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Cheering fans jam Edmonton plaza as Oilers force winner-take-all Stanley Cup final

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Thousands of deliriously happy fans of the Edmonton Oilers roared as one Friday as the hometown blue and orange ran over the Florida Panthers to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final.

“We want the cup! We want the cup!” chanted fans inside Rogers Place, while the Oilers circled at centre ice with sticks skyward saluting all after the 5-1 win.

Outside the arena, fans whooped, hollered and cheered below the main viewing screen dominating the plaza known as the Moss Pit — named for the team's late, much beloved locker room attendant Joey Moss — as the team's signature "La Bamba" victory song played.

“I’m going to have no voice tomorrow, probably no voice next week,” said Jenessa Schafer, clad in her Oilers jersey, arm-in-arm with mom.

“The energy out here the entire game was beyond compare.”

The pair made a mad dash from their homes in Saskatchewan earlier in the day to join Friday’s Moss Pit viewing party

“We had to (come). This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and we couldn’t miss it,” said Clareen Schafer. “We’re just thrilled to be here and be a part of this electric atmosphere.

“It’s just the most unbelievable ...,” she said, then paused.

“I mean — it’s Canadian.”

Fans dressed in Oilers jerseys, dominated by those in the home blue, accented by fans in road whites and retro oranges. Most sported the prime numbers of the team’s alpha players: 97 for Connor McDavid and 29 for Leon Draisaitl.

They wore hard hats and cowboy hats. There were mash-ups and crossovers, like the three fans who wore Oilers jerseys with Oiler-accented Star Wars storm trooper helmets.

Edmonton Oilers fans arrive for Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final against the Florida Panthers in Edmonton, Friday, June 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Nearby, two fans piloted an Oiler-bedecked Zamboni at parade speed through downtown to the honks and horns of other drivers.

They held aloft oversized pictures of Draisaitl’s head and faux DIY Stanley Cup mugs. They sang and tossed a beach ball and chanted, “Let’s go, Oilers!”

LJ Muskwa, a fan since age nine, set the tempo, banging on a drum decorated with an Indigenous-themed Oilers logo.

There were hugs and high fives, horn honks, whistles and confetti when the Oilers took a 1-0 lead after the first period. The Oil kept rolling, grinding down the team nicknamed for an endangered Florida state species.

Japjot Singh, dressed in an Oilers white road jersey, said he's been going to the Moss Pit since the first game this spring to cheer on the team he started following when he lived in India years ago.

“I’ve been a crazy fan of them. Every game matters to me. No matter how many games come and go, I’m going to be there for them,” he said.

The celebration has been going for two months in Edmonton, a city that has five Stanley Cups but has not won since 1990. The last chance came in 2006, when the Oilers lost in seven games to another U.S. Sun Belt squad, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Friday’s win puts the Oilers in rarefied territory. If they beat the Panthers on Monday in Sunrise, Fla., — less than an hour's drive from downtown Miami — they become the first Canadian team since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993 to bring the cup back across the border.

And only one other team in NHL history has ever come back from three games down to win four in a row in a Stanley Cup final: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, for thousands upon thousands of fans in the Alberta capital who have occupied this spring flag-waving, body-tattooing, chalk-drawing, face-painting and car-decorating everything in the symmetrically gooey oil drop logo, the way forward is simple:

Channel your inner Toronto Maple Leaf and, on Monday, Stanley is yours.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

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