For months, I’ve been anxious about this week.
I didn’t want to think about it. I also didn’t know how I’d feel.
But here we are, saying goodbye to Rexall Place – the home of the Edmonton Oilers and as I see it, my favourite childhood play space.
I absolutely loved going to the rink with my dad (Rod Phillips, voice of the Oilers). I remember the days when he’d tell me that he wasn’t going to practice and I would be absolutely devastated.
‘It’s a bittersweet day’: Edmonton Oilers say farewell to Rexall Place
Tickets fly out fast for chance to skate on ice at Rexall Place
Farewell Rexall Place: Share your favourite memories
WATCH: Former voice of the Oilers Rod Phillips weighs in on Edmonton winning the NHL draft lottery
Like so many of the players have said, they grew up there. While they matured inside the walls of the Coliseum, I literally grew up there.
I was under the age of five when I first started running around Northlands Coliseum.
At that time I didn’t really care so much about the hockey. I loved seeing the players because they were so nice to me but I can’t say that I understood how good Jari Kurri was; he was just the player that winked at me every time he came off the rink at practice.
But with that being said, I always understood how lucky I was to be there. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be there so much.
I knew that twirling around the league’s best ice surface (at the time) with Mark Messier was not something a lot of people got to do. We used to hold hands and he’d skate backwards, then spin me around so I’d be skating backwards. He had the patience to do that lap after lap at the annual Christmas skating party.
The players were so good to me and my brother, Devin.
We’d play a lot of ball hockey outside the Oilers dressing room.
I’ll never forget Kelly Buchberger wanted to take a shot on my brother who was playing net for me. Well, he didn’t hold back; he wound up and blasted a slap shot at my brother who was probably about nine years old. He missed my brother, good thing, and that ball bounced all over the place before we could track it down.
That’s what you get with an NHL slap shot and a tennis ball. It still makes me laugh thinking back on the fear on my brother’s face after that.
My brother and I did a lot of roller blading around there. I mean, what could be better than a perfectly smooth oval? That was in the days of the bright neon bike helmets. My brother had an orange one that clearly caught the attention of Petr Klima. He put the kid’s helmet on top of his head and continued part of practice with it on. It had me, my brother and his teammates howling.
IN PHOTOS: Edmonton Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup reunion
My dad won’t like to hear this, but when he’d take me up to watch some games from the press box I made a game out of dropping popcorn to see if I could get people’s attention, or even better hit their popcorn container.
Sorry, dad. Sorry to Oilers PR guy Bill Tuele who would get me the pass to go up there.
I knew too much about the press box too. It was usually open during practice, so of course I’d just go up there and help myself.
There are not a lot of kids around the rink any more. But I’m still there and nothing could make me happier.
As Wednesday’s final game approaches, I’ve been sad but excited about what’s to come at Rogers Place.
I have to say, hearing some guys talk about saying goodbye has opened my eyes.
READ MORE: Over 150 Oilers players, alumni, staff to say farewell to Rexall Place
Rexall Place is just a building. The memories made inside those round walls are mine and will be with me forever.
While that helps, I know I’ll still cry on the final night.
I already have.