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Opening Night, Roger That

Cam Tait feels the buzz in the air around the city. It's a new start

by Cam Tait @camtait /

It only happens once a year. That's why it's so special.

It starts when we get up in the morning and listen to radio personalities and we read about it in the newspaper or online.

There's a buzz in the air around the city. Because it's a new start.

A new chance.

A new chapter to be written.

And it's upon us today: Oilers Opening Night. The Edmonton Oilers regular season begins when they take on the Calgary Flames.

This, however, is a different Opening Night for the Oilers as they will skate on Rogers Place ice for their first regular season National Hockey League (NHL) game.

With that brings extra excitement.

It starts in the morning. The training and equipment staff - who work endless hours - come to the rink even earlier to get ready for the team's morning skate.

The rink is quiet. You can hear the hum of the huge electrical system - a sound that's always there - but on this morning, it seems a little louder and friendlier.

The dressing room is ready with equipment in its proper place.

The coaching staff comes in and hunkers down in their office, continuing to make final adjustments to their game plan - something they will do another 81 times. And hopefully more.

Then the questions begin.

Who will be the first player to arrive in the dressing room?

Will there be new superstitions started, which will carry on throughout the season?

Will the dressing room be quiet, with everyone focusing in on what will happen in seven or eight hours?

Or, will it be jovial and relaxed, with a calmness and confidence swirling about the room?

The players will then take to the ice - something they've already done countless times in both training camp and pre-season games.

But this morning it means something.

The morning skate goes like every other one. But a few players might get off the ice a few minutes earlier than usual to get even more focused on the game.

The players and coaches will meet the media and answer questions about what they're feeling, and then make a quick exit home.

Pre-game meal. Maybe have a nap.

But the excitement of what lies ahead could keep them awake.

In the afternoon, Rogers Place staff get the arena ready for when doors open to the public. Floors are scrubbed. Popcorn machines start popping. Beverages are prepared.

Then, sometime after 5:00 PM, coaches and players return to Rogers Place, this time in suits and ties, rather than the jeans they wore before the morning skate.

They all prepare for the game in their own way. 

The clock will tick down a few minutes before puck drop. The team will make their way onto the ice, this time with more than 18,000 fans cheering them on - many on their feet.

The excitement will be electric.

We've waited for this all summer.

Opening night: what a night it will be.

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