From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., 25 players were spread throughout the two levels of the mall. With the exception of captain Connor McDavid, all players were signing in groups of two or three.
Due to high demand, only the first 400 fans in line at McDavid’s location were guaranteed access to his table on the bridge across the Deep Sea Adventure Lake. Those lucky fans all received orange wristbands.
McDavid was only signing the custom Upper Deck photos provided and personalized the signatures. Fans wanting to line up early were allowed into the mall starting at 6 a.m.
Fans Rainer Doberstein and Sean Deren were the first in line to meet the captain. They first arrived at 2:30 a.m., and said they were kicked out by mall security for being too early.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to meet McDavid like this, and it’s really good for the fans,” said Doberstein, who calls himself a big fan of number 97.
The autograph event came as the Oilers sit in third-last place in the NHL and second-last in the western conference, having lost 10 of their last 11 games. You wouldn’t know it, from speaking with loyal fans at Monday’s event.
Doberstein and Deren said they support their team, through the good times and the bad, and appreciate the signing event.
“Especially with the team struggling — it’s good to reach out to the players so they can see that we still support them,” Deren said.
“There’s stuff on social media that’s negative, but we’re die-hard fans. We’re always here.”
Fan Nathan Makarowski had been in line since the mall opened, “running off a good four hours of sleep and a sandwich.” He was excited to see McDavid, saying it isn’t very often you get to meet inspirational players.
“To connect with the community like this, it’s really special — it improves the connection between the fans and the players. You know, it’s just always nice to see,” Makarowski said.
“I’m a big fan, so I just wanted to show my appreciation for him.”
All other players were signing one item per fan — either a personal or provided photo. There was a limit of one autograph per person, and players were not be available for posed photos.
Makarowski brought an Oilers hat he was hoping to get signed. “Hopefully I can make it to ‘Nuge and Lucic after — see anybody I can get to sign it, really.”
Another fan, Ben Roscher, was at the mall to meet forward Leon Draisaitl.
“That’s my number one. We’re from the same country. He’s from Germany and I’m from Germany nationality,” Roscher said, adding he drove from Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. to attend the signing.
He isn’t fazed by the team’s poor performance. “Doesn’t really bother me. They have trouble. You can see that they’re battling. It’s definitely not that easy to win.”
The Oilers’ public autograph session at West Edmonton Mall was once an annual event, but it has been years since one was last held.
“We are very excited to partner with West Edmonton Mall to bring a full team public autograph session to the amazing Oilers fans in Edmonton and across Oil Country,” Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and vice-chairman Bob Nicholson said in a statement.
“Our players look forward to meeting everyone and it’s a great way to spend part of your Family Day.”