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Principe's Blog: Center of the Universe Attention

Gene Principe examines the focus on the Oilers' young guys in Toronto

Tuesday, 07.02.2012 / 1:55 AM / Blogs
By Gene Principe
Sam Gagner -- a London, ON native who spends his summers in Oakville, notched an assist in Monday's tilt at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto (Photo by Getty Images).
I knew it was coming, but as much as you can prepare for it, you have to live it and that's a stop in the Centre of the Universe -- a city otherwise known as Toronto. On Monday the Oilers got the royal welcome from the media that cover hockey in this Original Six Canadian city. Websites, local stations, national stations, print people, radio announcers wanting to know about anything and everything; about RNH's suddenly short hair, or the meaning behind Devan Dubnyk's mask, what's it like for Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to be roommates and, most topical of all, was Sam Gagner and his eight-point night that became 11 points in two nights.

The questions were coming fast and furious. It was similar to last season when Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle came through Toronto for a first time. This time they brought with them RNH and the history-making Gagner. It really was quite a scene to see these people descend on these kids looking for every last morcel of information. That's what happens when a team like this only comes through your neck of the woods once a season. There are so many storylines that come with a club that has so many recognizeable faces. Young, fresh faces that really are well known Canadian content especially in the case of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

I know you may not want to hear this, but the players do have a certain level of excitement when they come to the 'Centre of the Universe.' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played his first NHL game in the Air Canada Centre. He did play in the ACC at the Top Prospects game last year, but the 18-year-old said it wouldn't be the same. Not the same as what he's seen on TV. The fans, the atmosphere, the aura that comes with playing in Toronto. It's even a little more meaningful for those that are from the area. Taylor Hall, Calgary born but Kingston raised, and then there is London, Ontario's Sam Gagner. He's from the region and lives in Mississauga which is a stone's throw away from the rink he played in on Monday night.

Now the way Monday ended wasn't exactly the way Edmonton hoped their three-game trip would get started; a loss and an injury again to RNH, but as I watched these kids talk hockey with journalists hanging on most every word it made me think of the playoffs. OK, maybe not this year's playoffs, but next year or the year after. When this team gets good enough to play post-season hockey, it shouldn't be one and done. They are being built for some longevity once the second season gets underway. Seeing the locker room on Monday made me think of one day this being an Edmonton team and a playoff series and media descending on this group with storylines a plenty. I think Hall, RNH, Eberle, Gagner and company will be a nationwide story and it's something they should get used to when it comes to getting attention from the Centre of the Universe and everywhere else in hockey.

Author: Gene Principe

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