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Oilers fever reaches Parliament Hill as MPs put aside team colours for NHL playoffs

OTTAWA — They're not all on the same political team, but members of Parliament have caught the same fever.

Support for the Edmonton Oilers as they seek a Stanley Cup victory has swept the country, and that includes Parliament Hill, where some MPs are set to gather in the Speaker's to watch the Edmonton Oilers try to even up the Stanley Cup Final. Dale Steil, of Edmonton, reacts before the Oilers take on the Florida Panthers during in game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, June 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA — They're not all on the same political team, but members of Parliament have caught the same fever.

Support for the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final has swept across the country, including on Parliament Hill, where MPs have put their political differences aside long enough to reminisce about the team's glory days — and pray for another win.

To accommodate MPs who are working late, House Speaker Greg Fergus agreed to open up his office for a playoff watch party, with popcorn and refreshments provided at puck drop.

"Speaker Fergus is cheering for the Oilers all the way," said his spokesman, Mathieu Gravel.

He's fulfilling a time-honoured tradition from Speakers who make sure "the game" is on for politicians who don't want to miss a playoff match — in whatever sport — but are stuck working late.

A few weeks ago, Fergus's office also hosted a hockey night for MPs to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Conservative MP Jeremy Patzer, who hails from Saskatchewan, said he's cheering for the Oilers to take it all the way.

But he's supposed to be sitting in the House of Commons on Monday evening — so rather than duck out to the Speaker's office, he said he'll be following game updates on his phone..

A few weeks ago, the NDP's Heather McPherson found herself at Toronto Pearson Airport watching the Oilers clinch their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as she waited to board her plane to Ottawa with Conservative MPs.

"It was kind of funny when we did win the game and gave the high-fives and hugs to members across the floor," said McPherson, whose family have been longtime season ticket holders for the Oilers.

She said she hoped her late-night parliamentary committee on Monday would wrap up early so she could watch Game 2 of the final playoff round.

McPherson has painted her nails orange and blue for the occasion — a colour combination rarely seen together in the House of Commons.

Hockey is an important sport in Canada, and it has the power to bring together even the most bitter of political enemies, McPherson said.

"I think it's an opportunity for us all to remember that we're all people doing a job, and working hard, and even if we're not on the same political team, we can be on the same sports team," McPherson said.

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault represents the riding at the heart of Oiler Nation: Edmonton Centre.

"Edmonton is a special place. It's even more special when the Edmonton Oilers are in a Stanley Cup final," said Boissonnault. Walking into the House on Monday, he donned an Oilers pin from the 1980s that belonged to his father.

He said his dad wore it when the team won five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990, thanks to stars including Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr.

"I was watching as a teenager during the '80s," said Boissonault, who recounted the city coming alive whenever the Oilers made it to the finals.

This year, the minister said he subscribed to Sportsnet to ensure he doesn't miss a minute of the game while he's in Ottawa.

And everywhere he goes, so does his custom Edmonton Oilers jersey.

"It'll be with me until the cup comes back to Canada," he said Monday, noting his Liberal caucus has rallied around Team Edmonton.

"Oilers in six," he said, before walking into the Commons for question period.

Seeing the Oilers in the finals also brought nostalgia to deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland. She said her aunt got the entire family Oilers jerseys.

While her riding is in Toronto, Freeland left no doubt as to what team she's rooting for.

"I'm definitely cheering for the Oilers. My whole family is cheering for the Oilers," she said Monday, leaving a press conference.

"As a proud daughter, not just of Alberta, but northern Alberta, (and) as a woman who grew up in the heyday of Wayne Gretzky's Oilers and cried when he left: Go Oilers! You are truly Canada's team." This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2024.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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