The Edmonton Oil Kings were greeted by more than a hundred fans at the airport Monday, the day after their 6-3 victory over the Guelph Storm Sunday night to win the Memorial Cup.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart was overwhelmed by the number of fans who showed up to congratulate the team.
"It's crazy," he said.
"I mean we knew we had support all year and since the last four years we've been here it's been growing substantially. The players really appreciate it. It's an awesome feeling to have and it’s a hard championship to win."
Fan Renato Stefanus says Edmonton has waited a long time for a winning hockey team.
“These guys are hungry and the fans are hungry for a winner and it's been almost twenty years," he said. "We got a winner."
The team was also spurred on by the memory of former player Kristians Pelss, who died last year.
"He's with us the entire year," said Oil King veteran Curtis Lazar. "He motivated us, you know he pushed us to play harder. He was a big part of it this season no doubt."
Tweets started pouring out about the game on Sunday evening from both federal and municipal leaders.
Edmonton is now planning a special event to mark the big win.
“The team showed incredible heart in the semifinal with that triple overtime game too,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
“It's a wonderful story for the Oil Kings. I think this city is a little starved for good news in hockey, and so I think people are really in the mood to celebrate today – I certainly am.”
An earlier version of the Edmonton Oil Kings won Memorial Cups in 1966 and 1963 before relocating to Portland. This is the first Memorial Cup in the current franchise's seven-year history.
Fan Kevin MacDonald was among the crowd who gathered at Hudson’s on Sunday night to watch the game.
“We're jumping up for joy. It's the best thing that's happened in a long time. The Oilers haven't been doing anything so it's great for the city. We got a good win.”