For some fans, Rexall Place was like Disneyland Saturday morning as they described a certain magic in the air as their dreams were realized. Chris Cain, who has Down Syndrome, was one such Oilers fan and lucky recipient of a hand-delivered and autographed jersey, thanks to his caregiver Lisa Gee and the Edmonton Oilers.
Gee was one of 93 Oilers fans who won a jersey, crested and signed by her player of choice, during the Oilers home opener week. While some winners pondered who to choose, Gee was as confident in her jersey choice, Oilers left-winger Ryan Jones, as she was in choosing her guest to accompany her to Rexall Place.
“He’s a hometown boy, we watched him play when he was just a teenager,” said Gee, who traveled with Cain from Chatham, Ontario. “Jones is from Chatham and he’s number 28 and Chris’ birthday is April 28.”
“I lived there until I was 20, so I guess I was born and raised in Chatham,” said Jones. “It’s cool to have a connection like that, they came all this way to meet me and get the jersey signed.”
While meeting the Oilers forward was a definite highlight for the pair, the real surprise came when Jones brought out Oilers locker room attendant, Joey Moss.
“It was a dream come true for Chris. He’s been waiting a long time to meet Joey,” said Gee.
Shaking hands and exchanging a few words wasn’t enough for Moss, however, who took it one step further and offered Cain and Gee a tour of the Oilers dressing room. Moss explained his game day duties and guided them through the contents of Jones’ locker.
“That was absolutely incredible to see what Joey’s responsible for and just to know how many great players have gone through that room,” said Gee. “This experience has been once in a lifetime. Nothing can ever compare to this, for me or for Chris. He’ll be talking about it forever when he gets home.”
Their time behind the locker room doors and meeting their idols may have come to end, but Cain and Gee left Rexall on a high note, eager to return tomorrow for Chris’ first NHL game as the Oilers take on the Nashville Predators.
Other jersey winners who chose a current Oilers player, along with winners from the 64 photos giveaway were also in attendance Saturday. The building was abuzz as the group watched the Oilers practice before being awarded their prizes.
“It’s an unbelievable moment and I think the players feel pretty privileged about the whole thing,” said Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge, who announced the plethora of home opener giveaways just a few short months ago.
“The fans really allow us to do what we do, and that’s play hockey and do it for a living,” added Jones. “We owe everything to the fans and this is just a small thing we can do to say thank you and to give back to them.”
As the players exited the dressing room, photo winners lined up one by one to get their mug shots taken with their favourite Oilers in front of the dressing room doors. The players then made their way over to the jersey winners, who were treated to a meet and greet with their chosen jersey’s namesake.
“It was amazing, except for the fact that I couldn’t stop shaking,” said Taylor Sloan, who along with her sister Sydney, got a photo with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “It was really special getting to meet him and just realizing they’re normal people.”
Just as Disneyland goers leave the park filled with magical memories and autographs from their favourite Disney characters, the Oilers prize winners left Rexall Place with once in a lifetime memories accompanied by jerseys, autographs and photos with their on-ice heroes.