Fans favour Oilers

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It's a cheer that would have been considered sacrilege in the days of the old barn on Maroons Road.

But those days are long gone and the majority of the 15,015 fans who showed up to watch the NHL pre-season game at the MTS Centre last night left little doubt as to who they were cheering for.

"Let's Go Oilers."

Let's go Oilers?

Back in Winnipeg's NHL days, the Edmonton Oilers were the Jets' most hated rivals -- mostly because the Oilers almost always won the battles, especially in the post-season.

Whether it was national pride stemming from the Oilers' recent Stanley Cup playoff run or the lingering mourning associated with losing the Jets to Phoenix, local fans were vocal and some sported Edmonton jerseys.

Although Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky, captain Shane Doan, and former Winnipeg Jets broadcaster Curt Keilback received a loud ovation, the crowd roared when Jarret Stoll's one-timer beat David LeNeveu during a two-man advantage to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.

Doan wasn't surprised to see the crowd rooting for what was supposed to be the visiting team.

"I grew up in Western Canada and we stick together. It's kind of an unwritten rule," Doan said after the Oilers had beaten his squad 5-0. "The Oilers had a pretty good run (last season) and pretty much all of Canada adopted them. It was the same with the Flames the (season) before. You understand that."

The atmosphere was something the players soaked up.

"It's an exhibition game and it did not feel like one," said Doan. "It felt like a regular-season game with the way the crowd was into it. You could see them cheering and holding up signs. This was a unique opportunity that I enjoyed a lot."

"It was great and in exhibition games, you don't get that a lot of the time," added Stoll. "I played with the Road Runners two years ago against the Moose and it was a different atmosphere in here tonight. You could feel it and it's good to see that. Winnipeg has always been known as a city that supports their sports."

Oilers goaltending prospect Devan Dubnyk was the star of the show, making 27 saves for the shutout.

"From the second we hit the ice, it was incredible," said Dubnyk, who lived in Winnipeg for about six months as a youngster. "I'm sure there were some people in the stands from back when I played hockey here and it's always fun to come back to a place you used to live."

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was curious to see how the fans would react.

"That was nice to see and nice to hear," said MacTavish. "We had a good run and the Canadian cities got behind us last year and I thought that was a big part of (the support)."

Two staples from the glory days of the Winnipeg Arena were dusted off in the third period -- The Wave and the Go Jets, Go chant.

"A couple of the young guys asked me what they were saying," said Doan. "I said 'come on, it's Go Jets, Go.' "


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