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Road to Sweden: Game 1

Previously I was speaking about the Fan Fest just outside of the friendly confines of Lanxess Arena in Koln. It bears repeating again how great that time was. The beer was flowing and there were 100’s of fans “pregaming” with kids playing ball hockey, giveaways and others. This was all leading up to doors opening of the arena and the moment that some of the fans that I met outside have been waiting for for a lifetime. I’d love to give you a little glimpse into the time that watching through the TV only would have given you a glimpse of.

Walking In

As you walked in the arena you were greeted by security that would be comparable to that of an Edmonton Prospects game level of checks. Just really there for the show of it. No metal detectors (that I could see) and who would need them on a day like today. The whole arena was abuzz with anticipation. The access to the upper bowl is all done through a complex of concrete staircases, not for the faint of heart. On pretty much every level as you rose there were concession stands like back home. The difference, of course, being the fare and the prices.

The Prices

As you can see from the tweet above everything is pretty darn cheap and oh so delicious. The conversion of 1 CAD is about .67 Euros so even with that bump up a beer is still only $7 Canadian and “shockingly” I would put the German arena beers (which I am sure comes through a pipeline directly from the brewery itself) up against anything Rogers Place has to offer at this point. I had one of the Bratwurst in a bun and it was delicious.

I know it’s now the Bobby Jr. burger but I haven’t had the chance to try the new burger so I compare to what I know.

The Arena

It’s massive. It seats a huge amount of fans, 18,500 (and every seat was packed for this) and it somehow still feels intimate. There is no doubt in my mind that it has to do with the fans but also the seats (in the upper bowl where I was) are all embedded into the concrete and just fold down, no arms to block you from being up close and personal with your seatmate.

Pre-game Ceremonies

Everything surrounding the Koln Sharks just feels like they have been doing it forever but also that it’s all things that the Oilers can and should try to replicate. The pre-game stuff was a little long in the tooth but the fans kept it lively. Whether it was them singing the national anthem like it was Rogers Place in May all over again

Or whether it’s the way they punctuate each player of their team’s announcement (and they introduce every player every game) by yelling out their last name in unison (I keep kicking myself for not having recorded this instead of just standing out in awe of their coordination) the fans have a way of making the atmosphere special and exciting.

The Fans

Honestly, that’s what this whole experience was all about for me. Whether it was the strong contingent of Edmonton and Canada based Oilers fans that made the long trek across the pond with the team to see them play, or the fans that have spent their whole lives watching the Oilers win and lose at 3 and 4 am their time knowing that it wasn’t likely that they would ever see their team play in person. This whole tour gives those kinds of diehard fans something to look forward to and enjoy that they deserve.

Oilers fans and Koln Haier (Sharks) fans alike made this game and atmosphere all the more special to enjoy than I could have ever hoped. The fans that threw paper airplanes from the upper bowl that landed feet away from the bench:

The fans that no matter how dire it seemed, when the Oilers were up 3-2 in the game, would go crazy just the same.

Here is a lovely couple from Edmonton I met that can confirm all that I have told you:

 

The fans are what this was all about and I was so glad to see that most of them enjoyed it.

Previous #RoadToSweden content:

Announcement

Ticket Nightmares

Flight: Part One

Flight: Part Two

Beer

Koln

I still have the Swedish leg of the wonderful journey to look forward to but Germany stole a bit of my heart as I met all the fans I was able to interact with and enjoy my time with.

Vielen Dank und los geht’s Oilers!