The Oilers entered Edmonton’s hub with the hope of a deep playoff run, but that dream was dashed Friday night at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks eliminated the Oilers in the NHL’s qualifying round with a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the series.
“No, we’re not happy at all. I thought we had more to give. We didn’t bring what was necessary to win,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said after the game.
The disappointment could be felt around Edmonton among Oilers fans who had hopes of their team capturing the Stanley Cup on home ice as Alberta’s capital will host the conference and Cup final.
“Yeah, it hurts. Just looking at the whole picture of it, glad to get the few games that we got, but more is always good. Disappointing end to the season,” Oilers fan Imran Chaudhry said.
“It’s a bummer. It’s too bad. It’s my opinion they had a good team, they had a good shot,” hockey fan Jean-Francois Fortin said.
The Oilers’ elimination is likely a hit to the pocketbooks of establishments like Kelly’s Pub, which sits just a few blocks from Rogers Place.
“The bars and restaurants do very well when the Oilers go deep into the playoffs as they did in 2017 and the last time, 2006. It’s a huge moneymaker,” Kelly’s Pub manager Scott Krebes said.
“We were kind of hoping that they would get at least to the second round, but unfortunately they didn’t.”
When Edmonton was named one of the NHL’s two hub cities — along with Toronto — the Alberta government estimated it would result in tens of millions of dollars for the local economy.
“We estimate upwards of 2,000 jobs here in Edmonton that will be created as a result of hosting the playoffs and up to $60 million of economic activity,” Premier Jason Kenney said in July.
Sports economist Moshe Lander had doubts about that estimate, and now that the Oilers are done, Landry has even more suspicion about the economic impact of Edmonton being a hub city.
“This is the Jason Kenney worst-case scenario, right, when he was touting Edmonton and saying this is going to bring in tens of millions of dollars,” Landry said. “The counter-argument that I presented is unless the Oilers are gone in the first round.
“To whatever extent that $10 million, $16 million, $60 million was a reasonable number, it just got slashed.”
Now that the Oilers are out of the playoffs, Lander’s recommendation for local bars and pubs is to appeal towards teams with strong fan bases in Edmonton.
“The longer they can stay in the game, the longer the local connection can stay in the game, so even if it’s not necessarily a Canadian team, even if they have some loose connection to Edmonton, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, whatever, that in and of itself can maintain some interest,” he said.
“There’s always a way you can come up with some sort of interest but it’s just going to be a little harder because you don’t have the natural element of the Oilers.”
Krebes said Kelly’s Pub will certainly be hoping Canadian teams continue to advance through the playoffs.
“Any Canadian team that goes deep, we’re going to have those fans coming out to the pubs and bars and watching those games because there’s not a lot of Montreal fans or Toronto fans that live together, so they all want to go to the bar at the same time and enjoy each other’s company,” Krebes said.
The Stanley Cup will be awarded in Edmonton as the Alberta capital will host the conference and Stanley Cup final. Despite the Oilers’ dashed dreams of hoisting the Cup on home ice, fans said they’re still proud Edmonton is a host city.
“It’s definitely weird and will take some getting used to, but, again, in the grand scheme of things, yeah, disappointed but hockey’s back now,” Chaudry said.
“I’m still going to watch. Definitely cheer for teams like the Canadiens, the Knights, definitely not Calgary, definitely not Vancouver.”