Before the puck dropped to officially open the 2016/17 Alberta Junior Hockey League season, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons had two things that were top of mind. First, to honour the first responders who battled May’s wildfires and assisted with the re-entry of our community. Second, to win last night’s game in honour of those brave men and women.
In a game that featured everything from tearful opening ceremonies, to hard hits and highlight-reel goals – it’s safe to say the MOB accomplished what they had set out to do by pulling away with a 4-0 win over the Grande Prairie Storm in front of a sold out crowd Friday night at the Casman Centre.
“The atmosphere in the Casman Centre was electric,” said Oil Barons and Northern Athletic Association (NAAA) President David Fitzgerald. “The boys really wanted to go out and win the game to welcome home our community and thank our first responders for saving our community this spring.”
“This was our way of welcoming everyone home and saying thank you to everyone involved in the wildfire response,” added Fitzgerald.
In a way, a 4-0 win over the Storm might just have been what this community and region needed after a whirlwind summer. From the blazing wildfires and mandatory evacuation in May, to the phased re-entry in June, to the ongoing rebuild – Fort McMurray has been through a lot.
On a night that welcomed first responders and emergency response vehicles on to the ice and featured lights, introductions, and videos re-capturing memories of the wildfires, it was a celebration that everyone in the Casman Centre could relate to.
“We’ve been through a lot as a community and it’s something that we’ll continue to work through as we re-build,” said Fitzgerald. “As devastating as the wildfires were, it’s heart warming to see how fellow Albertans and Canadians came together to support us in a time of need.”
Over the past few months, a number of current and former Oil Barons have made their own contributions to the community they call home or have called home. From Ben Sharf’s creation of an online auction to help our community, to the efforts of fire fighters and former Oil Barons Mike Marianchuk and Kevin Lacroix, to current assistant coach Mike Brodeur and his efforts to outfit local minor hockey goalies with new equipment – contributions have been far and wide.
“It’s very touching to see the contributions of so many Oil Barons,” said Fitzgerald. “A number of our current players billeted their billet families during the evacuation, which is a cool story in itself. We’re a family and families stick together in tough times.”
“On behalf of the entire organization, I’d like to thank all of our players, staff and alumni that have spent their own time to make a difference for our community,” added Fitzgerald.
In case you missed last night’s festivities, photos and videos are now available on our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts! Be sure to check them out!
Both teams will face off again at the Casman Centre tonight at 8 p.m. A number of festivities are planned, including:
- a second tribute and ceremonial puck drop to honour first responders at 8 p.m.
- a pre-game tail gate party including a BBQ, face painting, bouncy castles and live entertainment in the Casman Centre’s parking lot at 6 p.m. (supplied by Sobeys Fort McMurray),
- a commemorative ‘Fort Mac Strong’ gift for the first 500 fans to arrive at the Casman Centre for each game (sponsored by Summit GM Fort McMurray),
- a t-shirt giveaway,
- a reserved section in the Casman Centre for all first responders and their families to enjoy the game together, and
- free admission for everyone to the game.
Written by: Jordan Fitzgerald, Fort McMurray Oil Barons