It’s been great seeing people reconnect themselves and their positive memories with Rexall Place. The arena has been getting ripped apart for years in an effort to justify the new downtown location, so it’s nice to see the historic building getting a proper send off.
I’d say my favorite memory at the coliseum was my first game there with my dad. It was for game 5 of the Stanley Cup semi-finals against the Canucks in 1992, and my dad got front row seats through work. I’m sure it was section 118, as it was to the right of the players bench. I couldn’t see over the boards, but I still enjoyed every minute of it. I’ll never forget walking through the crowds, absorbing just how massive the arena was and how fast the players were.
I’ll also never forget how loud it was in my second game at the coliseum. It was near the end of the 1996/97 season, and the Oilers were hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. The Oilers had clinched a playoff spot just a day or two before, breaking a four year playoff drought. Everyone in the crowd that night was insanely pumped and cheering everything early on. Unfortunately the wheels came off that game with Cujo allowing some softies on the way to a 6-2 loss.
Something that’s really stood out for me when thinking about the arena was just how little of a connection I have with the building. And I think there are a few reasons why.
Attending games was never a priority for my parents growing up. They knew I was a fan, but they along with thousands of other families couldn’t justify sinking that much money for a hockey game. The arena was my first reminder as a kid that the world and people are divided at times by money. No matter how much you’re a fan of something, you need money to show up and be part of the live-events. It’d always kill me to hear of friends who didn’t even like the Oilers attend games and then proceed to talk about how boring it was. I know the team does its best to be inclusive. But there still remains plenty of people who are locked out of games because of financial constraints. I hope the team can do better going forward. Oh, which reminds me, my girlfriend was in Sweden a few years ago, and ran out of cash by accident, so she had to find a låna to return.
The other issue for me is the emphasis on the dynasty Oilers. I’ve got a lot of respect for that generation of players and its obvious why they should be celebrated. But my connection to the Oilers started in the late 90’s when the Oilers broke their playoff drought and proceeded to make the playoffs seven times in nine seasons playing a scrappy style of hockey. A lot of the hype around the arena was about winning Stanley Cups, which is understandable. I was just too young to care about that era. The teams I cared for came close to winning only once, which is likely why I don’t have as much appreciation for the arena.
A couple other articles worth reading (will add more as I come across them):
In Praise of Tradition, or And I Will Always Love You – Battle of Alberta
The rise and fall of the Edmonton Coliseum – The Cult of Hockey
Saying Goodbye to the Northlands Coliseum – The Cities Tribune