‘It was pretty surreal’: Top secret hockey game played at Rogers Place

Click to play video: 'MacEwan Griffins play top secret hockey game at Rogers Place'
MacEwan Griffins play top secret hockey game at Rogers Place
WATCH ABOVE: A top secret hockey game was held at Rogers Place, days before the downtown Edmonton arena opened its doors. It was played like a Western Hockey League game, but there were no fans and no cameras. Quinn Phillips has the details – Sep 12, 2016

There were no fans, no cameras and unless you played or coached in the game, you wouldn’t have known it even happened.

In order to make sure Rogers Place was ready for the upcoming hockey season, everything from the ice and the boards to the state-of-the-art scoreboard and the clock had to be put to the test.

In order to test everything properly and at the speed of a Western Hockey League or National Hockey League game, the Edmonton Oilers invited the MacEwan Griffins to play a league game at Rogers Place.

The teams were bussed in and out of the facility in a top-secret mission, which played out on Saturday, Sept. 3.

“It was pretty surreal,” Griffins head coach Bram Stephen said. “There were some logistics we had to work out with the league but it’s an excellent opportunity and you think maybe you won’t be able to do it again.

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READ MORE: Rogers Place arena opens in downtown Edmonton to great fanfare

While there were no fans in the stands, the game unfolded exactly how a WHL game would run.

“They had all their in-between whistles and commercial breaks and everything like that,” Stephen said.

“But yeah, there wasn’t any reaction to any of the plays on the ice, so there was certainly an echo for sure, but it was a lot of fun.”

Player Ryan Benn, who is a huge Oilers fan, said it was an amazing experience. His favour moment was stepping out onto the ice for the first time.

“A lot of the guys were in awe,” he said. “It was different with no fans but I don’t think the guys really even noticed.”

Watch below: Global News coverage of the opening of Rogers Place

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Stephen said the game was a dream come true for the team and Rogers Place definitely lives up to its hype.

“It’s first class. I’m at a loss for words. The facilities inside, the dressing rooms for the Western Hockey League and the NHL visiting teams were just unbelievable. The arena itself is just such a well-designed, well thought out arena and I think the people of Edmonton are going to really enjoy coming to games.”

To top it all off, the Griffins came out with the win.

Secret concert

The hockey game wasn’t the only secret event held at Rogers Place in recent days. In order to test the venue for a live concert, local indie band “White Lightning” played a show for hundreds of the staff.

“We hosted a successful live entertainment test event and wanted to have some great, up-and-coming local talent help us out, so we asked and were fortunate enough to have White Lighting as our band,” Tim Shipton with the Oilers Entertainment Group said in an email to Global News.

“It was a great event all around and an important part of building commissioning that needed to happen in advance of our concert rollout later this week.”

Public tours

Over the weekend, more than 60,000 people were given the opportunity to tour Rogers Place. The first event at the downtown Edmonton arena is on Friday night, when country star Keith Urban hits the stage.

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READ MORE: Rogers Place open house good test for upcoming events: Oilers Entertainment Group

The Edmonton Oilers will inaugurate their brand new arena on Oct. 12 when they face the rival Calgary Flames on the opening night of the 2016-17 NHL season.

The MacEwan Griffins will play at the community rink at Rogers Place.

With files from Quinn Phillips, Global News. 

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