There and Back Again: The San Jose Tale

Last week, I road tripped down to San Jose for games three and four and I’m so happy with my choice I almost got a “no ragrets” tattoo while I was there. Ok, I didn’t almost get that, “regrets” would’ve been spelled correctly. But I did have one hell of an experience down there and I wanted to share some of it with all of you.

One of my best friends and I decided on Tuesday that we would head down to San Jose to catch some playoff action. The last time he saw Oilers playoff hockey he was in grade nine and I was in grade eight. It was time. Two weeks prior I had ACL reconstruction, so flying was out of the question. Driving the 27 hours to San Jose it was – it’s playoffs, don’t you know?

We packed up the vehicle Friday morning at 6 am and headed to Vancouver where we stopped to watch the Game Two victory. We took off early Saturday morning and made our way through beautiful Washington and Oregon to Redding, California. Here, we met up with a few other friends of ours who had also made the journey down. Sunday morning we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, were waved at by fellow Oilers fans passing us on the way, and arrived in San Jose just in time for Sunday’s game.

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The Real Deal

We ran into four other Oilers fans when we walked into our hotel lobby, and the comfort of being surrounded by fellow fans in orange only grew when we arrived at the SAP Center. Oilers fans were out in full force. Chants flooded in from the street in front of the SAP Center, to the visitors side in warmup, to the middle of the game, and back out to the front of the SAP Center after Kassian’s third period goal.

I’ve never felt so at home despite being thousands of miles from Oil City. People I’d never laid eyes on in my life were high-fiving me and asking about the drive down (I was known as the “Crazy girl on crutches who drove down” among most fans). This great big world we live in became quite small. I remember standing among a sea of orange as the Oilers hit the ice for warmups and feeling tears in my eyes. We’d all driven/flown 1,500 miles to watch a team that we’d stood behind for eleven seasons of no playoffs and we were finally here. It was all finally worth it.

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During the game I was surprised at the noise level in the SAP Center. Sharks fans were loud and proud, and of course, complimented by us Oilers fans trying to lose our voices by cheering over top of them. I have to say that Edmonton’s fan interaction throughout games is far greater than San Jose’s, and their 50/50 doesn’t even compare. The San Jose DJ also seemed to take a note from the old Rexall DJ (minus the Cotton Eyed Joe).

Following the first game, we headed a few blocks down the road to a local bar that was packed with Oilers fans. If it wasn’t for the muggy air and palm trees staring me in the face, I would’ve sworn we were back in Edmonton.

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Sharks Fans

I have to say, Sharks fans are some of the classiest people I’ve met. From taking my relentless beaks after our big win on Tuesday night, to coming up the stairs with a beer for us after the sixth goal was scored on Sunday, Sharks fans didn’t disappoint. A fellow hop-along even invited us to her place for post-game brews after Tuesday night’s loss.

Tuesday night’s game was a rough one, and I was worried that San Jose fans might have it in them to further the pain of the 7-0 loss, but instead they offered us beer, laughed along with us when all we could do was throw back our beers (which were comparable in price to Rogers Place beers, unfortunately) and shrug it off, and wished us luck. You’re good people, Sharks fans.

If anything, this trip made me realize that fans are relatively the same everywhere you go. Sure, you have certain fan bases that are known for one thing or another, but in the end we’re all there because we love our team (sometimes beyond reason). We appreciate the efforts we make to support our teams, understand the heart break, and know how special it is to get to celebrate the good times. San Jose fans were exemplary for this. It may be difficult for other fan bases to understand just what it meant for us Oilers fans to witness our team in the first round of playoffs after our drought, but I think they quickly came to realize just how special it was for us.

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The Highlights

  • At Sunday night’s game I looked up to my right and noticed that Wayne Greztky, Bob Nicholson, and Co. were sitting in the executive box behind us. I whipped out my phone and took plenty of photos and videos. I thought this was a pretty big deal,  until Tuesday night’s game when I was offered privileges to use the executive suite washrooms so I didn’t have to crutch up and down 15 stairs every intermission. Walking to the bathroom in the first intermission Wayne Gretzky passed me, smiled, said hi and patted me on the back. It was a small gesture, but a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve never been so happy to be on crutches.
  • The Kassian Chops. They were everywhere – shaved to standard or painted on. Oilers fans, you’re the bomb.
  • The rallies taking place in front of the SAP Center before both games were special. A pack of Oilers fans stood chanting, riling up Sharks fans, and sharing each other’s stories of coming down to support the boys. I’ll never forget standing in a crowd of orange chanting out “Let’s Go Oilers” and “Kassian Kassian Kassian” over and over again.
  • Cassie Campbell and Louie Debrusk did their pre-game spiel in front of the SAP Center on Tuesday night surrounded by chanting Oilers fans. I was lucky enough to get a photo with Cassie before they made their way up to the press box. She smiled at me and said, “We saw you on crutches walking down the street earlier and said, ‘wow, that’s a dedicated fan right there'”.

I still can’t believe that I was able to watch Oilers playoffs games in another city after a decade of wondering when we’d ever see the light. It was a spontaneous trip, a mind-numbingly long trip (thanks, Nevada) at times, but above all, it was the trip of a lifetime. I have never felt so proud to be an Oilers fan, and so proud to be a part of a community that has stuck with a team through it all. Hockey can make us do crazy things sometimes, but it gives us memories we will cherish forever. This trip is one that I will certainly cherish for the rest of my life.

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