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  • Caylie Gnyra

Oilers Alumni Celebrate Vermilion Fan Base

The Oilers group and Hunter at the Jr. B Tigers game against the Vegreville Rangersl.

On Wednesday, November 1, the Edmonton Oilers recognized Vermilion as the Celebrating Oil Country community of the year. This initiative began as a way to celebrate the spirit of community and give back to the fan base that supports the Oilers. Whitecourt was the first community to be recognized, making Vermilion the second community ever to receive this honour.

The day was packed with events, beginning with an opening ceremony at the Old School Cheesery. There, Oilers alumni Kevin Lowe and Ladislav Šmíd presented Vermilion mayor Greg Throndson with his own Oilers jersey, alongside a second Oilers jersey presented to the Town of Vermilion with VERMILION emblazoned across the back. Lowe and Šmíd were accompanied by play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels (“The voice of the Oilers”), Oilers mascot Hunter the Lynx, the Orange and Blue Crew, and representatives from OEG Sports & Oilers Entertainment (OEGSE). “The Oilers are only as strong as our support across Oil Country,” said OEGSE Chief Revenue Officer Stew MacDonald, highlighting the economic, emotional, psychological, and physical ties between Edmonton and smaller communities in the northern Alberta region.

Following the opening ceremony, delegates toured local businesses and organizations in smaller groups, seeing and sampling the best of what Vermilion has to offer and celebrating the support offered by the community. Economic Development for the Town of Vermilion hosted a networking luncheon for local business owners at The Red Brick, offering options of turkey or tomato soup and Italian or grilled cheese sandwiches—a perfectly comforting pairing for the thick snowflakes falling softly outside. “This is one of the coolest things that has ever happened here,” beamed The Red Brick owner Emily Ford.

Throughout the early afternoon, the delegation visited local schools, speaking on the importance of being open to guidance on the path to making dreams come true. “Follow your dreams because your dreams can take you anywhere, and enjoy what you’re doing and do it to the best of your ability—but in the meantime, listen to your teachers and parents,” encouraged Lowe.

Lowe quizzed the students at each of the schools on facts about the Oilers’ mascot Hunter the Lynx. He shared that Northern Alberta has the largest lynx population in the world, and that Hunter gets his name from “Wild” Bill Hunter, one of the Oilers’ founders. The number Hunter wears, #72, represents the year the Oilers first entered the World Hockey Association in 1972. At each school, Hunter drummed up a loud cheer, punctuated for each audience with an impressive handspring and making memories for a lifetime for the students.

Hunter and the crew then headed to Lakeland College for a quick street hockey showdown in front of Alumni Hall against the Rustlers’ mascot Rowdy, with each mascot accompanied by five of the college’s women’s hockey players.

Following the friendly college game, the delegation headed to the stadium for the Vermilion Minor Hockey free skate to interact with, inspire, and encourage young local hockey players.

The group then made its way over to Boston Pizza for a live Oilers Now! live broadcast with Bob Stauffer and a special reception for season seat holders.

To finish off the day, Lowe and Šmíd signed autographs at the stadium just prior to leading the ceremonial puck drop in the Junior B Tigers’ game against the Vegreville Rangers.

Acknowledging his own small-town rootes, Lowe explained that Celebrating Oil Country is “about showing people that we’re part of the same ecosystem.” Even from 200 kms away, the support that Vermilion and other small towns show for the Edmonton-based team is both recognized and appreciated.

“Vermilion as a whole wins today,” emphasized Mayor Throndson in his morning address. “It’s a day we will never forget, not only for myself but for the community.”


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