SUN Hockey Pool

How will the fans react?

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

EDMONTON - Will Edmonton fans chant “Hall! Hall! Hall!” like they chanted “Doan! Doan! Doan!” in the same building 15 years earlier?

This time the NHL Draft will be on the scoreboard video screen from Los Angeles not on the floor below them in Rexall Place.

But they’ll be there.

And clearly the majority of fans (a QMI Agency poll was running 74% Taylor Hall, 16% Tyler Seguin, 8% trade the pick and 2% pick somebody else) are expecting and/or hoping for Hall.

In 1995, Oiler fans wanted Halkirk, Alta., product Shane Doan, the Kamloops Blazer who Wednesday night won the King Clancy Award and goes into this season with 1,047 NHL games played.

Instead the Oilers proudly selected from the Prince Albert Raiders, Steve Kelly, who ended up playing 149 NHL games and last year performed for Ljubljana Olimpija HK.

There will be several trips back to Rexall Place in the coming seasons to find out how the first ever first overall pick in Oilers history plays out. But the Oilers draft party in the building, not the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, will be the place to find out how the selection sits with Oilers fans.

It will be temperature taking central.

And it might be fun.

The Oilers have been working hard to make their one and only time in history picking first not just an occasion but a celebration.

Indeed the idea is for the entire day in Edmonton to be a festival of sorts.

Look at it this way. For the last half of the season Oilers fans cheered for defeat to get to this day (they didn’t have to cheer that hard to help it happen, mind you).

There won’t be an actual parade, but ...

Mayor Stephen Mandel released a proclamation stating that Friday, June 25, 2010 is “Edmonton Oilers Draft Day In Alberta’s Capital City” with fans encouraged to wear Oilers sweaters and other apparel to work and around town during the day with a street team going around town handing out prizes.

At 3:30 p.m. there will be a free BBQ at Rexall and Don Metz’s TSN documentary Oil Change will be shown on the video board at 4 p.m. with TSN’s draft coverage beginning at 4:50 p.m.

In addition to the TSN coverage, a live interview via satellite link with the Oilers’ No. 1 pick will be a special bonus for fans in attendance.

New head coach Tom Renney and players Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk and rookie Jordan Eberle will be there. And the idea is for fans forking over the $5 for charity to have a lasting memory of the moment.

Stuff like this doesn’t happen in other cities. How many times have you seen a GM stepping up to the microphone and saying “we’d like to say hi to our fans at our draft party at Joe’s Bar & Grill,” before making the first pick?

Admittedly there’s a percentage of the population who just want to have it all over and done with so that the names Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin are no longer in the same sentence.

But it says here that there’s also a significant percentage of fans who want to hear more than “Taylor Hall” or “Tyler Seguin” from this draft.

As they walk around town today wearing their Oilers outfits, they want to hear that the Oilers have moved some players out and replaced them with draft choices. And when the draft begins, the serious hockey fan, is going to want to see what happens after the Oilers pick Seguin or Hall.

Indeed, if you were watching TSN last night or will be sitting in Rexall for the 4 p.m. Oil Change documentary there’s the statement by president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe to the scouts at the Predator Ridge draft meetings that said it:

“We’ve gathered some top six forwards. Now we’ve got to find some bottom six forwards. Guys with some might, character and leadership. Go through the end boards type of guys.”

Guys like Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion Colin Fraser, 25, a six-foot-one fourth-line energy guy with guts and grit who plays centre, kills penalties and wins face-offs.

That kind of guy.

The Oilers acquired Fraser for a sixth round pick Thursday.

And it wouldn’t hurt to see them draft a goalie, either.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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