendly confines of foreign NHL arenas, I am now pleased to inform you that I understand the thrills and challenges associated with your situation.


Here’s the back story: In celebration of a coworker’s birthday, three of us Oilers gals – Debbie George, Jessica McPhee, and a very famous person you may recognize from her blog – decided to mark the event by attending an Oilers game in exotic Vancouver. After successfully begging for time off from our respective bosses, we gathered our Oilers gear and flew to the Canuck den for the divisional battle.

Normally, I would give an elaborate play-by-play of the weekend, but I’m pretty sure your interest in hourly Starbucks runs and imaginary shopping sprees in stores we could not afford is miniscule. Thus, I will stick to the hockey-related highlights.


The first significant event that happened was watching the Saturday, October 24th game vs. Calgary IN A PUBLIC PLACE. Of course, Jess and birthday girl Debbie were very blasé about this experience because they aren’t lucky enough to work every road game. I, on the other hand, was pretty pumped to be able to watch a game as a normal person – an experience that happens, oh, NEVER.

Unfortunately, two issues marred the night for me: the first is that the Oilers lost that game, which is painful enough. The second is that we were joined by Adam Watt, a former coworker who currently works for the Flames AHL affiliate, and he was cheering for the bad guys. I don’t think I will ever forgive Adam or the Flames for these digressions, and I hope they both feel really badly about it.


The second significant event happened Sunday morning/afternoon. While enjoying a delicious breakfast/lunch across the street from our hotel, Jess took a breather from her eggs benny to say, “Hey, that guy looks like Pavel Datsyuk.”

Turns out it was Pavel Datsyuk, and turns out the Red Wings were in town a few days early before facing the Canucks. Now, I don’t want to become a TMZ-type gossipmonger, but Mr. Datsyuk ate his breakfast/lunch while listening to his iPod and dabbing extra butter off his toast. I stretched and strained to hear the songs, but he must have some sort of Red Wings-approved scrambling device that prohibits enemy spies from stealing their motivational music. Foiled again.


Finally, the third and most significant event happened Sunday evening: Oilers vs. Canucks at GM Place. I have been to GM Place on numerous occasions, but never as an Oilers fan. (Let me clarify: When I worked for the Manitoba Moose, I once attended a game as a Moose fan. Yes, I cheered for the Moose call-ups who were in Vancouver at the time, but I insist that doesn’t count as cheering for the Canucks, so we can still be friends.)

Anyway, as many of you probably know, attending an NHL game in an enemy jersey is a fun – yet sometimes frightening – experience. It was amazing to see so many Oilers jerseys on the concourse and in the stands, and I may have set a new personal best for high-fives with strangers. (Don’t worry, I washed my hands after each one.)

Thanks to our great contacts, our seats were excellent: lower bowl, in the corner, across from the cameras. I quickly realized that if we played our cards right, we may get on TV! So I texted a few people who were watching the game to keep an eye out for us (including Marc Ciampa, who was stuck reporting on the game because some slacker decided to fly to Vancouver).

As a result of our excellent TV location and conspicuous Oilers-ness, I was very careful about keeping my face clean and eating nachos and hot dogs like a lady. (Those things come naturally to me, of course, but you can never be too careful.)

The game was exciting, but to our disappointment the Oilers lost 2-0. The Canucks actually scored a goal right when Debbie’s birthday message appeared on the scoreboard, which was terrible timing because we started to cheer but then had to quickly sit down and show extreme disgust.


With no goals to cheer for, we did not make the Sportsnet broadcast and we filed out of the arena avoiding eye contract with all the rowdy Canucks fans. Still, two very rude fans actually screamed profanities at us, which is something that I was not prepared for. Profanity screaming is very rare in the Rexall Place press box, unless the popcorn machine runs dry, of course.

Anyway, it was an emotional evening and after standing in the rain while waiting for a cab, we finally retired to our hotel room soaking wet, freezing cold, and entirely exhausted.

The following day we guzzled the required amount of Starbucks and flew back to Edmonton, where it never rains, people don’t yell, and five Stanley Cups keep us all happy and cozy even when the temperature falls to the -40s.

Debbie’s birthday was fun, but I think we can all agree that there’s no place like home.

Ps. Speaking of road trips, I will be travelling on the upcoming marathon that starts Sunday in Colorado. Be sure to read my blog next week, as it will be no doubt filled with exciting tales from the road. And perhaps some boring tales. But you can ignore those ones.

Pps. Here's my photo of Debbie's birthday message that was ruined by a Canucks goal, including close-up of the puck as it crossed the line. How inconsiderate of them.

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