By TD Forss
Head Athletic Therapist, Edmonton Oilers
and Jeff Lang
Head Equipment Manager, Edmonton Oilers
As the 2017-18 regular season was winding down, we began to hear rumors of our team traveling to Europe for an exhibition and possibly a regular season game to start our 2018- 19 season. During the month of May 2018, the trip was confirmed. We would be playing one Global Series Challenge exhibition game against the Kolner Haie Sharks from the DEL in Cologne, Germany and one Global Series regular season NHL game against the New Jersey Devils in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Preparation for this trip began immediately. We contacted the Vancouver Canucks and LA Kings as the season before they had a similar trip to China. We discussed what their preparation was, what supplies and personnel they brought and reviewed any challenges they had. We also contacted the Koln Sharks and their staff to discuss what they would provide and what additional things we would require to maintain NHL standardization. For the regular season game in Gothenburg, Sweden, we were in close contact with the representatives from the NHL.
Day 1 was our arrival day and consisted of a team workout at the Koln Sharks practice rink followed by a team dinner. Day 2 was a mandatory off day and the team went on a tour of Cologne visiting the Cologne Cathedral, taking a boat tour on the Rhine River and finishing with a team meal at an authentic German restaurant eating schnitzel, sausage and pork knuckle. Day 3 was a practice day and the move into the main venue LanXess Arena that has a capacity of 18, 565 people. The final day in Cologne was game day. It was a German holiday so the game was played at 4 pm. The arena was sold out and behind each net it was standing room tickets. The fans here were very loud and coordinated their cheering. In fact, we found out that 2 hours before the game they practiced their cheers outside the arena. It was a close game but in the end we won 4-3 in overtime. Post game we flew into Gothenburg, Sweden.
Our 1sttwo days in Gothenburg were practice days. On the second day, both teams? practices were open to the public. The Gothenburg Arena held approximately 12,500 people and about 2,000 fans showed up to watch. Day 3 was game day and as we were the visiting team, the Devils pre-game skated before us. The game was a 7pm local time start (11 am EST). Both teams started out tentative, as it was each team?s first game. In the end, the Devils won 5-2. The next morning was day 4 and a travel day back to North America. In the off-season it was decided that we would fly back to the east coast and play 2 games, 1 against Boston and the other against the New York Rangers prior to returning to Edmonton.
Although this trip had quite a bit of preparation and a few of the nights were quite long it was great to visit these two cities, learn about their history and experience their culture. In Cologne, it was all about sausage and beer. The sausage came in many different flavours and sizes and the beer was served in 2 cl glasses (just a bit smaller than 1 cup). A specific brand of draft beer was associated with each restaurant and if you wanted a draft beer that was the brand, you were getting. In Gothenburg, it rained quite a lot but we were lucky that the arena and hotel were next to one another. We were either in the arena working, sleeping at the hotel or out for dinner. As this is a coastal city, there was a large influence of fish and seafood on most of the menus. We were quite impressed at the number of fans from both Edmonton and New Jersey that traveled to be apart of these games.
Overall, this trip went very smoothly as we did not have any major challenges. This in part was due to the preparation and execution of both teams medical and equipment staff?s as well as the efforts of Live Nation and the NHL and its employees.