SUN Hockey Pool

Starting over

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

A few things were different.

Half the seats were empty when the Edmonton Oilers skated from under the derrick 93 days after they left Rexall Place with a win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.

The decibel level had dropped from about 117 to maybe 17.

Oh, the pre-game video on the scoreboard had plenty of hype.

"It Captured A Room."

Shots of the Oilers' dressing room scenes in the playoffs were shown.

"It Captured A Building."

Scenes from Rexall Place were shown.

"It Captured A Nation."

The highlights of the greatest moments of the playoff run were rolled. Chris Pronger was nowhere to be found in any of them.

On the ice, No. 44 was being worn by Robbie Schremp.

Next to nobody sang the national anthem.

Paul Lorieau didn't hold his microphone up to them to take it home, mostly because Lorieau stayed home.

Somebody by the name of Joannie Janzen sang O Canada.

There were only six Oilers on the ice who were there when Edmonton took the Stanley Cup final to seven games.

Nobody had a beard.

The boards were new.

The glass was new.

As the Oilers and Florida Panthers settled in to take the opening faceoff the scoreboard flashed "NOISE!"

There was none.

Maybe when the season opens here and they raise the Western Conference Championship banner against the Calgary Flames Nov. 5, the crowd will do the deja vu thing, the decibels will hit triple figures, the fans will sing the national anthem and Lorieau will hold up the microphone.

93 DAYS LATER

But 93 days after they left the place, it was a reminder that as much as they might want to pick up where they left off, they have to start all over again.

Behind the Oilers' bench stood Billy Moores and Craig Simpson. Charlie Huddy and Craig MacTavish were up in the press box.

"It seemed like we just played here a few days ago. Being in this building tonight really underlines how quickly we're back into it," said MacTavish.

The head coach, who took a pre-season press box perch for the first time in his career, said that did hit home.

"Last season we played 114 games to get to the one game we wanted to," said the coach with the new four-year contract, who will go down to the bench with Huddy while Moores and Simpson get the bird's-eye view against Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes tonight.

GAME 6S 'UNBELIEVABLE'

But as much as the scene emphasized that they have to start all over, MacTavish sat up there feeling that there was an element of picking up where they left off as well, the feeling that they want to replicate what they created last season.

"For us the feeling of being on top was special. It had been a long time around here. The respect from our peers and hockey people are something we want to continue. And, once the season starts, growing that environment again in this building is something we want to inspire again. Those Game 6s in here were unbelievable."

A lot of teams that go the distance, especially ones that pour every ounce into it, struggle the next season even if they don't lose Chris Pronger and others.

But MacTavish says he's already been convinced this isn't going to be a team that is going to be dragging their butts around the league this year.

"The players may disagree but I don't think so. They were pretty fresh all the way through the playoffs. We're a young team and we're enthusiastic."

As he sat up there between periods last night, MacTavish said there is a very real feel from this group that they want to prove right from the start of their season that they were for real and will be back as a reach for the top team again this season.

"There's a lot to prove. There are a lot of questions. There is a lack of respect. There is a lot of motivation and inspiration."

But all that is for when the season starts. That wasn't last night.


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