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"I Can't Believe I'm Here"

Cam Tait writes about Playoffs being back in Edmonton and what it means to his family

by Cam Tait /

Rogers Place's state-of-the-art scoreboard had just cut to a shot of Edmonton Oilers national anthem singer Robert Clark standing in the crowd dressed in an orange Oilers jersey gracefully belting the first few notes of O' Canada during Game 1 on Wednesday night. I turned my head to the right to look at my 14-year-old grandson Nicholas. He was standing for the national anthem when I saw the left corner of his mouth tremble. 

When our eyes met tears fell down his cheeks and he sat down in his chair and fell into my arms so I could hold him.

"I can't believe I'm here," he said. "My first Oilers playoff game. Thank you so much, Papa, for bringing me."

When O' Canada ended, Nic dried his tears with the right sleeve of his Connor McDavid jersey, took a deep breath, climbed back to his feet, stretched his arms out and yelled the sanctioned battle cry: "Let's Go, Oilers!"

Game on!

Nick was only four years old when the Oilers were in the playoffs last. It was a challenge for Nic to understand why his dad, my son Darren, wasn't home for several nights during May and June in 2006.

That's because Darren and I were a tag-team duo for every Oilers home playoff game at Rexall Place. We'd meet a few hours before the puck dropped to soak in the atmosphere and talk to fellow Oilers fans, and then of course to watch the game itself. My father, who played goal in the 1940s on outdoor northern Saskatchewan rinks, was still alive and watched every Oilers game in the west end home where I grew up.

Darren and I called Dad at the end of every period to hear his analysis. It was special to have three generations engaging in Oilers playoff hockey.

Darren and I stayed late into the night on May 10, 2006 when Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff scored in triple overtime during Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-Final to give Edmonton a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. We called my dad on the way home well after midnight.Dad was wide awake and just as excited as Darren and I were.

Dad passed away in 2007, but the hockey legacy he created continued, reaching a new level in 2012 when his great grandson Nic started playing hockey himself. In fact, my very good friend Rick Carriere, Senior Director of Player Development for the Edmonton Oilers, came to lend his support when Nic hit the ice for his first tryout at Clare Drake Arena.

Nic just completed his last year of bantam this season as a centreman. He wears #7 because of the great skating of legendary Oilers defenseman Paul Coffey.

Nic and I enjoyed every moment of Wednesday's Round 1 playoff game, and not only did he see this year's Oilers team debut this post-season, he also saw the great tradition the Oilers have in saluting Oilers Alumni when Al Hamilton, Doug Hicks, Dennis Kassian, Fernando Pisani, Dwayne Roloson and many others were flashed on the scoreboard at Rogers Place..

In the end, we saw the Oilers fall 3-2 to the Sharks in overtime.

"It's only one game," Nic said as our vehicle pulled away on 104 Ave.

"Yes, you're right, Nicholas. And it was a real joy to share it with you."

Who knows? You might be taking your son or daughter to their first playoff game when the time comes … proving Edmonton Oilers hockey touches past, present and future generations.

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