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Oilers rookies reach out to northern community

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
(left to right): Andrew Cogliano, Justin Chwedoruk,

Tyler Spurgeon and Vitaly Karamnov.
On Friday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers rookies took some time to reach out to the community of Yellowknife visiting a number of local schools and hospitals.

Visiting NJ MacPherson Elementary School was Andrew Cogliano, Justin Chwedoruk, Vitaly Karamnov and Tyler Spurgeon.

“It’s really nice to get a chance to do this in season,” said Cogliano, attending his first camp since being drafted by the Oilers. “To come and make a kid’s day is a nice feeling. I think it shows really well in the organization and what they’re about.”

It’s the second straight season where the Oilers have taken at least a portion of their camp outside the Edmonton city limits. Last season, the team held its main camp in Grande Prairie.

“It’s a real easy decision for us and for me,” stated Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe of the decision to relocate camp. “In terms of Yellowknife, we started this process a couple years ago to go out and look at areas we think we can spread the NHL message – spread the word of the greatest sport in the world.”

Immersing the team in the community in which they’re holding camp is an important part of the process. Lowe made sure to point out that fact.

“In our second-ever training camp in the history of the Oilers in the NHL we were up in Jasper. I have great memories of all that and remember what it did for the community and what it did for the hockey team.

“I know that the coaching staff, the scouts and the players enjoy it. It’s a nice way to kick off the season.”

Christopher Walcer, a Grade 5 student at NJ MacPherson, is a big Oilers fan and was thrilled to see the four players come to his school.

“It felt really good,” he said

Walcer has spent his whole life living in Yellowknife but has managed to make several trips to Edmonton because his grandmother lives there. He even saw the Oilers once at Rexall Place.

“I saw them play Pittsburgh,” Walcer said. “The Oilers won.”

His mom got him tickets to see the Oilers rookies skate on the weekend. It’s a great opportunity to watch an NHL club in a place where not a lot of sporting events come to town.

“You see the old timers play sometimes at the multiplex.”

The NJ MacPherson student also plays hockey himself.

“I started playing hockey when I was four or five,” he continued. “I might be playing for the McDonald’s Friers again this year.”

The visit was an exciting one for many of the students, noted teacher Roger Windle.

 “I really appreciate the Oilers coming to NJ MacPherson,” he said. “It’s been great for the kids. As you can see, they’re very excited to visit and love getting autographs.”

After being introduced to the entire school in the gymnasium, the players visited all 11 classrooms to meet one-on-one with the students and sign some autographs.

“It’s very important to have the team come out to small towns, throughout Oil Country to meet with their fan base,” Windle stated.

For Cogliano, Chwedoruk, Karamnov and Spurgeon, it’s already been a great experience.

“I think it’s a good place to have camp,” Cogliano said of Yellowknife. “It’s good for guys to come together, the organization coming together as one – let the commotion be set aside.

“For me it’s great to be able to focus and get ready for main camp.”
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