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Hockey is a game worth getting into

In the summer of 1989, I was 18 years old. I favored bright-colored shirts, cargo shorts and red high-top Converse sneakers, and sported the beginnings of an epic mullet hairstyle.

I spent just over two months as a Baptist Student Union summer missionary in a strange, foreign land: Canada. For the majority of my Vacation Bible School and Backyard Bible Club-filled days, I was in Edmonton, Alberta.

It was there that I embraced my previously-subdued love for hockey. Mississippi is not historically a place to grow up watching hockey. Maybe that’s why it was so interesting to me.

That plus the fights and fast action and missing teeth and unprounceable player names.

Edmonton is home to the Edmonton Oilers, founded in 1971. They joined the National Hockey League in 1979.

Since joining the NHL, the Oilers have won the Stanley Cup … Wait, wait.

Don’t know what the Stanley Cup is? It’s like the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the National Football League, awarded at the end of the Super Bowl. It’s the crystal football of NCAA college championships. It’s a … well, it’s a silver alloy monstrosity that stands three feet tall and weighs almost a pound per inch in height.

Got it? Good.

The Oilers have won the Stanley Cup five times, at the end of the 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990 seasons.

The Montreal Canadiens have won the cup 24 times. The Detroit Red Wings have won it 11 times, the most of any U.S.-based NHL team.

My second-favorite team, the Boston Bruins, has won it six times. Unfortunately, they’re already out of the running this time around.

I’m hoping my favorite team, the Oilers, bring it home this year for their sixth time. Twenty-seven years is long enough to wait for that accomplishment.

As I type this, game seven of the matchup between Edmonton and the Anaheim Ducks is just a few hours away. The series is tied at three games won by each team. 

By the time you read this, the seventh game will have been played. I’ll either be celebrating the win and looking forward to watching the Nashville Predators fall in the next series against the Orange Crush (Edmonton), or I’ll be lamenting the end of an otherwise superbly-played season. And I’ll go back to saying, “Maybe next year.”

Either way, it’s been exciting to watch.

No matter the outcome of game seven, I’ll be keeping up with the progress of other teams — down to four at this point — as they skate, slice, ice and slam each other into the glass until the bitter end.

Because I’m not just a fan of a couple of teams, I’m a fan of the game itself.

The Mississippi River Kings, based at the Landers Center in Southaven (think south Memphis), are a great team to watch, as well. Though not an NHL team, they’re nothing to sneeze at.

My son and I had a great time at one of their games earlier this season, when they played against Pensacola. A mix of great skating, impressive scoring, and the face of a Pensacola Ice Flyer pressed into the glass in front of our seats made for an exciting game.

Add to this the best part of any sporting event — a fanatically loyal fan base — and you have the makings of great entertainment.

So, if the Oilers are still in this thing, go Edmonton! And if they’re not … go hockey!

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at 601-265-5307 or brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.