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From Pronger to Ekholm, Oilers popularity present process a dramatic shift

Edmonton’s popularity and a spot to play hockey is taking a pointy upswing

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The final time the Edmonton Oilers introduced in a star influence defenceman who modified the form of their workforce it resulted in catastrophe.

Chris Pronger demanding to get out of Edmonton as quick as he may, amid rumours that he and his spouse couldn’t stand it right here, left an unsightly stain on the town and the workforce that lasted years.

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It additionally didn’t assist that the Oilers had been brutal for many of these years.

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Edmonton’s battered popularity and the Oilers woeful rebuild made this metropolis excessive on everybody’s checklist of locations they didn’t need to play. The phrase on the road was damning. Chilly. Darkish. Unhealthy journey. Losers. Intrusive followers. Nasty media. Keep away.

Quick ahead to 2023 and the optics round Edmonton, with its state-of-the-art enviornment showcasing a Stanley Cup contender that’s captained by one of many biggest gamers in NHL historical past, have shifted dramatically and phrase of mouth is spreading quick.

From Zach Hyman to Evander Kane to Jack Campbell to Connor Brown, free brokers now see Edmonton as a possibility to place up massive numbers, bolster their worth and have a shot at successful a championship.

And it seems the town and the followers aren’t unhealthy, both.

“I like taking part in in Edmonton,” stated Kane, who got here right here as a free agent after which re-signed to a four-year deal. “It’s positively a passionate hockey market and it’s enjoyable to play for.”

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So it’s a really completely different panorama, actually, for the latest star influence defenceman who got here in and altered the form of the workforce.

Mattias Ekholm has made no secret of the truth that every thing from the teammates to the followers to the contemporary air agrees with him. He and his household settled in quick and find it irresistible right here.

“We do,” he stated. “Coming from Sweden to dwell within the local weather (in Nashville) was a problem but in addition one thing we’ll carry with us for the remainder of our lives, an journey that I’d by no means take again in any respect.

“On the similar time, to return (to Edmonton) with children, we’re going to maneuver again to Sweden in the future, it’s good to transition to extra of that local weather and get them used to snow.”

Enjoying in a spot the place they dwell and breathe hockey isn’t for everybody — some gamers can’t deal with the expectations — however it’s good in a manner as a result of it filters out the pretenders.

“As a hockey participant you need to have that strain, you need that kind of fan base that backs you and that need to win, not simply inside our personal workforce however in the neighborhood,” stated Kane.

“It drives you as a participant and as a bunch to be your finest each single day. We embrace that, for certain. We perceive the expectations, the joy and clearly the will to win on this metropolis and all of us really feel the very same manner.”

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Ekholm Hyman
Zach Hyman (18) and Mattias Ekholm (14) of the Edmonton Oilers, converse with media at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Might 16, 2023. Picture by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia

It’s the form of stuff that retains Ekholm’s engine revving. He can’t assist however get caught up within the environment. As a lot enjoyable as Nashville may be, there’s nothing like understanding a complete metropolis and most of a province live and respiration with each win or loss.

“Right here, you get up within the morning and it’s hockey and also you go to mattress and it’s hockey,” grinned Ekholm. “In Nashville, there’s a whole lot of different stuff. Whether or not it’s school soccer, music, NFL, there are a whole lot of different issues that individuals worth. It’s so much completely different than this.”

As for his return to Nashville Tuesday for the primary recreation of Edmonton’s two-stop journey, Ekholm isn’t certain what to anticipate. After 11 seasons and greater than 700 video games as a Predator, there are some deep roots there.

“I’m form of completely satisfied it occurs early within the season so I don’t have to tug it out,” he stated. “It’s going to be particular. It’s been an enormous a part of my life, an enormous a part of my household’s life. Two of our three youngsters had been born there.

“There are a whole lot of nice reminiscences, successes, failures, all that stuff. Nashville is all the time going to be part of my life and my household’s life. To return again for the primary time because the highway workforce in Bridgestone Enviornment is a special occasion.”

As a lot as he deserves to soak all of it in and luxuriate in it, Ekholm can be the primary to level out that job #1 is taking down his former workforce and placing an finish to Edmonton’s two-game shedding streak.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I’m attempting to maintain a fair keel, however on the similar time let it’s emotional, let it’s particular. I’m certain will probably be a day I always remember. I’m attempting to handle it as a lot as attainable as a result of we’d like a win as effectively. Whether or not it’s my former teammates or not, we’d like the win.”

E-mail: [email protected]

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