It was early afternoon and I was headed to my room after lunch. I was on the third floor but the elevator stopped on the second floor. There waiting to get on was Connor McDavid. I was kind of surprised to see him so I asked if he had just finished his nap or was heading to his room to hit the hay. As it turns out he had just spent some time with his mother and father (Kelly and Brian). After thinking about it for awhile, I figured it might have been (excluding a day time snooze) the only quiet part of his day. And what a day it was for the 18 year old.
I guess it started when the small crowd gathered outside the Oilers hotel looking for a signature and glimpse of the first-overall pick. It wasn't long before I started running into fans who had made their way to St. Louis to watch the Oilers opener and the first game of the teenager's career. They came from Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Vegreville, Grimshaw. I even ran into a guy from Washington who not only came to St. Louis but was also driving to Nashville to catch a second look at McDavid. Fans weren't the only one's showing up for Edmonton's season opener but so were the media.
If you checked your calendar on Thursday morning it said October but after walking into the Edmonton Oilers dressing room I could have sworn it should have said April, May or June. It really did look like the kind of journalist gathering seen in the playoffs and not in the opening days of a new season. In speaking with the Blues pr staff a 'normal' season opener for the hockey team would attract about 60 media. For this game it was over 100 and St.Louis even added extra rows of seating in the press box. It really was a playoff like turnout to see the much talked about 'generational player' hit the ice for a first time in the regular season.
His day was documented from start to finish. Arriving at the rink, pre-game skate, post skate interviews back to the hotel for a brief get away. Then arriving back at the rink, seeing him in the room and then on the ice to kick off his NHL career. There was also the chance to speak to him after the Oilers lost a hard fought 3-1 game to the Blues. He just looked crush and more like he lost a post season game then just the first game of what's going to be a lengthy NHL stay. I remember interviewing Sidney Crosby as an 18 year old and I hate to make the comparison but Connor reminded me of Sidney. This steely, intense glare. It was almost as if he were looking and listening but at the same time was really replaying the game in his mind.
At the end of it all the Oilers hopped on the bus and headed to the airport for a night flight to Nashville. Before departing the Scott Trade Center basement there was a moment for the McDavid's. Connor with his mom and dad saying goodbye and finishing it with a hug and kiss for mom and dad. The end of a long day and night. The first of many for Connor McDavid in the NHL.