Back on May 23, 2006, longtime Oilers anthem singer Paul Lorieau made a hockey fan out of me.
I'd played the game, appreciated it, studied and dedicated a good portion of my life to it, but never before did I live it the way I did that night at Rexall Place.
It was Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Adding to an already unforgettable atmosphere and enveloping the passion of Oil Country, Lorieau did what legends do.
With 16,839 proud fans in attendance, you couldn't hear a word as Paul sang the opening three lines of the Canadian national anthem, O Canada. As the anthem continued, he raised his microphone high into the air, letting the Oilers faithful take over and sing it to the end, all in unison.
Looking down from Section 336 and losing my voice in the process, it was a moment I'll never forget. Charged on emotion, Rexall had never been louder. It was at that moment when our game became more than a sport to me.
In an instant, it evolved into a production -- a live broadcast of entertainment and moving experiences not understood unless there's some kind of emotional investment.
Right then and there, I lived the game to its fullest potential. The goosebumps were proof of that.
That was the impact Paul had. Singing passionately and from the heart, he brought Oil Country together to share and be a part of something special.
His name is synonymous with that game, the 2006 playoff run and 30 great years of Oilers hockey.
Joining the club back in 1981, Lorieau performed O Canada and the Star Spangled Banner at Rexall Place for nearly three full decades. Retiring in 2011, he belted out his Canadian swansong on April 8 against the Minnesota Wild.
Paul lost his battle with cancer last night in Edmonton. He leaves behind four daughters (Camille, Danielle, Jocelyne and Lisa) and five grandchildren.
Thank you for the memories, Paul. The city of Edmonton and Oilers fans everywhere will miss you dearly.
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