Tyson Jost was temped to hold up a cardboard sign in the window of the thoroughly disinfected bus on which he and his Colorado Avalanche teammates travelled from their chartered aircraft to the Edmonton’s Hub City bubble Sunday:
‘Honk for the Avalanche!’
“I remember 2006 when the Oilers went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final like it was yesterday. I was one of those kids who would run home from school and grab my cardboard sign. I’d then run out to one of the main streets to get people to ‘Honk for the Oilers’,” said the St. Albert product.
For Jost and a host of other Edmonton-area players arriving back home to play in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, it was one of the strangest homecomings you could comprehend.
“It definitely has to be weird for all of us to be coming home to play here with no fans in the stands and not to be able to see family and friends,” he said. “But to me, we are part of history. It’s going to be something to tell your kids and grandkids about. ‘I was part of that COVID Stanley Cup playoffs in 2020.’ It’s an easy sacrifice to make. I’m here to win the Stanley Cup.”
Jost, 22, single and unattached, looks around the dressing room and knows that’s easy for him to say.
“We have three newborn babies on our team. I can only imagine how tough it is for those guys to bring a beautiful baby girl or boy into the world and then to have to go away for more than two months. But you can see they’re also excited.”
Colorado teammate Kevin Connauton is one of them.
“My wife and I just welcomed our first child to the world three weeks ago,” said Connauton. “So I have a newborn daughter at home that I won’t be able to see for quite some time. It’s going to be hard to be away and not be able to see them. My wife is having to deal with it all on her own.”
Connauton said you have to embrace this, even if that’s easier said than done leaving your first-born at home.
“It’s new for everyone. No one has done this before. No one has done a hub city or played under these conditions. I guess you have to look at it that it’s kind of cool to be part of that.”
Taylor Fedun of the Dallas Stars left a three-month old son at home with his wife.
“That’s one of the tough things about this. To not be able to bring your family is certainly a sacrifice.”
Oilers’ homegrown defenceman Matt Benning didn’t leave his wife and newborn behind in another city in another country. But knowing they’re only a few blocks away almost makes it worse, in a way.
“My son just turned a month old,” said Benning. “I’m definitely sad leaving him and my wife.”
Benning is from a hockey family and as much as it won’t be easy, he knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime event he’d never forgive himself for missing.
“It’s a special time. It’s a unique time to play hockey. It’s an exciting time to play hockey. There’s a ton of unknowns. And I think most of us are excited for this opportunity.”
Also from the area checking into Hub City on Sunday were Stanley Cup champions Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues, Deryk Engelland and Nick Holden of the Vegas Golden Knights, Jared Spurgeon and Carson Soucy of the Minnesota Wild, Kirby Dach of the Chicago Blackhawks and Tyler Ennis of the Oilers.
“We’re in Edmonton but it’s not going to feel like we’re in Edmonton. You wont be able to see family or see friends or anybody,” said Spurgeon, a native of Irma, about a 90 minute drive east of Edmonton.
Blues coach Craig Berube is from the neighborhood.
“I’m from Calahoo, about 40 minutes from Edmonton, so to me it’s still pretty neat to be playing the playoffs here. It’s going to be different with no fans and you can’t see family and friends but we all know they’ll be out there watching and cheering.
“I actually went to playoff games in the ’80s and got to see the Oilers win the Stanley Cup. It was a great experience and it was great to see the town so excited.”
Fedun dreamed of playing in a series here like the ones he watched on TV annually against Dallas as a kid and the one he experienced in Rexall Place live and in person.
“I didn’t go to my first playoff until I was in high school. I went to one of the games in the first-round series against Detroit,” he said of 2006, the year the Oilers made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. “That was such an incredible experience. The atmosphere of a playoff game in Edmonton, just thinking about it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”
Now that he’s here, Fedun said he’ll be looking for a loophole in Hub City protocol.
“I don’t know what the rules are going to be like but I hope my mom can drop off a home cooked meal for me. That might make it feel more like I’m back home.”
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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