FLU-RID­DEN McDAVID OUT FOR FAN EVENT

Ill­ness forces birth­day boy to miss Oil­ers’ Su­per Skills Com­pe­ti­tion

Windsor Star - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES

It my mind, it was go­ing to be a won­der­ful event.

There would be a ca­pac­ity crowd with young fans hold­ing “Happy Birth­day Con­nor” signs and ev­ery­body would stand and sing Happy Birth­day to him.

In­deed, there was a ca­pac­ity crowd for the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers Su­per Skills Com­pe­ti­tion Sun­day at Rogers Place. Most of the fans were kids. And sev­eral held up signs wish­ing McDavid happy birth­day.

But one thing was miss­ing. There was no McDavid.

The birth­day boy was not in the build­ing.

No. 97 — who scored two goals in­clud­ing one with eight sec­onds to go in reg­u­la­tion in a three-point night in Thurs­day’s come-frombe­hind ef­fort against Florida and then scored in the shootout to win it — was sick in bed.

For a while on Satur­day against Ari­zona, it looked like McDavid was go­ing to re­peat the feat of 48 hours ear­lier in his last game as a 21-year-old.

He scored at 6:46 to give the Oil­ers a 1-0 lead. But he didn’t have any more mir­a­cles, or points, left in him Satur­day and while no­body other than Ryan Nu­gen­tHop­kins ac­tu­ally out­played him, McDavid didn’t look ex­actly like him­self, par­tic­u­larly when it came to turn­ing pucks over. He did that on three oc­ca­sions.

And he didn’t look well in his brief post-game me­dia scrum. Many men­tally wrote that off to the sick­en­ing 3-2 de­feat. I was lean­ing more to McDavid’s need for a shave and a hair­cut. How­ever bummed out McDavid and the town might have been Satur­day evening, I fig­ured his 22nd birth­day party on Sun­day would be one of the highlights of the year, re­gard­less how it all turns out for the team in the stand­ings the rest of the way.

There was no big pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem an­nounce­ment in the build­ing to in­form fans that McDavid wouldn’t be on the ice. In fact there was no an­nounce­ment at all.

The Oil­ers sim­ply flashed — and I do mean flashed be­cause it wasn’t up there more than a few sec­onds — a no­tice in­form­ing that the fol­low­ing play­ers would not be in­volved be­cause of in­jury or sick­ness: Con­nor McDavid, Ju­jhar Khaira, Alexan­der Petro­vic, An­drej Sek­era and Kailer Ya­mamoto. Like maybe no one would no­tice. Well, the first event was the fastest skater com­pe­ti­tion. There was per­haps a chance some­body might no­tice.

McDavid recorded a 13.454 in win­ning the event last year. Zack Kas­sian (15.062), Jesse Pulju­jarvi (14.688), Mi­lan Lu­cic (15.008), Ryan Spooner (14.445), Ty Rat­tie (14.988) and To­bias Rieder (14.496) were en­tered. Even skat­ing around car­ry­ing a bucket to barf into, McDavid might have won it.

With head coach Ken Hitch­cock be­com­ing more and more al­ler­gic to half his team and GM Peter Chiarelli likely some­where in the wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram, it was left to Oil­ers En­ter­tain­ment Group boss Bob Ni­chol­son to speak to the sit­u­a­tion. “McDavid has been bat­tling the flu bug for the past week and even missed prac­tice Fri­day,” Ni­chol­son re­ported of trainer T.D. Forss hav­ing sent No. 97 home Fri­day. “I know it’s dis­ap­point­ing for our fans not to see Con­nor on the ice, but we are hop­ing the rest will help him get bet­ter and be back on the ice against the Sabres,” he said of Mon­day’s game against Buf­falo at Rogers Place. Ac­tu­ally, I broke the story in the morn­ing on Twit­ter (ap­par­ently that counts as a scoop these days) re­port­ing that McDavid was sick and wouldn’t be there.

The re­sponse from fol­low­ers was pre­dictable:

“Sick of los­ing ?”

“Sick of Ed­mon­ton?” ■

“Bad back from car­ry­ing 22 play­ers

■ on it?”

There were dozens of other sim­i­larly themed re­sponses.

To me, McDavid’s 22nd birth­day was still something to be cel­e­brated with or with­out him in at­ten­dance. The oc­ca­sion of his 22nd birth­day is a pretty good place to mea­sure what he’s achieved go­ing into the prime time years of his ca­reer.

He’s pro­duced 114 goals, 209 as­sist and 323 points in his first 253 games. That’s the fifth most points pro­duced in that num­ber of games since the start of 1987-88. Thurs­day was his 38th three­plus point game, mak­ing him only the fifth player (the oth­ers be­ing Wayne Gret­zky, Dale Haw­er­chuk, Mario Lemieux and Sid­ney Crosby) to reg­is­ter that many be­fore his 22nd birth­day. McDavid has an NHL high to­tal of 81 multi-point games since 2016-2017. The goal Satur­day was McDavid’s 18 point in his last 11 games as a 21-year-old. His 27 goals and 40 as­sists give him 67 points for the sea­son and on pace for a 50-goal, 125-point ca­reer year.

McDavid has al­ready won Art Ross (2) Ted Lind­say (2) and Hart (1) tro­phies Awards and given him­self a chance to win all three again. In­deed, this year he might even have a chance for the Rocket Richard Tro­phy for goals. His 27 snipes are only five back of Alex Ovechkin’s 32. “Happy Birth­day,” Con­nor. And “Get Well Soon.”

GREG SOUTHAM

Fans were on hand to wish Con­nor McDavid a happy 22nd birth­day dur­ing Sun­day’s an­nual Su­per Skills com­pe­ti­tion, but ill­ness pre­vented him from at­tend­ing the event.

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