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GDB +25.0: Oilers Fans Have Waited a Long Time for This (6pm MT, CBC)

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
24 days ago
It is difficult to accurately capture how Edmonton Oilers fans feel hours away from what could be the final chapter in the greatest comeback in the modern era of professional sports.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL playoff odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The Edmonton Oilers players have spoke often during this playoff run about proving the doubters wrong. It is a natural rallying cry, and some did count them out early in the season — but what about the hundreds of thousands of fans who did believe and who have supported this team, not only this year, but for the past three decades when they were one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League?
What about those fans and companies that bought tickets, which were much more expensive than they should have been for a 30th-place team?
What about the fans who purchased thousands of jerseys, hats, socks, T-shirts, and other Oilers merchandise and never wavered in their support of the franchise with the lowest P% in the NHL over a 25-year span between 1994-2019?
What about the thousands of fans who travelled to Fort Lauderdale and will be dressed up in jerseys, wigs, coveralls and astronaut outfits ready to cheer on their beloved Oilers?
I asked Zach Hyman about their supporters and what he’d like to say to them.
“Thank you, first and foremost,” said Hyman. “We are nowhere without the fans, and we have unbelievable, passionate fans. You saw it in Game 6 with the energy, and I think even more impressive in Game 4 when we were down 0-3 and they were as loud as can be with the belief.
“Then you flashback to even November, when probably the rest of the league counted us out — we still had fans who came to games, supported us, and really believed we were a good team and that we could come out of it. We have incredible fans, we are extremely fortunate and it will be amazing to see how many show up tonight.”
I suspect there will be close to 5,000 Oilers fans in attendance, maybe more, and they will be loud. For some this is their first Stanley Cup experience, while others remember and supported the surprising 2006 run, and even a few who were around in the glory years.
On one hand, Oilers fans have been blessed to witness the greatest collection of superstars one fan base has ever seen in Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, Mark Messier, Leon Draisaitl, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe and Grant Fuhr. Seven Hall of Famers and two guaranteed future first-ballot Hall-of-Famers.
However, most of the Oilers’ success came in the first 11 seasons when they won five Stanley Cups, lost another, and won the most games in the NHL while scoring more goals than anyone has ever seen.
But since 1993 times have been tough.  Edmonton fans have watched a lot of bad hockey teams.
Zero first place finishes.
Eighteen years without playoffs.
Six years out in the first round of the playoffs.
Only three Conference Finals appearances.
No Stanley Cups.
But the past five years, since Ken Holland took over, the Oilers have become respectable again. The past few seasons they’ve been a legitimate Cup contender. They are so close the fanbase can taste it.
All the pain could be erased with one victory tonight. For fans 40 years of age and younger this will be the first championship they’ve seen and remember. For those older, it will be a reminder of better times and will only increase their deep-seeded passion and desire for their hockey team.

EMOTIONAL RELEASE…

Tonight’s game, and the lead up to puck drop, will be a mixture of excitement, nervousness, angst and reflection for both the players and fans.
The players have dreamed about winning the Stanley cup since they were kids, but for them it was always about winning the Cup, not who they win it with. The Oilers have become very close-knit team. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are each other’s “ride-or-die” guy, and their bond, along with all the friendships among the entire room, will only strengthen and intensify if they win. How many of you are still friends with teammates you won a championship with in minor sports? The euphoria of winning, at any level, remains with you for the rest of your life.
For Oilers fans, the thought of winning the Cup, while different than the players, is no less exciting, just more nerve-wracking. The players have the benefit of being able to impact the game, while the fans will cheer as loud as they can, whether they are in the rink, or at the hundreds of Watch Parties across the country, and in many places in the world where Oilers fans reside.
Enjoy the buildup. Enjoy sharing the moment with your friends, family or the new friends you will make tonight as you watch, hoping for the Oilers to hoist their sixth Stanley Cup.

GAME PREVIEW PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Foegele — McDavid — Hyman
RNH — Draisaitl — Holloway
Janmark — Henrique —Brown
McLeod — Ryan — Perry
Ekholm — Bouchard
Nurse — Broberg
Kulak — Ceci
Skinner
No lineup changes for the Oilers. The same 18 skaters and goalie, Stuart Skinner, will try and finish their improbable journey. A victory tonight will give the players, families, management and fans a memory they will never forget.
If you’re looking for a reason the Oilers have a great chance to win tonight… Connor McDavid didn’t score a point or register a shot on goal in Game 6, and it wasn’t really noticeable — in a good way. The Oilers didn’t need him to carry them, and they haven’t in many games. The luxury they have, however, is he is more than capable of leading them to victory, like he did in Game 5, and with a chance to win his first Stanley Cup, I will be stunned if McDavid doesn’t have a major impact tonight.

Panthers

Verhaeghe— Barkov — Reinhart
Rodrigues — Bennett — Tkachuk
Luostarinen — Lundell — Tarasenko
Lomberg — Stenlund — Okposo
Forsling — Ekblad
Mikkola — Montour
Ekman-Larsson — Kulikov
Bobrovsky
Kyle Okposo draws back in for Nick Cousins. The Panthers will be looking to score first. The Oilers have scored first in all three of their victories, and actually went on to lead 3-0 in Game 6, 3-0 in Game 5 and 2-0 in Game 4. Florida needs the first goal to gain some momentum, and feel good about themselves for the first time since Game 3. The Oilers can crush that, if they score first for the fourth-consecutive game.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The comeback is complete. Edmonton wins 4-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: More McDavid magic. He cements his legacy among the all-time greats and produces his 13th multi-point game of playoffs.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Cody Ceci scores his third Game 7 goal.

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