Hall comes out swinging

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

Taylor Hall hadn't been in Edmonton an hour in his one-day trip to town prior to the draft when he had his first taste of what it was going to be like as the future face of the franchise.

He was taken directly from the airport to a restaurant for lunch. The chef came out and had him autograph his apron.

You never know. Something like that can be a set-up.

But you can't set up what Hall has experienced here this week.

"Everywhere I went it's kind of been like that," he said. "It's been like that at every restaurant. Once I was just walking past a store and somebody came out with a picture in his hand for me to sign. Where did he get the picture? That's what I want to know.

"People have recognized me everywhere I go. Everywhere I went was with Jordan Eberle and he was recognized as much as I was," said Hall of the two-time Team Canada World junior star.

"It was pretty eye-opening. And kind of fun.

"It was a lot different than Windsor," he said of his junior hockey home.

"The fans there were great. But this is Edmonton. This is the NHL. It's at a whole different level."

It can be a bit of a fish bowl but the big fish the Oilers landed with the No. 1 pick is hooked.

All week he's been celebrated as the only first overall selection in the draft in Edmonton Oilers history and the embodiment of hope for a return to the top end of the standings. And it's been an experience.

"I guess it's how you treat things and how you look at things. You can take it as pressure. Or you can take it and have fun with it. For me it's really, really been fun.

"I wouldn't trade my position with anybody else.

"I don't think the spotlight is going to be so bright here that I can't be me. I think it's going to be just right. I'm going to enjoy it. I'd like to think I've worked hard for it. And when I leave here and go home I'm going to work even harder and make sure I'm going to be focused on making the team when I return for training camp.

"I know that I now have to be careful where I go and what I do, especially as an 18-year-old.

"There's always going to be somebody watching. But that doesn't make me uncomfortable.

"I realize I can't do certain things. Hockey is my full-time job now. I've always wanted that."

Hall made the comments in a one-on-one sit down interview in the Home Plate Lounge as he waited for all the right-handed hitters to finish so he could take his swings from the other side of the plate as the Oilers prospects enjoyed batting practice with the Edmonton Capitals Thursday.

A few hours later he joined all the prospects in throwing out the ceremonial first pitches and being part of a big promotion at the game against Tijuana.

"It's really hit home I'm coming to a great city with great fans and a great group of young players.

"You can just tell there's a lot of excitement in the city for the young players coming into the team and the future we could have together here."

If Mayor Stephen Mandel hadn't been in China positioning Edmonton's bid to win the 2017 World's Fair at the time, he probably would have declared it Taylor Hall Week in Edmonton.

That's basically what it's been.

It all started when the son of a former Edmonton Eskimos draft choice flew in ahead of the other 27 players invited to the prospects camp to be introduced on the field at the Eskimos game, be interviewed on the scoreboard and subjected to his first of a steady stream of media scrums at half time.

The next morning, of course, he was press conferenced signing his new contract which, with bonus clauses, could make him more than $10 million before he turns 22.

Then it was a sardine situation every day as fans jammed the community rink in northeast Edmonton as no doubt it will be the case one last time when it all wraps up with a three-on-three tournament Friday morning.

It's like new head coach Tom Renney's message back on the first day of camp.

"These young guys are at the front end of a very special relationship with these fans, so drink it up," he said.

"Develop those bonds with these people. Be good to them, respect them, understand it's important to reach out and touch these people and give your best shot every single day as an athlete. It's an exciting time."

Taylor Hall is off to a great start with all of that.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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