Oilers music man takes final bow

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

It was a night for the fans to say goodbye to Paul Lorieau and to say so long to yet another sorry season.

And the old anthem singer, after he held the mic to the fans for them to sing him home in his final game in a 30-year run, hopes all those kids in the Oilers lineup got just a little taste if what it gets like when Edmonton is in the playoffs.

It wasn’t a re-creation of the Stanley Cup playoffs of 2006, exactly. But it was a reasonable facsimile.

“They did well,” said Lorieau. “It wasn’t quite as loud as 2006. But there was a lot of emotion with the Stanley Cup run. I thought they did really well.”

It was Game 81 of the fifth consecutive season out of the playoffs and the second straight season of finishing 30th in a 30-team league.

In a twisted sort of way it was sort of a celebration of that, as Lorieau’s anthem-singing career came to a conclusion, with 22 members of his extended family wearing Oilers’ sweaters with LORIEAU 30 on their backs giving him plenty of support on the ice for the occasion.

Absent

Missing, however was his wife, Nancy.

She just had foot surgery.

It’s been that kind of a season here.

Not only did the crowd do well, so did Lorieau. And he was worried.

“I’m surprised at myself,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to come through the emotion.”

He did admit that there was a moment there during the Star Spangled Banner.

“I had to collect myself a little bit.”

But with his name on the LED ring around the arena and Styrofoam letters on the press box which spelled out ‘Thanks Paul’ with a musical note and a maple leaf, Lorieau nailed O Canada, or at least the brief part of it he actually sang.

As he promised he would in Friday’s Sun, Lorieau sang only the first few bars of the national anthem, as he did that night in the playoffs in ‘06, before he gave it to the crowd.

He allowed himself to finish it up with one final “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”

Taylor Hall, the first ever No. 1 pick in Oilers history as a result of last year’s 30th-place finish, took it all in.

“I was watching that game on TV that night,” said the 20-year-old of the game in 2006, when Lorieau took the mic and raised it to the fans and allowed them to sing the anthem.

“It was a memorable moment, a fun moment, a cool moment. It showed me how fans are in Edmonton.”

He said it was good for the young members of the team to get a taste of it this night, if only for a couple of minutes.

Hall, who watched his roommate Jordan Eberle take over the team scoring lead with an assist for his 43rd point of the season — breaking the 42-point jinx that had Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky all ending their seasons with injuries — said the fans have been great this season, considering where the team sits in the standings.

“We sold out every game and the fans were great. But it can’t be like this year again next year,” Hall said of the fans essentially giving them a bye year to take their baby steps without hearing the boos.

Salute

The most remarkable thing about the night, and the season, is that when it was over and the Oilers lifted their sticks to the fans in a final salute, a team that finished 30th for the second straight season was given a standing ovation.

Remarkably, considering the fact they finished last two years in a row, a significant percentage of fans left Rexall Place Friday night looking forward to next season with another top pick (the draft lottery is Tuesday) and a hungry young hockey team.

“But next year, if we don’t start winning, we can’t expect it to continue. They’re not going to keep going to the games and being like this for a last place team again,” said Hall.

Someday soon you have to figure these kids are going to get Edmonton back in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And when they do, look for the Oilers to dust off Paul Lorieau and bring him back to do what he did last night — hold the microphone up to the fans to re-create the moment again.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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