Plans across the city are falling into place for something we haven’t seen since the Edmonton Oilers 2006 playoff run.
It’s not quite like former chief Mike Boyd left the file in a case with instructions to current chief Rod Knecht “in case of playoffs – break glass,” however spokesman Scott Pattison confirms work began when it became clear playoff hockey would become real.
“We are excited, like many Edmontonians, for the return of our beloved hockey team to the post-season,” Pattison said in an email. “We trust hockey fans will embrace this experience in a respectful way, and show the rest of the world what a great city we have.”
What isn’t as clear is if we’ll see a repeat of Whyte Avenue where, by the end, police, peace officers and outside help from other agencies had to line the sidewalks to keep things from getting out of hand, after earlier shenanigans.
“For the most part, the bars and nightclubs have changed focus,” said Murray Davison of the Old Strathcona Business Association. “We’ve seen a change. There’s still a lot of people on the avenue but I think we’ve all matured.”
The north side of the river will be ready, said Ian O’Donnell with the Downtown Business Association.
“I think there’s a good understanding that unlike ten years ago there’s a variety of places around the city that we can celebrate in now. Having Rogers Place downtown and certainly more options in the downtown and around central Edmonton hopefully will make it a much more enjoyable place to enjoy the playoffs across the city.”
As we get closer to the post season, the planning process is expected to intensify.
“It’s early days, we certainly have a great relationship with EPS and other agencies,” O’Donnell said. I think every one is aware the playoffs are coming and we’re hoping it’s going to be quite lively and we are hoping people are going to be responsible and enjoy themselves and celebrate and really be proud to be Edmontonians and proud to celebrate a new downtown rink and a great new team.”
At the time in 2006, Chief Boyd came to city council late in the playoff run to inform them that the cost of policing Whyte avenue had surpassed $1 million.
Bonfires were lit earlier in the playoff run, so preventative measures like removing newspaper boxes from the avenue were used.
“With us and what’s happening downtown, there’s a lot more opportunity for places to go when you come out of the arena or if you’re going to stay and watch it when they’re on the road,” Davison said. “I think we’ll be spread out throughout the community and the city so we’re not anticipating too many issues.”
The last time city officials came together for some hockey talk was the 2013 season when at the trade deadline the Oilers were in a playoff position, before the floor collapsed.
“A couple of years ago we had that scare when it looked like they were going to get into the playoffs, and it didn’t happen and we brought everybody together,” Davison remembered. “But I think things have changed so much over the last three years even that we just look at things differently.”
The playoffs begin April 12, however it won’t be clear what the Oilers’ schedule will be until closer to puck drop.