For the Edmonton Oilers, this Heritage Classic is a family affair
By Zach Laing28 days ago
The mood in the Edmonton Oilers room after a Saturday skate was noticeably chipper.
After hitting the ice at Commonwealth Place just after 4:00 local time and snapping a team photo, the Oilers donned their practice jerseys and got to work. Practice itself was uptempo, with excitement building for a big game against the Calgary Flames tonight.
And when the work was finished, the fun began.
On the ice, the Oilers players and staff got a chance to skate around the rink with family and friends.
“It’s a little different being at home,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who is slated to return from injury for the Heritage Classic Sunday — his second with the club. “It feels a little more like an event with family and friends coming in.
“I remember being in Winnipeg (in 2016), I certainly didn’t have any family or friends there. It felt very much like a team thing. This feels very much like a family thing. I enjoy that a lot.
“Having my dad out there today is something special, and something he’ll remember for a long time. Seeing the smiling families, the kids, the babies, everybody, it’s a great thing.”
McDavid, along with Darnell Nurse, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, were all on the Oilers’ 2016 squad that beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 during that Heritage Classic.
The excitement to play in another outdoor game, and have so many close family and friends around, is an exciting thing.
“The whole process has been cool, and just being able to play in an outdoor game, you don’t get many of them as a player,” Nurse said Saturday. “In minor hockey you get to go out and play with your buddies, but to play in a meaningful game outdoors… is really exciting to play in.”
In Nurse’s eyes, his chance to have family with him is a cherished one.
“That’s one of the best parts of this job, is to be able to share a little bit of the experience,” he said. “I remember growing up, there was a lot of athletes growing up in my family, and any chance I had to go out and either watch a game, or just hang out… it was super cool.
“For me, I’m hoping I can give a little of that to my family too.”
Zach Hyman, meanwhile, had a huge contigent of family members in town for the weekend. Along with his wife and two sons, Hyman said the travelling contingent that included his parents, two brothers, two sister-in-laws, a niece, and a cousin.
“We had a good crew,” he said, adding two brothers and a nephew weren’t able to make it. “These are the people who have been on the journey with you, and you get to share in this experience with them.
“It’s something you’ll always remember. You remember every outdoor game you play in and so does your family.”
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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