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Jen's Journal: Planes, games & Angry Birds

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
With players, staff, and fans in full-fledged hockey-mode, I think it's about time I updated you on life with the Oilers so far this season. In this edition of my blog, I'm going to focus on the early-season road trips: rookie camp in Penticton, Barons inaugural game in Oklahoma City, and the team's first road trip to Calgary and Minnesota.

PENTICTON, BC - September 11-15, 2010

Another Penticton highlight: Team Eberle's victory at the Oilers Rookie Bowling Championship.
After five months of planning, preparing, and anticipating, the 2010-11 campaign started in mid-September with Oilers Rookie Camp and the Young Stars Rookie Tournament in Penticton, BC. With big-name prospects like Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, and Jordan Eberle in tow, the Oilers packed a plane with very important website staffers (and others) and beelined it for the Okanagan Valley.

As a cold front settled over Northern Alberta, the travelling media basked under the Okanagan Event Centre's fluorescent lights to watch Edmonton's future hockey stars take on some other guys that we don't really care about.

Of course, Hall, Eberle & Paajarvi were the big stars of the show, but the following figures rose to stardom off the ice:

Jack Michaels: The Oilers new play-by-play voice cut his NHL teeth in Penticton, and travelling staff were eager to incorporate him into our game-day routines. We enjoyed his company so much that we stopped teasing him about being American and instead made fun of him behind his back. Canadians are so kind.

Steve Taylor: The former video producer now lives in Kelowna, and he offered his video shooting services for the rookie game webcasts. Some might call him the weakest link in our webcasts, but I defer comment.

Gene Principe: As usual, Gene Principe proved that Sportsnet stardom knows no provincial boundaries. During a team practice in Kelowna, an Oilers fan came over to meet Gene and gush about his friendly approach to broadcasting. The fan then greeted Bob Stauffer with similar enthusiasm, Dan Tencer with compliments galore, and finally me with a quick handshake. At least I know where I fit in here.

With Jack, Steve, and Gene pitching in, the Young Stars Tournament was a success for the Oilers. The rookies helped too, I guess.

OKLAHOMA CITY - October 8-11, 2010

The first-ever face-off in Oklahoma City Barons history October 9, 2010. (Photo by Steven Christy)
Following rookie camp came training camp, the Joey Moss Cup, and six pre-season games. The Oilers season-opener on October 7th marked the official start to the new season and good vibes flourished in Oil Country.

Jordan Eberle's stunning first NHL goal contributed to the excitement, but I think the upcoming birthday of a certain important website someone played a role in it as well.

You see, my birthday is October 9, and to mark the occasion, the Oklahoma City Barons hosted a historic hockey celebration -- their inaugural game! It was a touching gesture that I needed to acknowledge in person, so on October 8, I flew to Oklahoma City for the festivities.

In my brief three-day visit, I discovered that Oklahoma City is a lot like Edmonton -- but with warmer weather, southern accents, and cool canals. Oklahoma City also has a restaurant called Texadelphia -- think Mexican food and Philly cheesesteaks -- which hosted my extravagantly greasy birthday lunch.

Although the Barons dropped their two opening games that weekend, the atmosphere in and outside the arena was electric and I am looking forward to my next birthday in Oklahoma. Maybe I will even get a cake.

MINNESOTA & CALGARY - October 13-16, 2010

Magnus Paajarvi, Theo Peckham & Taylor Hall chat on the bench before taking to the ice for pre-game skate in Calgary October 16, 2010.
Only two days after my trip to Oklahoma, I was back in the air en-route to Minneapolis. The Oilers first road trip is always exciting, especially for the rookies.

"You definitely know you're in the NHL when you're staying at the kind of hotels we're staying at," Taylor Hall said the morning of his first NHL road game. "It was kind of funny: me and Jordan, we went out for dinner with a couple other guys last night. Our bill was $100 each, and we were talking that that could buy us about 12 footlong subs from Subway."

Despite the $100 road trip meals, boys will be boys. On the bus to off-day practice in Calgary the following day, Magnus Paajarvi and Theo Peckham got into a heated discussion about the pros and cons of Angry Birds, a popular game Paajarvi plays on his iPhone. Peckham, it seems, didn't see the point of the game, while Paajarvi was quite passionate about passing a challenging level.

Of course, video games are small distractions from the true purpose of road trips: winning, practicing, bonding, and -- if you're Taylor Hall -- signing lots of autographs.

Winning remained elusive that first road trip, but hopefully the Oilers don't have to wait long for a victory in enemy territory.

I wasn't scheduled to go on the current trip, but Video Producer Nyki Scheuerman and I will be packing our luggage, camera cases, and laptop bags for a marathon road trip in November. The Oilers embark on a five-game, nine-day voyage November 6th that hits Chicago, Carolina, Detroit, New Jersey, and New York.

You can read all about that trip in my next blog and check out photos in our Oilers Travels Twitter account.
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