Image from GoErie.com
Now that we are almost certain it will not be the Buffalo Sabres drafting Connor McDavid, it’s beginning to sink in that the current OHL playoffs will be Erie fans’ last look at the wonder kid before he most likely ships off across the continent to play for the Edmonton Oilers. Had Buffalo won first pick in the NHL, fans might have only had a short drive to see McDavid in NHL action.
Should the Otters not make it to the next round, the playoff series that began Thursday, April 23 could be the last chance for fans to catch McDavid and fellow NHL prospect/teammate, Dylan Strome, playing in person. That’s a big deal for a small city that suddenly had the national spotlight trained on it three years ago when Connor McDavid was drafted. That kind of exposure has been great for Erie, even if it wasn’t focused on the city itself.
Connor McDavid brought life to a team that hadn’t been a playoff contender in years and helped fill the stands with fans. He’s been called the “best prospect in 30 years” by the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, and analysts agree that the ‘next Sidney Crosby’ is currently playing at the Erie Insurance Arena. If you look at the stands, you can see jerseys from almost every current and past NHL team. Everyone wants to be at the arena to witness something special. Even though he missed time after injuring himself in a fight, McDavid still finished with 120 points in 47 games. Not too shabby.
As a result of all the winning these past few years, the energy at this years’ playoff games has been unreal. You wouldn’t think you were watching minor league hockey from witnessing the enthusiasm of the fans. Erie is a great city for sports. The fans needed someone like McDavid to make them believe in the team again.
The connection between the Otters and their fans is strong now and hopefully in the post-McDavid era that pride will remain along with the winning culture that has been instilled in these past few years. It has been amazing to witness such great individual and team play. Not everyone has the chance to see an NHL game, so being able to take watch an OHL team play at such a high level is a treat. That’s the beauty of local sports; small town fans can have a team to root for and feel connected to.
Should they keep their selection and pick McDavid, Edmonton is getting a game changer. They will be drafting a player that can turn the fortunes of a struggling franchise around and renew excitement in the fan base. The Oilers are about to see the effect a player like McDavid can have. When the next NHL season starts and McDavid takes the ice, Erie fans will be able to wear their #97 jerseys with pride and say, “I remember when…”