SUN Hockey Pool

Thanks for the memories

FRANK LANDRY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Thousands of boisterous hockey fans, many wearing Oilers jerseys and waving flags, thanked the home team for a stunning season at a lunch-hour rally yesterday outside city hall.

Standing under a massive Oilers flag hung outside the building, Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said more players would have shown up for the event but saw nothing to celebrate in losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

He said there were a lot of mixed feelings about attending what organizers eventually promoted as a fan appreciation event.

TO SHOW APPRECIATION FOR THE FANS

"The only reason we're here is to show our affection and appreciation for the fans, because we're not an organization that celebrates failure," he said.

"Even though the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals was good, in our minds it's a failure."

Lowe said the enthusiasm of the fans yesterday reinstilled the "drive and vigour" in the team to bring the Cup home next year.

Six players were at the event, including captain Jason Smith, Ryan Smyth, Ethan Moreau, Georges Laraque, Steve Staios and Fernando Pisani.

"It's been unbelievable," said Edmonton native Pisani, referring to a season that saw the eighth-place Oilers duke it out for the Stanley Cup in the final.

Smith said Edmonton fans are second to none.

"There are no fans, anywhere in pro sports, that are as good as you," he told the crowd, which cheered wildly.

Fans of all ages packed the courtyard outside city hall for the lunchtime event. A couple hundred of them waded into the pool outside the building, in part to cool off on a sweltering afternoon but also to get a better look at their hockey idols on stage.

Some hoisted placards that read: "You're still the best in the West" and "Thank you Oilers, we're proud of you."

Edmonton mom Lisa Bak, 42, pulled her son Nicholas, 11, out of class to attend the event. He was there with his friend Adam Walch-Fuhrer, 12.

"It's the end of the year and they're the only two kids in their class who got the day off," said Bak.

Paul West, 38, sporting an Oilers cap and carrying a car flag, also brought his kids, six-year-old Kerie and Carl, 7.

"We came down to support the Oilers," he said. "They did such a great job.

'CAME SO CLOSE'

"They worked so hard and came so close to winning the Stanley Cup," said Carl West.

Gary Millen, wearing an Oilers T-shirt, said it was "an awesome playoff series.

"I just wanted to be here to say thanks to the team and the Oilers organization," said the 51-year-old, who works security at Northlands.

But any Oilers celebration is a good celebration, he said.

The Edmonton Sun has captured some of the playoff magic in a 64-page glossy magazine celebrating the run to the Stanley Cup final.

The souvenir magazine -- Oil Country -- will be available starting tonight at Edmonton and area 7-Eleven stores, Mac's stores, United Cycle and Esso service stations.


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