Edmonton Oilers fans hopeful ahead of decisive Stanley Cup final game against Florida Panthers

In 2017, an Archbishop Jordan High School student in Sherwood Park, Alta., just east of Edmonton, placed a seemingly bold prediction in the school yearbook.

Kade Gartner’s quote reads, “NHL 2024 Stanley Cup champions: Edmonton Oilers. You heard it here first.”

It was calculated, said Gartner, now 24 years old. He recognized the Oilers were becoming competitive, and predicted phenom Connor McDavid’s maturation and how the team would build around him.

“I was just waiting for this year to come by,” he said.

On Sunday, Gartner and his father boarded a red-eye flight to South Florida to potentially witness the prediction come true Monday evening at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

An Oilers win would complete the ultimate comeback. The Florida Panthers pounced early, winning the final’s first three games, but the Oilers stormed back, stringing several strong performances together to knot the best-of-seven series 3-3.

Either way, the Game 7 victor will make history.

The Panthers, appearing in the final for the third time, are hunting for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup — and redemption after finishing as the NHL runners-up last year.

Matthew Tkachuk, one of Florida’s alternate captains, described the series Sunday as “very even” thus far.

“Most teams, when you lose three in a playoff series, you don’t have a chance at another game. Somehow, both of us have an opportunity, still,” Tkachuk said.

“This is probably the biggest game in the NHL in however many years, so our fans will be jacked up for it and we can’t wait.”

Florida Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk, one of Florida’s alternate captains, described the series Sunday as “very even” thus far. (Julien Fournier/CBC)

The Oilers, meanwhile, are trying to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to fall behind 3-0 in the final and lift the Cup. The 1945 Detroit Red Wings also forced a Game 7 after losing the first three games, but were unable to complete the comeback.

Edmonton could win its first Cup since 1990 and become the first Canadian NHL team to hoist the trophy since 1993.

On Sunday, Oilers alternate captain Leon Draisaitl acknowledged the team is aware of the historical context surrounding the recent win streak — but the job isn’t finished.

“We have to focus on winning one hockey game on the road and play our best,” Draisaitl said. “Everything else — all the stories — will take care of itself after.”

A white man with a thick brown beard, wearing a navy-blue cap and white t-shirt, is sitting at a table in front of a microphone.
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl says the team is focused on winning the game ahead of them, regardless of its significance. (Julien Fournier/CBC)

Players on both teams spoke to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final being something hockey players dream of growing up, playing in the street.

“Now it’s reality,” said the Oilers’ Corey Perry, who has played multiple finals and lifted the Cup in 2007.

“I don’t think our mindset changes. It can’t, because we’ve done some good things — but we haven’t done anything great yet.”

Various Oilers players have stepped up hugely in the past several games, including hometown goaltender Stuart Skinner. In Edmonton, his family has gleefully watched the youngest of nine make it to the pinnacle of hockey competition.

WATCH | Growing up in net: A family look at Stuart Skinner’s playoff run:

Growing up in net: A family look at Stuart Skinner’s playoff run

Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner is big name in hockey now, but for Scott Skinner, he’s a brother. Scott shares what Stuart was like as a child, and about his journey towards the Stanley Cup.

“It was always a family dream for anyone to go touch the Stanley Cup and hoist it,” said Scott Skinner, an older brother. 

“The excitement in this house — and the cheering and the support — has just been tremendous.”

Enthusiasm within Oilers Nation has also reached a fever pitch. Fans celebrated for hours after Edmonton’s 5-1 win in Game 6 on Friday, eager for a potential title.

On Sunday, while sitting at a restaurant patio on Whyte Avenue, Ethan Jansen recalled listening to the 2006 Oilers run on the radio. That Edmonton team — the last to make it to the final — pushed the Carolina Hurricanes to Game 7, but lost 3-1.

“I can’t believe it has been 18 years, so it’s super exciting,” Jansen said.

“The mood last week was tougher, we were battling back. But now, the mood couldn’t be higher.”

  • What would a Stanley Cup win for the Oilers mean to you? Tell us about it in an email to ask@cbc.ca.

Puck-drop for Game 7 is set for 6 p.m. MT Monday. CBC will be broadcasting the game. CBC Edmonton will also be hosting a live pre-game show on YouTube and post-game on TikTok.  

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