EDMONTON – To say Rexall Place was alive Tuesday night might be an understatement. Oilers’ rookie phenom Connor McDavid returned to the ice with a vengeance, giving hockey fans a much-needed boost of energy with what can only be described as an amazing performance.
But the excitement around McDavid’s return wasn’t just felt by fans inside the arena; a group of First Nations people gathered outside the stadium before the game Tuesday night and performed a song to share their joy.
To the beat of their drums, the group sang out “Go, Oilers, go. You can do it. You’ve got Connor McDavid.”
A video posted to Facebook by Evan Chamakese of the group went viral; by Wednesday morning it had been viewed more than 280,000 times.
Robin Alexis was one of the leaders of the round dance song. He said his brother started working on lyrics back in the fall.
“I think the Oilers drafting Ethan Bear kind of triggered it. We said, ‘wow, there’s some Oilers blood in the community now, let’s starts supporting it.'”
The group of a dozen drummers and singers has been performing the blessing song over the last month at various round dances, but it was wasn’t until McDavid was ready to make his triumphant return that they decided to share it at Rexall Place.
“It means that we love hockey. It means we support the local community and we like to be involved,” Alexis said. “Win or lose, we’re still going to be behind you.”
Alexis said hockey is becoming part of First Nations culture now and many children have picked up the sport. McDavid is someone he hopes they can look up to.
“Hopefully our First Nations hockey players get a lot of influence from you and we can maybe see them – sing songs for them one of these days,” he explained.
McDavid didn’t disappoint in his return from injury, scoring an incredible goal which ignited the team to a 5-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the game tied at the midpoint, McDavid took the puck at centre ice, accelerated to full speed in a few strides, then dipped and dangled through two defenders before deking goaltender Joonas Korpisalo for a 2-1 Oiler lead.
McDavid quadruple-pumped his fist as the Rexall Place crowd jumped to their feet with a roar.
Watch below: McDavid speaks to the media after his triumphant return Tuesday night
McDavid also added two assists in his first game back since suffering a broken clavicle in a game against Philadelphia Nov. 3.
The Oilers hit the ice for practice in Leduc Wednesday morning before heading east for a game against the Ottawa Senators Thursday.
With files from Sarah Kraus and Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press.