Monday, June 12, 2006
Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
You know what else nobody expects? Having your vacation on JUNE 12TH mean you're missing the freaking Oilers, that's what.

Some time last year (the exact details are lost to the fog of wedding brain), my family all decided that we'd take a trip to Britain in which the six of us (me, my husband, my sister, her boyfriend, and my parents) met up for at least part of it. My parents go back fairly often, and my sister went back about three years ago and met up with my dad for a few days, but I haven't been in almost ten years, my sister's boyfriend has only been in and out for conferences here and there, and Jamie's never been. It was Christmas of 1996 the last time my family was all there together, and we figured that all of us having (a) time at approximately the same time of year, (b) money, even if it isn't tons, and (c) no kids dragging things down was not going to be happening forever, so we figured now was a good time to go. After a great deal of emailing and organizing, we settled on some dates that mostly worked. Sure, it mean Mum had to miss a conference she was interested in and Jamie would miss the last week of subbing, but other than that it was delightfully conflict free.

Who can blame us, in the middle of the lockout, for not taking into consideration the notion of the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals? Actually, to be totally accurate, we planned the dates right around the time when the Oilers were seriously sucking this season, so looking into planned Finals dates was the last thing on our mind. If it weren't for those damn Olympics, we'd have been fine.

Now, while I am a pretty fanatical Oilers fan, I am not alone in my family. My sister is of approximately the same level of insanity as me, although she has to work harder to achieve it since she now lives in Vancouver where Oilers fans are not particularly popular. Fortunately she has a hockey buddy to celebrate with, which helps, I'm sure.

My parents are not quite so fanatical in the rabid sort of sense, but they are probably the most dedicated out of all of us, particularly my mother. She watches every single Oilers game, pre-season, regular season, post-season. If she's going to be out, she tapes it and watches when she gets home. She gets the pay-per-view games. (She does not exactly have a lot of expensive hobbies, so nobody heckles her much for this. Hell, Dad has started watching rugby pay-per-view on the computer!) I don't know how closely she reads the stats page, but she manages to rattle off random facts and make intelligent comments about the lineup whenever the game is on, so I suspect she does more than she admits.

I could go into details about the level of obsessiveness we have displayed as a family over the course of the playoffs, but I think some members with upstanding reputations to uphold (ie certainly not me) are a little ashamed of this. Suffice it to say it has involved American sports bars, web cams, text messaging, and a great deal of organizing.

So when you get four hard-core Oilers fans and two fairly enthusiastic significant others who just kind of get swept along in things (my sister's boyfriend is from Saskatchewan, where they only care about football, as far as I can tell, and my dad still finds the whole thing a bit of a weird Canadian habit, I think, although he's more interested than he pretends to be) leaving town in the middle of the first Oilers Stanley Cup Run in 16 years, you have to go to some pretty extreme measures. So when we arrive in England on Tuesday, there will be waiting for us at the other end an elaborate system tested by my parents over the first three games. (They've been there a week already.) We paid for the North American Sports Network on our friends' cable. We paid extra to get the digital recorder so we could tape it. And on our once-in-a-lifetime international family vacation, we will be huddled around the television screaming for the Oilers while the rest of the country watches the World Cup.

The shitty part, of course, is that we won't be in Edmonton any more. We'll miss all the parties, the parades, the hoardes of people screaming for joy simultaneously. While I'm not sorry to be missing the near riots that happened after round three (we left once the fires got taller than the people, which I think was a wise move), the idea of missing out on standing with thirty thousand other people on Whyte Ave singing O Canada does break my heart a little bit. Things have been a little quieter this series so far - the loss of Roli was a hard blow to take and we were all a little bit shell-shocked - but last night's game saw Whyte Ave perk up again. The driving rain kept the streets a little less nuts, but the horns were wailing and the fans were screaming nonetheless. I watched the game in a bar and I'm bummed I won't be able to surround myself with my friends to scream at the ref and get goose bumps at the anthem (and if you don't find that whole anthem thing pretty freaking awesome, you are made of stone, especially once the camera finds Joey Moss). But at least I'll have my fanatical family watching along with me. That's better than nothing, right?

And I guess the vacation will probably be pretty awesome, too. We leave tomorrow at 6:00, but our layover in Calgary should be enough for us to catch the second and third periods. So let's hope for a blowout by the Oilers, because I'm not sure I have the strength to get on a plane in overtime. There are limits, after all.