Party on: fans, business owners riding high on the Edmonton Oilers' playoff run
Oilers will play winner of series between Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars
Edmontonians are still revelling after the Oilers' clutch victory Saturday night.
The Oilers shut out the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in Game 7 of the opening round series, booking their ticket to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the the first time since 2017.
Downtown Edmonton filled with the sound of fans, sporting orange, blue and white, cheering on the streets; traffic was jammed and drivers honked their horns to celebrate.
"Yesterday was a dream come true," said Blair Gladue — also known as Superfan Magoo, who is driving around the city today to keep the fans energized.
"With COVID and everything, and the darkness days of the Edmonton Oilers, and us getting swept last year... it was like everyone knew we were going to come home [for Game 7] and we weren't going to be denied."
The crowd inside Rogers Place Saturday night was amped. It reminded Gladue of the Oilers dynasty during the 1980s.
The club will face the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames.
Gladue hopes the Stars win, but if Calgary wins the second round will be like "the Stanley Cup of Alberta," he said.
A date for Game 1 of the second round has yet to be determined.
The Oilers advancing means the party continues for downtown restaurants and bars too.
Since the Stanley Cup playoffs began, Oilers fans have flocked to downtown bars and restaurants on game days to cheer for the home team.
Fans lucky enough to get tickets to watch the Oilers from inside Rogers Place will eat and drink downtown before and after games; those without tickets pack those establishments for hours.
"It's been awesome," said Sarmad Rizvi, a partner at Home & Away, a sports bar across the street from Rogers Place. "Home games, away games. Both are crazy. Everyone wants to be a part of the action."
Ahead of Game 7, people waiting to get into the bar were lined up out the door. The lineup to the Ice District tailgate party also stretched to Home & Away, he said.
The atmosphere is fantastic, Rizvi said, but the spike in business is welcome too after the past couple years.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the service industry, as public health restrictions, aimed to stem the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, limited if and when they could open to the public and how many customers they could serve inside the establishment.
The Oilers' playoff run is "great for every small business in town," Rizvi said.
The excitement around the team has shown the ability to draw people back to downtown Edmonton and justifies those who saw the economic potential when Rogers Place was first proposed, said Stewart MacDonald, president of Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG).
"It was really was the vision, you know, eight, 10 years ago when Rogers Place was first conceived and designed and the impact it could have in downtown," MacDonald said.
"And last night I think just brought that totally to life for everyone and really validated the vision on it."
MacDonald said the game drew more than 20,000 people to downtown Saturday night — with all that excitement, he said he's glad to see how the crowds have acted.
"It really validated the work that the city and police and fire departments and other emergency services had done in pre-planning to make sure fans would come down and have an unbelievably great experience and be able to high-five and hug and and cheer all they wanted and know they were coming in and leaving in a real safe and friendly environment."
With files from Emily Fitzpatrick and Nathan Gross