Edmonton hockey fans applauded for their class, positivity after Oilers’ Stanley Cup loss

History has shown that sometimes losing a championship game in sports can see a team’s fanbase vent their frustration in destructive or antisocial ways.

But at the Ice District in downtown Edmonton, where tens of thousands of Oilers’ fans witnessed their team’s valiant efforts fall short of winning a Stanley Cup Monday night, peaceful — if sombre — scenes of fans consoling their fellow hockey die-hards played out and a sense of hope and positivity stayed in tact for many.

“As the true Oil fans who bleed blue and orange, we’re heartbroken,” said Gina Troman, a loyal fan of Edmonton’s NHL team who said she has been waiting for another chance at a championship ever since the Oilers lost in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. “We’re proud but we’re heartbroken.

“We fought so hard and we tried so hard, but we just didn’t have it tonight.”

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Click to play video: 'Stanley Cup dreams dashed for another year in Edmonton'

Stanley Cup dreams dashed for another year in Edmonton

The Oilers lost 2-1 to the Panthers in Game 7 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla.

The defeat capped off a roller-coaster 2023-24 season that nearly resulted in one of the most dramatic comebacks in professional sports history when the Oilers won three-straight games to stay alive in the championship series after losing the first three games and being written off by many as incapable of coming back.

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Tranquility prevailed as disappointed Oilers fans dispersed away from downtown Edmonton watch parties after Monday night’s loss. When asked about how Oilers fans were reacting, Troman acknowledged many were “crying while we’re finding a bar.”

“I’ve probably hugged more strangers than family members tonight than I have in the past year,” she said. “You rally around each other (and) you let the boys know that we are so proud.

“We were down 3-0, we were laughed at, and we came back and we had a chance.”

Scott Pattison, a spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service, said Tuesday that he believes “Edmonton fans represented their team and city with class throughout the playoffs.”

“(It was) a fairly uneventful evening from a policing perspective,” he said in an email when asked about the crowds that converged in downtown Edmonton for Game 7.

“Incident numbers were rather negligible for Game 7, which was consistent with fan behaviour throughout the Oilers’ 2024 playoff run.”

Click to play video: 'Loyal to the Oil to the end: deflated Edmonton fans show class in face of defeat'

Loyal to the Oil to the end: deflated Edmonton fans show class in face of defeat

Pattison noted that about 33,000 people had descended on Rogers Place, the Ice District Plaza (also know as the “Moss Pit”) and the Oilers’ neighbouring Fan Park for the game.

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There was a visible police presence downtown during the game. An increased number of officers were seen on bikes and in riot gear patrolling near the arena.

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Fans flocked downtown to watch the games either inside the hockey arena or on big screens outside the building. Lines formed in the morning and only grew throughout the day, with thousands of people showing up for the watch parties.

There was some initial chaos when some of the crowd tried to rush the gates to the fan park and Ice District Plaza when they opened Monday afternoon.

“It was crazy,” Police chief Dale McFee said. “We’re literally talking probably early on, 50,000 to 60,000 people, jamming the gates.”

Police had to force crowds back before entry to the two outdoor venues could resume.

With an hour to go before puck drop, police announced the plaza viewing areas were full and urged residents to stay away.

McFee said EPS, OEG and the city were all more prepared for the playoffs than in years past, and the force trains for and plans extensively on how to cover large events.

“Obviously we had to deploy a lot of resources last night to keep the community safe. For the most part, though, fans – as as they were for the whole playoffs – were very good and listened as a result, very, very minor, infractions,” McFee said.

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There were only six arrests, police said. Five were for public intoxication and one was for mischief. There were also three overdoses, although two of those people walked away and refused further treatment, EPS said.

McFee added when there are large events such as the playoffs, EPS and RCMP partner up.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the score we wanted but at the at the end of the day, we did manage to keep everybody safe.”

Click to play video: 'Meet Mama Stanley, the passionate Edmonton Oilers fan'

Meet Mama Stanley, the passionate Edmonton Oilers fan

Mary Loewen, better known as “Mama Stanley” by Oilers’ fans, had become a local celebrity at the downtown watch parties where she used makeup to make herself resemble a Stanley Cup.

On Monday night, she could be seen being asked for hugs by other fans as they struggled to come to terms with coming so close to a championship before losing.

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“Because they believed just like I believed,” Loewen said when asked why she thought she was being asked for so many hugs. “I do believe.

“It was an awesome ride.”

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi posted on social media that he believes “Edmonton has the best fans in the world.”

“I know this isn’t the result we were hoping for but this has been an incredible nine weeks,” he wrote in a post on X. “It has been a time where we came together, and celebrated as one.

“Whether you were cheering from home, the Moss Pitt, Rogers Place, a viewing party or at a local restaurant or bar, thank you for your energy and your enthusiasm.

“We have many things to be proud of in Edmonton, but the people is what makes this city so special.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, ahead of Game 7, Oilers forward Zach Hyman thanked his team’s supporters.

“We’re nowhere without the fans,” he said. “We have unbelievable, passionate fans.

“They were as loud as they could be with the belief. You flash back to even November when probably the rest of the league counted us out, we still had fans who came to games, supported us, really believed that we were a good team and could come out of it.”

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Sohi also thanked Oilers players on Tuesday for the playoff run they delivered this year.

“Your hard work and perseverance have got us through this incredible run, but more importantly, you brought us together,” he wrote. “For that we are so grateful.”

He added that he believes “it’s not over,” suggesting the team will play in another Stanley Cup Final next year.

“We played a great series and came back,” Loewen said. “It’s just heartbreaking that they just couldn’t …

“There’s always next year. But I am so proud of the boys — you guys did awesome and I love you.”

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Troman said she was sometimes made fun of for being an Oilers fan when the club went through its most difficult years and spoke about why her loyalty has not wavered.

“As heartbreaking as it is (to lose to the Panthers), we have to show up next year,” she said. “We have to show up loud, we have to show up proud and we have to get it done.

“Everybody thinks we have no chance? We show up and we have a chance.”

With players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the Oilers’ roster, Troman said it would be “crazy not to believe in the team.”

“We don’t have to trade people just because they made mistakes. We’re a real team who deserves this,” she said.

“I hope, unlike 2006, that we come back next year and we fight … through the whole season.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup loss: Looking back and wondering what is next?'

Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup loss: Looking back and wondering what is next?

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