At first glance there are a couple things the Edmonton Oilers would have noticed when they checked out their road schedule for the 2015-16 season. One would have been the final trip before Christmas. The last time they would be away from home prior to a Rexall Place return for a game and then a break for the holidays. A great chance to do some last week or so shopping before December 25th. What they also would have discovered about the four-game getaway is that not one, or two but three of the contests would happen in Original Six cities. That would make it five games against Original Six opponents having already played in Detroit and Toronto. One match in the New Year in La Belle Province meaning Boston, New York and Chicago were on the flight plan for road games 15, 16 and 17.
What a trifecta of hockey historical places to visit on one trip. Only Colorado didn't fit the background check. Even though they've had two versions (Rockies, Avalanche) of NHL teams the city doesn't date back far enough. With such a young team, so many players have made their opening visits to these big American cities. It's neat to see the look on their faces when, by plane or by bus, they see something they have never seen before. It's happened along the way with the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov. Now there's a new group of Oilers getting their first experience with a history lesson in hockey.
I look at someone like Brandon Davidson as a perfect example. Here's a kid born in Lethbridge, Alberta who now spends his offseason in a neighbouring community called Taber. It's known for its corn (maybe I should move there; they must like corny jokes) and its population is only 8,500. You see that many people and maybe that many taxis any given day on the streets of New York.
On Tuesday, I talked to Davidson about his first trip to the Big Apple. It was a 1:30 am arrival from Boston so while the defenceman might have been a little sleepy, his eyes were wide open on the drive from Newark into New York. Trying to take in all the lights and scenery that is part of a city that's home to 8.5 million people and counting. On days where the team doesn't skate, the defenceman likes to go for a walk. No better place than Central Park on Tuesday which was right across the street from the team hotel. I mentioned that the Oilers will be back in February with a day off but Davidson wasn't looking that far ahead instead just enjoying what he had available to him on this trip.
Jujhar Khaira is another Oiler making his way through the big leagues and the big cities. The forward, born in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, isn't a stranger to populated places but even he found himself in wow mode on this trip. He had already visited Chicago for hockey as he went to the Windy City to play the Wolves of the AHL. Having taken the U.S. college route, Khaira played in Boston with Michigan Tech. Prior to a late-night arrival on December 15th, the 21 year old had never been to New York. Unlike Davidson he didn't have a chance to play at MSG (the world's most famous arena) but he did get an abbreviated look at the city that never sleeps. For Khaira, it was a memorable bus ride to the rink. A chance to peer into Times Square and see a mass of movement involving people, cars and billboards. Day or night, sunshine or snow, midtown Manhattan is a beehive of activity.
Pro sports is all about wins and losses but sometimes there is a little more to life. A chance to experience places that will provide memories never to be forgotten. Even after their careers have been completed, Davidson and Khaira and so many other young Oilers can look back on the time they first became Big City Boys.