June 22nd, 2024

Hockey fans in Newmarket watching Cup final at ‘Connor McDavid Square’

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on June 10, 2024.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) skates with the puck as Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) defends during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

NEWMARKET, Ont. – For one night at least, Mirella Alves wore an Oilers jersey over her blue Toronto Maple Leafs hoodie.

It was the least she could do to support Connor McDavid, the pride of her longtime hometown.

Alves was one of over 100 spectators who braved chilly conditions Monday night at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons – temporarily renamed Connor McDavid Square – to watch the Oilers superstar play in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.

“Connor McDavid grew up in this town and he’s a big part of the community,” said Alves, who spent many years in Newmarket before a recent move to Collingwood, Ont. “Our children grew up with him, young hockey players look up to him and Connor is the face of hockey.

“We have to be here.”

Hockey blood runs Maple Leaf blue in this town of some 90,000, about a half-hour drive north of Toronto.

While that loyalty remains strong, the allegiance will waver somewhat – at least for the next week or two – as the town’s favourite son plays in his first NHL final.

Oilers jerseys – almost all with McDavid’s No. 97 on the back – were a common sight at the viewing party outside the local community centre. Kids wearing Edmonton gear frolicked near the big screen and some fans waved blue and orange towels to show their support.

“When you take the local pride and the connection to Connor and you add a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup final, it brings a lot of commitment, a lot of excitement and a lot of energy,” said Newmarket Mayor John Taylor. “So people are excited.”

McDavid, who was born in nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., spent his formative years in Newmarket. He was a standout player with the York Simcoe Express as a youngster and later joined the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.

He was selected by the Oilers with the first overall pick of the 2015 NHL draft. McDavid averaged over a point a game in each of his nine NHL seasons and has won the Hart Trophy as league MVP on three occasions.

He had a 132-point campaign (32-100) this past season and has maintained that strong pace in the playoffs.

While the Oilers were blanked in a 3-0 Game 1 loss in Florida on Saturday, McDavid entered Game 2 on Monday night with 31 points (5-26) in 19 playoff games.

“There’s been a great buzz in town,” said Newmarket resident Thomas Cooke, who arrived over an hour before puck drop to get a prime seat.

Viewing parties were planned for the same location for the remaining games in the series with the exception of Game 4 on Saturday. The nearby Ray Twinney Recreation Complex will host that night.

The Oilers’ last appearance in the Stanley Cup final was in 2006. Edmonton’s last Cup victory came in 1990.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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