Oilers fans keep tradition of watching playoffs in backyard alive

For a city that can sometimes feel like it’s under attack from winter for most of the year, an extended Edmonton Oilers playoff run can pose a cruel dilemma for hockey fans.

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After all, for many, cheering on their team is a way to get through the winter. But sitting inside to watch a hockey game when it’s sunny and over 15 C outside – as it was Wednesday when the puck dropped for Game 7 between the Oilers and Ducks – makes some wish you could do both. And so they do.

“We’re having a backyard party,” Terry Greanya said from his backyard Oilers party in the north Edmonton neighbourhood of Killarney Wednesday night. “(It’s) just like we had when we were kids – what my parents threw during the playoffs.

“It’s just friends, family, neighbours, whoever wants to join is more than welcome.”

It’s a fan tradition that’s been carried on by many in Alberta’s capital throughout the Oilers 2017 playoff run.

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And the enthusiasm for such get-togethers could be higher this year than in past as for more than a decade, Oilers fans haven’t been forced to consider how to cheer on their team amid balmy temperatures – the Oilers haven’t played in the NHL’s post-season since their Cinderella-like run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006.

Greanya said adding an outdoor fire to the mix makes it that much better.

“I just thought of that one night. ‘Why don’t we have a fire and a hockey game? We can’t have a fire in the house so let’s just take the TV outside.’”

“Let’s go Oilers,” a friend cheered while Greanya spoke.

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Greanya remembers watching the Oilers during their glory days in the 1980s, winning Stanley Cups with the like of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and others. Now that the Oilers are once again in the playoffs, he and his brothers are hoping to recreate the special backyard party atmosphere for their children.

“It’s a great feeling – you get to show them what we remember as kids from the Oilers dynasty,” he said. “Just to show all the tradition the excitement, the ups and downs.

“It’s what hockey is about,” he added, as children and parents sat by the fire watching the game and others hit a soccer ball around the yard with hockey sticks.

-with files from Sarah Kraus