Tonight the Edmonton Oilers played their final game in the building they have called home since 1974. Though its future remains uncertain, Rexall Place has been an important part of Edmonton for more than 40 years.
The subject of its own, drawn out arena debate, Rexall Place was eventually built in the early 1970s. It opened on November 10, 1974 and the Oilers played their first game in the building that night. They won that game over the Cleveland Crusaders by a score of 4-1. For more on the history of Rexall Place, check out this great deep dive from David Staples.
In addition to tonight’s celebrations at the building itself, the Oilers and the City held a rally in Churchill Square today. All former Oilers were invited to attend, and more than 100 did. The event was hosted by City Manager Linda Cochrane and was a nice opportunity for fans to join with the Oilers to say thanks to Rexall Place.
Mayor Don Iveson, Jason Strudwick, Ryan Smyth, and Mark Messier all shared a few memories and tributes to Rexall Place.
I thought it was very fitting that the crowd did the wave today at the rally given that Rexall Place is the venue in which the wave was perfected.
The Oilers have been preparing for this all season long, of course. Here’s what they had to say about leaving the building earlier today:
“Hours before opening faceoff, media members and arena workers flooded the halls, snapping photos of the old barn. The current players laughed at the fond memories of their home building, while lamenting missed opportunities in recent seasons. The alumni shared stories with the media and with each other, some serious and others hilarious tellings of locker room happenings. The mood at Rexall Place’s final pre-game morning was more joyful and reminiscent than sad, but it is sure to be an emotional evening of goodbyes for all those with ties to a historic venue.”
Northlands itself also had some positive things to say about the building today:
“On behalf of our board, staff and volunteers we want to thank the Edmonton Oilers for an amazing partnership,” said Tim Reid, Northlands President and CEO.
They also pointed out that while the Oilers won’t be playing at Rexall Place anymore, there are still other events on the schedule including the 2017 Ford World Men’s Curling Championships next April which is the final qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But for pro hockey at least, tonight was the end.
For the current team, next season and the brand new Rogers Place can’t come soon enough. It hasn’t been a great season, but at least they ended on a high note tonight with a 6-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.