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A Letter From Germany (Guest Post from a German traveller)

The following post was written by Frank Becker from Germany. He is one of the admins of the “Edmonton Oilers Fans Germany” group who recently travelled to Edmonton with help from Explore Edmonton and AMA Travel to join Oilersnation and experience all that Edmonton has to offer. Frank was so passionate about his visit, when he returned home he wrote a post to us that we just had to share. We hope you enjoy as well. – ND

It was in July 2019 when Oilersnation approached the “Edmonton Oilers Fans Germany” Facebook group regarding a trip to Edmonton. This Facebook group contains about 1,400 Edmonton Oilers and Leon Draisaitl fans from all over Germany. Both the Oilers and Leon Draisaitl have a very passionate fanbase here in Germany, which means a lot of sacrifices just to be able to follow Oilers games given the time change. These games take place mainly during the night between 1:00 AM and 4:30 AM.

Looking back, our contact with Oilersnation was established back in 2018 when Nation Dan travelled to Cologne to watch the “NHL Global Series Challenge,” which brought the Oilers to both Germany and Sweden. On the day when the Oilers played against the Cologne Sharks, we met Nation Dan and I may say that a deep friendship developed out of it. It was a friendship based on sharing the same passion, the Edmonton Oilers.

We were of course on fire with the thought of a trip to Edmonton to see our beloved Oilers and our hero Leon Draisaitl. Of course, such a trip is only economically viable if there is a minimum number of participants, but by the end of December, 27 men and women had registered for this trip. 

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On March 6th we met at the Frankfurt/Main airport for our departure to Edmonton via Calgary. The neat thing was that most of us travellers actually met for the first time that day. Unfortunately, one participant had to cancel at very short notice due to illness, but there were still 26 excited Oilers fans that boarded the flight to Canada.

When we arrived in Edmonton in the early evening of March 6th, we were surprised by how cold and wintry it still was. In Germany, the whole winter was filled with very mild temperatures, meaning more storms and rain rather than snow. So it was a welcome change for us to dive into the Canadian winter, and we certainly got enough of that in the following days of cold temperatures and snowfall.

On Saturday the 7th of March, most of us experienced our first NHL game live. But before making it into the stands at Rogers Place, we had to storm the fan shop and in no time the shirts and sweaters with the number 29 were completely sold out. But also other souvenirs and fan articles were very popular. 

The game itself was an extraordinary experience. For one thing, there was this wonderful and breathtaking arena. Rogers Place is a really impressive building with everything you could wish for in a multi-functional arena. However, the prices for food and drinks seemed extremely high compared to German standards. Not to mention, there was also the emotionless atmosphere. Compared to German ice hockey arenas, where the whole game is sung loudly and chants are sung, there was an almost spooky silence in Rogers Place. In our opinion, from what we experienced that night, the arena rightly deserves the “library” nickname.

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We would like the great and passionate fans from Edmonton to experience an atmosphere like in German arenas. Why can’t you have the same atmosphere throughout the season as during the NHL playoffs?

Maybe it’s because in Germany we always have a cheap stand where there are no seats for 1,000-2,000 fans with smaller budgets. From there, the atmosphere always spills over very quickly to the entire arena.

Nevertheless, the party after the victory against Columbus Blue Jackets at The Pint was legendary despite the jet lag of the German fans. 

On Monday the 9th of March, we were allowed to attend the morning skate. There we met many of our media idols when Gene Principe took his time for our boss Björn Vogt and elicited many details of our trip. Reid Wilkins also stopped to say hello, Louie DeBrusk stopped and took 2-3 photos, and Jack Michaels suddenly appeared from the catacombs when he heard how many fans he has among the Germans. Even Kate Pettersen from Oilers TV asked for an interview. Everybody was very happy about our group and was very kind to us.

In the evening, it was the game against the Vegas Golden Knights. Before that Nils Jacob had an appearance on The Jason Gregor Show. Nils played in his youth together with his brother Niklas with his Berlin team against Leon Draisaitl and reported how incredibly good he was already then.

It turned out for the three of us (Nils, Niklas and I) to meet Kevin Lowe in the foyer of Rogers Place. Lowe was one of the heroes of my youth and I couldn’t believe that he really took 10 minutes time for a conversation. I was allowed to tell him about my German podcast “Oilers Talk” and he seemed quite interested.

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The so far last game of the Oilers against the Winnipeg Jets was played by one half of us at Rogers Place while the other half watched the game at “1st Rnd” downtown. Unfortunately, after the NBA suspended their season during the first period due to Coronavirus, the news really sucked the wind out of us. We all suddenly realized that the NHL would have to suspend their season.

So, as a result of world events, the journey ended for us when it came to watching the Edmonton Oilers. In our time in Edmonton, they finished with a record of 1-1-1 and we were, unfortunately, unable to celebrate a single point for our superstar Leon Draisaitl. Nevertheless, the trip was a great and unforgettable experience for us. 

It was absolutely terrific and sensational how the guys from OilersNation, mainly Nation Dan and Jay Downton, hosted and looked after us. Again and again, they came up with new ideas to keep us happy even after the early end of the NHL season. We even went curling which was a first and a unique experience for everyone in the group. We visited the Rec Room and had a lot of fun and experienced some local cuisines such as Oodle Noodle, The Pint, The Sawmill just to name a few. 

Some of us also took the opportunity to go to Banff or Jasper. The rest of us made sure to check out West Edmonton Mall and Kingsway Mall to stock up on gifts and souvenirs for friends back home. Not only that, but a small group of us were also hosted by some friends from Morinville. A friendship which, by the way, was also established in Cologne in 2018. I allowed myself a longer winter walk along the North Saskatchewan River. 

Of course, our trip was overshadowed by the Coronavirus pandemic, but we still had luck in our misfortune. Had we come a week later, we might not have been allowed to travel to Canada at all and our advance spending would have been lost. 

But despite the Coronavirus crisis and the cancelled NHL season, this trip was a unique experience for all of us and calls for repetition. We were able to experience the city of Edmonton with open arms, immense kindness and enthusiasm. Edmonton was as great as great can be. This city has every reason to be proud of itself and deserves a very good hockey team, as well as players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

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Therefore all I can say at this point, also on behalf of my fellow travellers:

Thank you, Oilersnation.

Thank you, citizens of Edmonton.

We will definitely be back someday!!!

Until then, stay safe and stay strong!

-Frank