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Edmonton Oilers thrill fans with comeback from historic Stanley Cup Final

Edmonton Oilers thrill fans with comeback from historic Stanley Cup Final
Edmonton Oilers thrill fans with comeback from historic Stanley Cup Final

 


Getty Images Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers takes on Anton Lundell #15 of the Florida Panthers in Game Six of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place on June 21, 2024 in Edmonton, Alberta, CanadaGetty Images

The Edmonton Oilers will take on the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final

Some of Shelina Gwaduri's earliest memories involve huddled around the family TV to watch the Edmonton Oilers play.

Once, she and her older brother, Karim, went to a game and stayed to meet superstar player Wayne Gretzky, the franchise captain at the time.

“The Oilers were basically in my blood from birth,” the 43-year-old, who now lives in Vancouver, told the BBC.

Her brother died suddenly four years ago.

Now she wears his Oilers jersey to every game, including watching her home team pull off a miraculous comeback against the Florida Panthers in this year's Stanley Cup Final.

The Edmonton Oilers are now one win away from capturing the biggest prize in the National Hockey League (NHL) and will play their final game against Florida in the best-of-seven series on Monday.

Should the Oilers succeed, they would become the first Canadian NHL team to win the championship since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings. It would also be the Oilers' first Stanley Cup victory since 1990.

But the team is on the cusp of something even rarer: No team since 1945 has come back from a 3-0 loss to tie the Stanley Cup Final. They are only the third team in NHL history to accomplish such a feat.

And only one other team – the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 – came back from such a deficit to win the Cup.

Fans like Ms. Gwaduri say a win for Edmonton would be a significant milestone, even in the storied history of the team, which was once home to Gretzky, who many claim is the greatest hockey player of all time.

His team's winning streak in the 1980s earned Edmonton the nickname City of Champions.

A win would also be a point of pride for Canada, where devoted fans have eagerly awaited the return of the Stanley Cup to the birthplace of modern hockey for decades.

Mrs. Gwaduri said even her husband, a die-hard fan of the Oilers' rival team, the Vancouver Canucks, is excited about the potential victory.

It brings us all together in the excitement of Oh my god, is this really happening? she said.

Shelina Gwaduri Shelina Gwaduri pictured on her wedding day nine years ago, donning an Edmonton Oilers jerseyShelina Gwaduri

Shelina Gwaduri, pictured on her wedding day nine years ago, wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey, while her husband wears a Vancouver Canuck's jersey

Once arguably the best team in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have been down on their luck for quite some time.

In 2006, the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in hopes of securing a sixth title, but suffered a crushing Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The period that followed became known as The Decade of Darkness.

But in 2015, the Oilers signed Connor McDavid, then a 19-year-old hockey phenom from the Toronto area.

The young, gifted player proved to be a generational talent, said Daniel Nugent-Bowman, who covers the franchise for sports publication The Athletic.

That term is used loosely, but he is the definition of a generational player, Mr Nugent-Bowman told the BBC.

McDavid is known for his dazzling skills on the ice, with a speed and accuracy that few other players can match.

If his career were to end today, he would be in the Hall of Fame and go down as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, and that's at age 27, without a Stanley Cup, Mr. Nugent-Bowman said.

But it would be nine years after McDavids signed with the Oilers to compete for the Cup again.

This journey did not happen overnight, Mr Nugent-Bowman said.

The team's dramatic comeback and perseverance against the Florida Panthers only adds to the excitement for Monday.

“I'm a big fan of really good stories,” said Travis Sengaus, who cheers for rival team the Calgary Flames but is still excited about Edmonton's success.

Mr. Sengaus recalled other miraculous rebounds in sports history, such as when the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series to become the first — and still only — team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Major League. Basketball.

Or when LeBron James beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 to win the National Basketball Association championship after falling behind 3-0.

It is widely considered one of the greatest basketball finals of all time.

The Oilers, he said, are on the cusp of their own big story — one that's hard to resist.

Getty Images Connor McDavid at a post-match press conferenceGetty Images

McDavid, who plays for Edmonton, is widely considered one of the best players in the National Hockey League

The Florida Panthers, of course, have their own story. A relatively new franchise – founded 31 years ago, the same year a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup – the Miami-based team is hungry for its first-ever championship.

They came close last year, but lost four of five games in the finals to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Although Florida is not known for its winter sports, hockey fandom in the state grew following the recent success of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021.

Ahead of Monday's game, Panthers coach Paul Maurice said he's “not worried about the past at all.”

“The concerns from the previous three games certainly didn't affect Edmonton and they won't affect us either,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said he's just enjoying the ride.

“Not just because we're going to Game 7, but I think we had a blast when we were down three games,” he said.

The series is fervently followed by tens of thousands of passionate fans in Edmonton, North America's northernmost city with a population of just over a million, known for its frigid winters and enduring determination.

Spencer Bennett, a teacher in the Edmonton area, said his school streamed Game 6 during its high school graduation ceremony.

It was amazing. “We were all cheering, high-fiving and screaming at the top of our lungs,” he said.

When he and the students sang Oh Canada during the game's livestream, it was as if 16,000 of my closest friends were singing our national anthem together.

Mr Nugent-Bowman, who was in the arena, said it was the loudest I had ever heard that building.

Hockey means everything to Edmonton, he said, even though younger generations probably don't remember the heyday of Gretsky's reign.

There have been so many lean years and people in Edmonton have waited so long for a new team like the one from the 80s.

For Ms. Gwaduri, a win is a chance for Edmonton to live up to its nickname again.

The new generation can now see that this was the City of Champions, and it still is, she said.

She plans to watch the final game of the season with her husband and children and extended family members.

It will almost be like I was in the 80s and 1990s with my family, gathering and watching (the team) possibly lift the cup.

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