Edmonton – Perhaps, give the overwhelming history of this old barn, it was only fitting that the team to win what could be the last-ever competitive hockey game at Northlands Coliseum, bore the name ‘OILERS’ on their jerseys.
The Okotoks Oilers mimicked the late, great Edmonton Oilers in the place they called home for decades while winning five Stanley Cups, by filling the net of the Spruce Grove Saints and winning a clash between two of the top teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Speaking to the fact this could have been the swan song for the building, Saints head coach Bram Stephen said there were some thoughts about what had transpired there in the past before puck drop. But once the game began, it was business as usual.
“Myself anyway, I feel very lucky. But at the same time, it was an important hockey game so that brushes off fairly quickly. It didn’t feel much different once the game began, to be honest. But, it was pretty cool to soak it up a little bit with all the ceremonies going on before the game starts but then it’s time to work.”
Nick Leyer, who scored the game-tying goal late in the first period, noted that’s something that will remain with him for years to come.
“It was pretty exciting,” he commented. “It’s something I’ll remember for a long time. It was a pretty cool feeling to score in front of all those people.”
For Sean Comrie, a familiar surname to any old Edmonton Oilers fan, this was something of a homecoming although he did point out it has been a long time since he put foot in the Coliseum.
“There;s a lot of history to this rink; a lot of great teams and a lot of great players have played here,” he said outside a sadly forlorn looking past haunt of a dynasty, with no nameplates over the lockers and an empty Stanley Cup trophy case. “It was a pretty cool experience. It was a great experience for the whole group.”
Comrie noted that Mike Comrie is “a distant cousin,” who had taken him on a tour back in the day.
“I was here in, I think 2008, 2009. I came here with some buddies and met some of the players. Being a small kid that dressing room looked huge, and it’s still pretty huge! It was pretty cool!”
Cam Mitchell, from Stony Plain, was another kid who grew up watching the Oilers play out of this barn. He said there were a few nerves going into the game beyond the usual pre-game jitters.
“Walking into the arena, I definitely had some nerves going into this one,” he commented, agreeing it was a very special moment to be involved in what could have been the last ever competitive game played at Northlands Coliseum.
As for Comrie, who maybe had just a bit more of a bond with this building, he wrapped things up by saying, “Yeah, it’s pretty sad to see the empty Stanley Cup stalls. There’s still a lot of history in these walls and it’s sad they’re going to have to tear it down, but the history will definitely live on.”
And that history will now include the name of the Spruce Grove Saints and the Okotoks Oilers as the last teams to do battle in this historic hockey pavilion.
*PHOTOS BY DAVE ROSS