It was clear after opening night of the 2017 playoffs that the fans were the first star. What an incredible performance! I expected a lot out of them and they even surpassed my lofty expectations. It was a show of spirit, energy, enthusiasm and lots and lots of orange.
The colour was evident everywhere. You couldn't look left or right in front of you or behind you without seeing you know what colour. Orange is associated with the meaning of joy, warmth, encouragement, determination and success just to name a few of its qualities. They were on display in full force Wednesday night at Rogers Place.
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The end of game result wasn't a success but that's about all that didn't go the right way for the Oilers. You could see the buildup boil over as the fans entered ICE District and eventually the arena. I have no doubt it was part of the reason Edmonton stormed out to a 2-0 lead. That crowd could have inspired a dead man to come back to life. They were so loud and proud. The opponents couldn't help but notice.
"It's great playing in Canada," said Logan Couture. "It's hockey in Canada. It doesn't get any better than that."
And I'm not sure it got any better than the performance of the paying public for game 1.
Out in Ford Hall prior to the game doing some live hits into the Tim and Sid show as well as Hockey Central on @Sportsnet it's amazing the people I ran into. All passionately preparing for the opener. A father and son duo who drove in from Prince George, B.C. Another father and son pair hitting the highway and arriving from Lemburg, Saskatchewan or a couple from just outside Moncton, New Brunswick. Literally and figuratively people from coast to coast descending on the Alberta capital to watch hockey. They are the ones who put the 'fan' in fanatic. It's amazing to see people of different ages, area codes and eras all come together with the common bond of the ice and the game as the thread that weaves them all together.
It was with disappointment that the heavily orange clad crowd departed Rogers Place on Wednesday. They gave it everything they had and it still wasn't enough. Yet I have to believe underneath it all there was still a smile because the playoffs were back. Part of the post season experience is dealing with defeats. A memory that lingered from game 7 of the 2006 Cup Final. This one didn't hurt as much but it was a reminder of what it feels like to be on the wrong side of a playoff game.
You could see that in the faces of the players in Edmonton's dressing room. They did not wear it well. Understanding they had a grasp on a series lead only to see San Jose steal it away. It's only one game but what a game it was. In the end, it's difficult to feel anything but despair over the 3-2 OT result. Yet it was a victory for the team, the organization and its fans.
All of the above showed they have not forgotten what's it like to be in the playoffs. Countless times Captain Connor was asked in the final weeks of the season what 'playoff hockey' was like. He reiterated over and over he didn't know because he had never been in a playoff game. After game 1 McDavid was asked again and this time he had the experience to answer the question.
"It was fun. It was exciting. The crowd was great and we appreciated that. It was everything you could dream of as a kid playing in the playoffs."
Everything but a win so bring on game two for the Oilers and their fans.