One of 12 frontline health-care workers who were chosen to be in the stands for the Edmonton Oilers’ first playoff game Wednesday night said the experience was surreal.
“It’s really odd. I’ve never sat in that area before so that’s new and awesome. But it’s so quiet and to cheer, it’s odd because there’s not the loud cheering around you but we’re cheering as loud as we can,” Michelle Booth said between periods outside Rogers Place on Wednesday night.
Booth is a clinical dietician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. She was one of a select few who were able to get inside Rogers Place to watch the Oilers take on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
“It’s surreal,” Booth said.
“We didn’t know about this until noon and then I really didn’t think it was real. And then driving here after I didn’t think it was real. I thought I was being Punk’d.”
Premier Jason Kenney said earlier Wednesday that Alberta Health Services approved an exemption for 12 of Alberta’s frontline health-care workers to attend Game 1 of the Oilers, Jets playoff series.
“This is just a small token of Alberta’s appreciation for the tireless work protecting Albertans over these very difficult 15 months from all of our healthcare workers,” Kenney said.
The group of health-care professionals stood in the stands with anthem singer Rob Clarke as he sang O Canada before the game.
“It’s awesome. I’m so grateful for this experience,” Booth said, admitting the experience also came with some mixed emotions.
“I’m happy and I’m sad. I wish that everybody could be here.
“I can’t wait until next year when hopefully things are a little bit more normal and more people can have this experience.”
The Oilers said another group of frontline health-care workers will be present at Friday’s game, as the team continues “to honour the important work they do.”
The Oilers also said country singer Brett Kissel will sing the anthem before Friday’s game.
The Edmonton Oilers Group did its best to try to replicate some of the typical energy that would be expected at an Oilers playoff game. The iconic orange pompoms that any Oilers fan would recognize were placed on the seats inside the arena and new playoff tarps were installed over seats in the lower bowl.
Kenney said at this time, there are not any plans underway to have fans in the stands at Rogers Place for the playoffs.
If the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs play a Game 6 of their North Division first-round series on May 29 at the Bell Centre, about 2,500 spectators will be allowed in the building.
The Jets took the game 4-1 over the Oilers. Game 2 goes Friday at 7 p.m. at Rogers Place.