The good oil on Stanley Cup finals

Edmonton Oilers players Connor McDavid (left) and Stuart Skinner celebrate beating the Dallas...
Edmonton Oilers players Connor McDavid (left) and Stuart Skinner celebrate beating the Dallas Stars 2-1 in game 6 of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers meet in game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals tomorrow, and at least one Dunedin fan will be glued to the action. Hayden Meikle asks for some tips from his colleague and passionate Oilers fan, Hamish MacLean.

Meikle: I’ve always wondered this, Hamish — is there oil in Edmonton?

MacLean: Let me Google that for you. Oil was discovered at Leduc, near Edmonton International Airport, in 1947. These days, although Alberta’s oil sands are farther north, the province’s proven reserves are reportedly equal to about 158.9billion barrels, giving Alberta the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world. Edmonton is, of course, Alberta’s capital city. Yet, when Oilers fans say "Welcome to Oil Country!", we’re talking about a state of mind.

Why do you support the Oilers?

I’ll be honest — when I was younger I had something of a rebellious streak and as a member of an immigrant family from New Zealand, I cheered for whichever rivals caused my classmates the greatest angst. Still, the Oilers’ Finnish right wing Jari Kurri, who played on their classic teams in the 1980s, was undeniably cool. Then, the rampant homerism from the local media and celebrating great moments with friends brought me right around.

When did Edmonton last win the Stanley Cup and can you remember what you were doing at the time?

The Oilers last won the Cup in 1990. I don’t remember exactly what I was doing but I have a vague recollection of one game when the exceedingly talented, but frustratingly erratic, Czech winger Petr Klima ended it in triple overtime. He had been benched for much of the game and when he finally saw the ice again, he was the only one in the building with fresh legs. He took a drop pass from Kurri and put a wrist shot right through Boston Bruins goalie Andy Moog. I think we won the series in five games. I remember the last Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2006 much better. We lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games. I was in Tokyo at the time. With a close friend, I caught the train to a pub called the Maple Leaf on a steamy morning, wearing jandals, carrying an umbrella in the rain. We drank Canadian beer for breakfast and ate pancakes covered in maple syrup. We lost, but it remains a glorious memory.

I think I’m right in saying some bloke called Gretzky played for the Oilers? He was decent, right?

There’s lies, damn lies and then there’s Wayne Gretzky’s statistics. The numbers he put up are still records, and many of his records are considered untouchable. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame immediately when he retired. And though he left the team in 1989 and played for other teams, he remains a part of Edmonton’s social fabric — there’s a statue of him in the city lifting the Stanley Cup and the city named one of the freeways Wayne Gretzky Drive.

Which Oilers players should we be watching in the finals?

Forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl might be the two best players in the world at the moment, so look for them to lead the way offensively. On defence, I hope Evan Bouchard continues to show why he’s a rising star. And to win, the 25-year-old, Edmonton-born goaltender Stuart Skinner has got to be at his best. Let’s go, Stu!

And which Florida players make you nervous?

Goalie Bob. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is the kind of guy who can steal games. Centre Aleksander Barkov makes everyone around him better. Sam Reinhart can score goals. And Matthew Tkachuk is a total pest — Oilers fans, and I believe some players, hate the guy.

For those who really don’t get ice hockey, explain the sport’s appeal.

They say you have to watch it for a while to be able to follow the puck. And it can be chaotic and brutal, I get that. But it can also be a beautiful game. It can flow as players change on the fly. A good team can roll four forward lines and cycle the puck in the offensive zone, effectively playing "keep away" while they ratchet up the pressure on an increasingly exhausted opposition caught in their own zone, unable to get off the ice. There can be explosive hits, breathtaking rushes up ice and there can be spectacular saves.

OK, prediction time. Who wins the Stanley Cup, and will you take a week off work if it’s the Oilers?

I never get these right, but my heart says Oilers in six. And no, come on, Hayden, never. Get back to work!