When I stepped off the plane in Edmonton, I was greeted by two camera crews from the local TV stations. Hailing from Florida, it is constantly amazing to me how popular hockey is up here in Canada. I can't imagine there'll be any camera crews waiting for me at the airport in Atlanta next week!
My Edmonton visit was short, as I arrived at 2.20pm, and had a 12.30am flight right after the game, so my host for the day picked me up at the airport. His name was Scott Pfeiffer and he is a champion Canadian Curler. What is a curler, you may ask? Curling a sport that's big in Canada, but hasn't made a mark south of the border. Perhaps you've seen it in the Olympics....a skater slides a round stone slowly down the ice, while his broom-wielding teammates frantically sweep stray ice out of the way. Still doesn't ring a bell?
Turns out that Scott is quite the celebrity in Edmonton and everybody from the TV camera guys to the President of the Oilers seemed to know him. He took me out to eat, but I won't tell you where, as my attorneys tell me we have a pretty good case in what I'll call "The Great Food Poisoning Caper". It was either the chicken at the restaurant or the hot dog at the game that did me in! I swear it wasn't his wife's cooking!
I'm in Philadelphia now and am just heading over for a cheesesteak from Pat's before the game (my stomach is back to normal, I hope). My brother Pete is meeting me here, and the NHL Network will be taping us at the game, so it should be a fun night.
It was a fun night, but now back to Edmonton, which has the single greatest feature I've seen in any NHL arena.....When the players exit the new $3,000,000 locker room to get to the ice, they parade through a lounge that is open to fans in the club seats. What a spectacle it is! By profession, I'm a marketing guy, and companies are always looking to engage their customers (fans) with their product (Oilers hockey). What a tremendous way this is to build upon the relationship between players and fans, and if every team in the league copied the Oilers, I guarantee they would sell a few hundred extra tickets.
Edmonton sells out every game, and that's what makes this concept even more special, as they don't need to resort to gimmicks to sell tickets, they do it to reward the fans. Surprisingly, I didn't see any Oilers smash their sticks in frustration with how poorly they played, as the walked back to the dressing room between periods.
All is not rosy in Edmonton however... The seats appears to have been designed for the midgets who rolled through town in the traveling circus, they charge $12 to watch games on pay-per-view TV, and the food made me throw up!
Oh, you want to know about the game too? The Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2, but it didn't seem that close. Finally, I have to share one of the greatest insults I've heard on my entire trip, "Hey Boogaard, I'm gonna take your mother out tonight (insert long pause here)....and never call her again!