FLU-RIDDEN McDAVID OUT FOR FAN EVENT
Illness forces birthday boy to miss Oilers’ Super Skills Competition
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.”
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.