SUN Hockey Pool

Still dreaming about Stanley

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

There probably aren't a lot of cities where they hold a rally for a team that finished second. And there definitely aren't a lot of cities where they hold a rally for a second-place team that can't make it to the rally.

But this is Edmonton, one of the few places where a concept like that could actually work. And it worked rather nicely yesterday afternoon at Sir Winston Chruchill Square, where thousands of fans turned out to thank the Oilers for an unexpected playoff thrill ride.

That's how it started out, anyway. But by the time GM Kevin Lowe and the six players in attendance had their turns at the microphone, it was more about the Oilers thanking Edmonton.

"The reason why the whole team isn't here is because we really have mixed feelings about being here today," Lowe told the screaming crowd. "We're not an organization that celebrates failure. Even though the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals is good, in our minds it's failure.

"The only reason we're here is to show our appreciation and affection for the fans. If anything, a day like today reinstils the drive and the vigour in these guys to win the Stanley Cup, bring it to city hall and run around in that pool.

"We're not going to stop working until we can hoist the Stanley Cup in Edmonton again."

The players didn't show up to bask in the limelight, soak in the adulation or savour the second-place finish. They weren't up there chanting "Western Conference Champs!" or "We're No. 2." For them, there was nothing to celebrate after a Game 7 loss so painfully fresh.

"The thing that was hard about today was coming here without the big trophy," said Georges Laraque. "We wanted to win it for us and for them. These fans deserve the Cup, that's what we want to give them.

"We have the best fans in the world, the support they gave us this year is proof of that. It's just too bad we couldn't win the big trophy for them."

The last thing any player wants to do just days after a Game 7 loss is stand on stage before a sea of people and relive it. But the fans wanted one last get-together, and Laraque, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and local hero Fernando Pisani couldn't find it in their hearts to say no.

"The difficult thing is that this was my vision, this was the vision of every guy in our lockerroom," Staios said of the city hall rally. "But we're missing that one piece."

It wasn't difficult for the fans, who were happy for a chance to show their appreciation before putting hockey season behind them. No one was soaking up the scene more than Kevin Genest, the guy who had a massive Stanley Cup tattooed on his back (shoulder to shoulder and from his neck to his beltline), as part of a radio station contest.

"I'm not surprised to see all these people here at all," said Genest, 25. "The city just comes together for the Oilers in such a way that it just gels, there's nothing else like it. Going to some of the establishments in the city, or to Rexall Place, and seeing the support, it was phenomenal."

From both sides.

"We play in a lot of different buildings," Smith told the crowd. "And I'll tell you one thing from every player in our locker-room, there's no fans anywhere in pro sports as good as you ... and we WILL win the Stanley Cup."


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