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GENE'S BLOG: Ontario Oilers

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the Oilers players who grew up in Ontario

by Gene Principe /

TORONTO, ON - Canada has 10 provinces and they are (listed in alphabetical order): Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, as well as three territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). 

The NHL schedule has Edmonton playing in five of the provinces. Games in Alberta (Edmonton and Calgary), Quebec (Montreal), B.C. (Vancouver), Manitoba (Winnipeg) and Ontario (Ottawa and Toronto). 

Each of these provinces has done its fair share of producing hockey players, but it's hard to compare to Ontario. The biggest reason is simple: [opulation. 

Ontario has more than 13 million residents, Quebec is above eight million, followed by B.C. at just under 5 million. Alberta is at a little over four million and the last province with an NHL team (Manitoba) is at just over the million range.

With that in mind, it's likely not a big surprise to see the Oilers have more players from Ontario than any other province. 

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at TOR 01.06.20

Seven altogether were born in the province the team played in Monday night. 

For reference sake, after that, there are three from Alberta (Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Kyle Brodziak), two from Saskatchewan (Josh Archibald, Ethan Bear), a pair from B.C. (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira) and one from Quebec (Alex Chiasson). 

The rest of the Oilers are either European (four Swedes, one Finn, one German, one Dane and one Swiss) or American (two of them). 

I geographically digress as I get back to where I started in Ontario. The seven Oilers born in the province are Connor McDavid (Richmond Hill but raised in Newmarket), James Neal (Whitby), Riley Sheahan (St. Catharines), Darnell Nurse (Hamilton), Mike Smith (Kingston), Zack Kassian (Windsor) and Sam Gagner (London).

It is special to come home. With two meetings a season and only one in Toronto, it's something players don't get a chance to do very often - mix business with pleasure. This trip, in particular, was a non-NHL looking road trip. 

With a day game in Boston on Saturday, by 8 o'clock that night, the Oilers were in Toronto. Players were changed and ready to meet up with family and friends. Sunday was a practice day and Monday a game day. 

Video: EDM@TOR: McDavid converts jaw-dropping goal

It's almost a lock after a road game that the team flies to its next destination. This time was different. As Dave Tippett sat this summer and plotted the Oilers travel schedule, he saw a unique opportunity. With Tuesday being a CBA-mandated day off, instead of having it in Montreal (not that there's anything wrong with one of the world's great cities) the coach decided to spend it in Toronto. I think that would fall under the description of players' coach.

As a result, Sam Gagner was planning on joining his mom and dad in Oakville. Riley Sheahan's dad made the drive from St. Catharines. The father-son duo was going to hang out for the day. James Neal is one of five kids. Two of his four brothers were at the game Monday night and you can bet The Real Deal, who is the oldest of five, saw them and others. 

Connor McDavid had his mom, dad, brother, three grandparents, two aunts and a cousin at the game (not to mention countless friends). Mike Smith's parents were at Scotiabank Arena. Darnell Nurse had his parents and others in attendance. Zack Kassian's mom was on hand.

The Ontarians were well represented for the game and prepared for the day after. 

Video: POST-RAW | Connor McDavid 01.06.20

An enjoyable day I'm sure after a fun Monday night that included a 6-4 win over the Leafs and a Goal of the Year bid by Edmonton's captain.

"Everyone wants to play well in their hometown," said McDavid. 

"There were lots of friends and family in the building so it's definitely fun to get one." 

McDavid, in his post-game interview on Sportsnet, even said he had a chance to get out to Newmarket. 

We give the last word(s) to another Ontario-born goal scorer versus the Leafs: "Being out west, you don't get the opportunity to see your family and friends very often," explained Nurse. 

"To be able to win and finish on the right note is big for everybody." 

But especially the Ontario-born Edmonton Oilers.

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