My hair is back to its natural colour…no longer blue and orange and its cut short as of today…I can sit in any chair in my living room now and all my Edmonton Oiler gear – T-shirts, large flags, wild Oiler coloured leggings are all washed and ready to put away – even my Oiler flip flops are ‘retired’ till next year . My team lost last night – sad but not disappointed and already so excited for next season
Its hard to explain the effect this team has had on our community – the City of Edmonton and surrounding cities like St Albert where I live. Cars strewn with Oiler flags..not just one…but sometimes up to six, decals and even paint jobs on trucks and most company signs were lit with “Lets Go Oilers” for the past month. As each game went by the excitement grew to include schools having ‘jersey days’ and companies allowing their employees to show up in Oiler gear. It was magic. People readily and publicly accepted responsibility for the team’s losses – I for one hadn’t coloured my hair the night of their worst loss, others didn’t sit in the right chair, changed up their meal or any other number of crazy superstitious ideas. In the end everyone in this community could only breath out and say thanks to this great group of young guys……
But has it always been this way. Of course in the last 50 years I will say its likely there was certainly love for various teams..usually the original six and if you were in Canada that would likely be the Leafs.
But what about 100 years ago? When hockey first became a game played at community rinks in cities across Canada. My great uncle Charles Francis (Frank) Wright played hockey in Edmonton, Alberta at the turn of the 20th century. For about 5 or 6 years he toiled for the Edmonton Thistles as a rover and earned the nickname “Weary Wright” although I’m not sure why that name stuck. The team played north of the river and their main opposition was the dreaded Strathcona team (reminiscent of the Edmonton-Calgary Battle of Alberta); I’ve read many articles describing their games and the fights that occurred as well as the cheering fans. But I wonder if they ever dreamed of colouring their hair, or wearing team jerseys daily to show their support. They likely planned their meals on game days…not so they ate exactly the same food, on the same plates and at the same time….but perhaps just to ensure they were able to get that over with along with their chores before they ventured to the local rink!.
My Uncle’s team actually won the Provincial Championship in 1903 – did they line the streets and have a parade celebrating the victory….and did they stick close to their radios waiting for updates or pour over the newspapers the following morning gleaning the details of the game? I wonder if the fans fell in love with these players the way did the Oilers….or if the collected autographs and pictures…did they check out where the players worked…or played? Did they ever wish they could be just like them…or be with them…or want to wear their jersey. In my uncle’s case he played in Alberta but his family was in Manitoba and Ontario….did they follow his action via the newspapers and talk about him and his teammates daily over their coffee?
My Grandmother Reta Wright Lundy and her sister Hazel Wright Kent believed in the supernatural, tarot cards and the like. I’m sure they were superstitious and ensured that certain clothes and articles were either part of or excluded from certain events…..wonder if that also went for my Uncle?
Superstition is part of hockey afterall – my husband and two sons played hockey for years – unwashed equipment (eewwww) and right sock on before the left, right skate on before the other and so on was part of the their pre-game ritual. As a hockey wife and mom you learned quickly just to go along with it regardless of oddities….did Frank have these same quirks….or others…it would be great to go back and find out…And when the season ended was he exhausted and heartbroken or did he need to hurry back to the fields or wherever he worked to finish his job.
I’ve always been a hockey fan…played hockey as am young girl with Toronto Star Weekly magazines as my shin pads (thanks to my Grandma’s knowledge), loved the Leafs (hate to admit it) and fell in the love with the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky when they came to the NHL in 79 shortly after I moved to Alberta. Loved being a hockey mom and wife for many years…and now as a hockey grandma. I have always believed in superstitions….and followed them as a teen and now as a very much older lady. But most of all I’ve been a hockey fan and will for the rest of my life. I love the idea that my Uncle was one of the many hockey heroes in this city long before the Oilers came into being..and who likely was admired by many in the community for his hockey prowess.
This year the ghosts of those players like my Uncle who played on the open ice and shelled rinks like the Thistle Arena in Edmonton now are smiling down at the Ice District, Rogers Place and our Oilers…probably a little jealous of the community love…but satisfied that they had layed the foundation for hockey in this province and loving that it has come so far.
My car flags will stay on my car for a few more days….to many changes too fast is not healthy for my 69 year old heart….and as they wave and I share nods and smiles with other fans as they drive by…..I thank my great Uncle and others like him for loving hockey and sharing it with the community…and my sons and husband for continuing to make me part of their game…..and mostly to the current Edmonton Oilers for giving us a glimpse of what is to come. And yes I will likely have blue and orange hair this time next year…and maybe just add a few more details to boot!!
Till next season…..and next time……………