Paige Armstrong’s introduction to former Edmonton Oilers goaltender Tommy Salo came at a young age. Although she was cheering for an opposing team at the time, his technique and finesse between the pipes caught her attention.
“Being a little girl, I was obviously cheering for the Ducks because what young girl doesn't like a team with a cute animal mascot?” said Armstrong with a chuckle. “As I watched the game, I started noticing how well Tommy Salo was playing. I was fascinated with his quick reflexes and ability to prevent the puck from entering the net.”
It was this newfound admiration for the netminder, who recorded a career-best 2.22 goals against average during his career with the Oilers, that led the St. Albert native to try her own hand at goaltending for her ringette team.
“Over the few games I played in goal you could find me circling the net just like Salo. I aspired to be like him but, unfortunately, one bad experience where my coach forgot the goalie pads and stick, which prevented me from making saves, left me crying and refusing to play in net again!”
Armstrong dusted herself off and moved on to play forward before eventually settling on centre, a position she still occupies on her current roster. She says the experience, albeit slightly traumatizing, made her truly appreciate and respect the work of goalies.
While Armstrong didn’t get the chance to pick up a Salo jersey at her young age, her long-awaited window of opportunity arrived at the onset of the 2012-13 season. The Oilers had just announced an array of giveaways and one initiative would see 93 winners take home an autographed and crested jersey of their choice, from a current or past Edmonton Oiler.
It was her aforementioned story, entered through an online contest hosted by edmontonoilers.com, that won her a coveted spot among the 93, and ultimately, a signed jersey by her idol.
“It was pretty cool finding out I had won, I almost thought it was a joke at first. I got the e-mail and I was like, ‘is this real, I never win anything?!'”
Upon hearing of the special request, Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge insisted on meeting and presenting Armstrong with her prize.
“We came up with this initiative as part of our post CBA back-to-work plan to say thank you to our passionate and unwavering fans,” said LaForge.
“The requests for Gretzky and Messier autographs were expected, and it was great to see some Jordan Eberle’s and Justin Schultz’ pop up, but the Salo jersey had such a special story behind it. It took a little work to track him down, but it was well worth the effort.”
The chase to track down Tommy Salo in Sweden was the furthest the team had to go to get a signature, though there were great stories to also go along with the signatures the Oilers secured from Gretzky, Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey. All the former players were quick to help out once they found out their signatures would be going directly to Oilers fans via the team’s contest.
Back in Edmonton, it took Armstrong only seconds to put on her new autographed treasure, but she plans to frame the jersey and hang it – right next to her picture of Tommy Salo.