The Oilers rookies and U of A Golden Bears will meet for the 25th time tonight, but tonight’s tilt will be the first played at Rexall Place. The previous 24 were played at the storied Clare Drake Arena, but Connor McDavid’s arrival created a huge demand for tickets so they moved locations.
The Bears lead the series 13-11, but the Oilers did win 4-2 last year on goals from Bogdan Yakimov, Travis Ewanyk, Mitch Holmberg and Kellen Jones. The first game was played in 1988 and they played 22 consecutive years until 2009. Then it stopped for a few years, before starting up again in 2013 and 2014.
There has been much discussion about McDavid only playing one game in the rookie tournament, while Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each played twice. The Young Stars tournament started in Hall’s rookies season, 2010, but the Oilers did not plays against the Bears.
Hall and RNH did play two games in Penticton, but they didn’t have to play a third vs. the Bears. I had no issue with McDavid only playing once, because this will be his second game before main camp, just like the previous #1 overall picks. Yakupov didn’t play in either due to the lockout.
This game is always competitive, and the atmosphere is always great at the Drake. The demand for tickets forced the move, and they’ve already sold over 12,000 for tonight. Proceeds from the game go to the Bears hockey program and the Oilers community foundation. You can buy tickets on line or at the door.
- The Oilers have many skilled forwards: McDavid (120), Draisaitl (105), Loiseau (96), Sanford (95) and Winquist (93) all scored 90+ points in junior. Chase had 85.
- The Bears are the two-time defending CIS champions, have a lot of depth, and they have age, experience and strength on their side.
- Mitch Moroz has an injured hand and he will miss the first week of training camp as well as tonight’s game. He was destined for Bakersfield, but the injury likely will cost him a preseason game or two.
- The Bears have won eight National Championships since this tournament started. They’ve won this game and the Championship six times; 1991-1992, 1998-99, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, and 2013-14, while they’ve lost this game but won the Championship twice in 1999/2000 and last year. It likely means very little, but it as an interesting tidbit.
- If you are planning on attending main camp this weekend in Leduc, but didn’t sign up for the Oilers priority draw (free tickets), then you won’t be allowed in. They closed entries into the draw today at noon. For those who did enter, practices will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and 10-2 on Saturday and Sunday.
- I recognize Peter Chiarelli’s desire to want to lower the hype surrounding McDavid, which is wise, but they shouldn’t be underselling his talents either.
- It will be interesting to watch the Islanders negotiations with Brock Nelson. Team policy, courtesy of their owner Charles Wang, states if a player isn’t signed by the start of camp, they won’t sign him. Nelson had a solid 20 goal, 42-point campaign last year. He is a big, skilled centre, but he and his agent must have been watching “sanity summer” where teams didn’t grossly overpay UFAs or RFAs. If he isn’t’ signed by tomorrow will the Islanders stick to their policy?
- If you like hockey, beer and stories, stop by the Pint off Whyte tomorrow for Puck Talk. You can get tickets here. Use the promo code “Gregor” and you will get a 25% discount. It will be a fun night with some good stories and hockey talk with Strudwick, Spector, Van Diest, Stauffer myself and Chris Johnston. Stop by, it starts at 7:30 at the Pint.
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