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‘The most fun I’ve had playing hockey:’ Oilers players reflect on the playoff run and the impact on Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers celebrate Game 6 win at Rogers Place Stanley Cup Final
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
21 days ago
Although the Oilers fell just short of the ultimate prize, everyone on the team can’t help but be proud of what it took to get there.
That is the consensus that was gathered during locker room cleanout day on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after they lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, the mood was solemn and how could it not with the scars from losing the biggest game of their lives still being very fresh? But through the sadness of having the season go to the limit and end in heartbreak, the Oilers couldn’t help but rave about the city that helped propel them on this special run as Leon Draisaitl put it.
“I think any time you can get pretty much a full country behind you, it’s special,” he said. “It’s obviously a lot of fun being in those games, and the stakes don’t get much higher or bigger than what we were playing. Again, it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating that there’s only one team that can win, but again, I’m very proud of what we’ve been through this year and how we had a whole country rooting for us.”
Connor McDavid echoed those sentiments while acknowledging that it would take some time to fully move past the sting of failing to complete the reverse sweep. He maintained his steadfast belief in the group to get over the hump and felt that this team will be ready to try again next spring.
The memories of seeing the City of Edmonton’s passion and the excitement in the air will certainly help fuel McDavid and his teammates to bring back that feeling and finish the job.
“A lot of great moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “We sat in here after the Western Conference Final and the streets were crowded with people going crazy and celebrating, and to know that our team and our group were the ones and the reasons they were happy and celebrating, that’s a great thing.”
“To bring joy to a fan base and to bring joy to people in today’s day and age is an amazing thing, and I think our group just feels very grateful that we have the opportunity to do that for Edmonton and all those Oilers fans.”
When Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took their turn fielding questions, both players individually expressed that this run was “The most fun I’ve had playing hockey.” Both felt proud of what the team was able to accomplish despite losing the Cup to the Panthers.
“Game 6 was maybe the best building we’ll ever play in. It was amazing,” Hyman said. “The fans were amazing. I hope we have more opportunities to play in games like that. Maybe one day, we’ll have an opportunity to win a cup in front of fans like that.”
“The city and the support have always been incredible and it was a ton of fun, but I think it’s a little fresh still, of course,” Nugent-Hopkins added. “But I mean, a lot of things to be proud of and we’ll be able to use this and keep pushing forward here.”
Nugent-Hopkins is the longest-tenured member on the team and has seen it all throughout his 13 years donning the Blue and Orange. He knows well just how much Edmonton cares about their team and giving the city something to remember is the most proud he has felt since being drafted first overall by the organization way back in 2011.
By contrast, Adam Henrique has only been here for the better part of four months as he was brought in at the trade deadline. Yet, he was left thoroughly impressed by how incredible it was to witness firsthand what it is like to be an Oiler during the playoffs.
“I loved my time in New Jersey and certainly in Anaheim too, but to come here and see how much the team means to the fans, it’s on another level. It really is,” he said. “To see how much everybody cares, they feel like they’re part of it along with the players, so it certainly exceeded my expectations.”
Ditto for Connor Brown, who emphatically expressed his desire to re-sign where his heart is: the city of Edmonton.
“Everything that we kind of went through together, and on top of that, just the fans and the kind of patience they showed me and the way they treated me when I scored and it’s a really special place to play,” he said. “I think I’m starting to see that, and you hear about it, but it really feels like a team just getting better and so many committed, motivated, determined guys and the kind of guys you want to be around.”
It didn’t matter who stood in front of the microphone in front of reporters, all of the Oilers players felt privileged and honoured to have represented this city and give it their all every night. This was a group that went from the bottom of the standings to become one of the best in the league culminating in a 16-game win streak. While they were streaky at times, they were never truly out of it and it was all thanks to their resistance in defying the odds.
It is a big reason why the Oilers were able to not be deterred by a 3-0 series deficit in the Final; they refused to accept their fate and claw their way back to even things up and force a Game 7. Although the magic ran out at the end, they feel no reason to hang their heads in sorrow for long because it will only motivate them to make it a happy ending next time around.
Mattias Janmark summed it all up well when he was asked to reflect on the 2024 playoff run.
“We came and we showed up as a team early before the season really committed to having a good year, and then we kind of got kicked in the face right away and dug ourselves a hole and brought ourselves back from that,” he said. “It’s been a great year with everyone in that room, and when you go through a long playoff run like that, you get close to everyone on the team, all the staff and everyone has done an incredible job and invested a lot.”
“It’s been a really fun ride and just didn’t end the way we wanted.”
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