Just returned from the annual Edmonton Oilers Superskills competition held at Rexall Place. I’ve never been that consistent with attending season games, but I’ve been surprisingly regular with this particular event. I am amazed by the increase in attendance over the last three years. In 2003, the head count was probably under 4,000. Last year, the number pushed 8,000. This time, the crowd was easily near capacity. I find that for the price (an increase to $8 this year, but still affordable), it’s an even better opportunity than a hockey game to see the players up close and looser than at game time. And really, who doesn’t want to see Ryan Smyth’s signature mullet flow free, unencumbered by the confines of a helmet?
There was the usual pee-wee hockey team, partaking in the skills demonstrations right alongside the actual Oilers. There were six competitions in total: puck control relay, fastest skater, hardest shot, accuracy shooting, power play relay (3 on 1), and a new “king of the shootout.”
Jussi Markannen was notably missing from the lineup, so it was up to Brian Ross, the Oilers’ video coach to take his place. It would have been nice if one of the announcers could have volunteered the identity of this phantom “player.” Needless to say, Ross did his best, even pulling out a wicked glove save on one of the three-on-one power play rushes.
Marc-Andre Bergeron won two of the competitions – fastest skater and hardest shot, but I must say, Petr Sykora put on the best show. He won the accuracy shooting challenge, hitting all four targets, but he was the token joker all afternoon, purposely sliding into the goalie on his breakaway attempt. I had no idea Sykora had so much personality! They should mike him at an upcoming game!
The end result was White over Blue 17 to 7, due in large part to Dwayne Roloson’s excellent goaltending in the power play and shootout competitions. All in all, an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Here they come!
Wake up, Hemsky!
Matt Greene knows his shot wasn’t fast enough to beat Bergeron.
Taking it easy.
Jarret Stoll vs. Brian Ross(?!)
Ryan and Roli
Team photo (“Turn around!”)