Bedard fever hits Saskatoon
After weeks of anticipation, the day Saskatoon Blades fans have been waiting for finally came.
A historic hockey game in Saskatoon with a sellout crowd of 15,000 people packed into Sasktel Centre in what could be the largest crowd for a hockey game in the city’s history. The obvious draw with the Regina Pats in town is the lure of superstar Connor Bedard.
"It's just that he's so good. This is my only chance to see him live," Blades fan John Herbison said prior to the game. "Soon I'll be seeing him on TV, but it just won't be the same."
Fans loading on to shuttles for the game two hours before puck drop were certainly in the sporting mood and ready to make the afternoon as uncomfortable as possible for the Western Hockey League's latest phenom.
"Everybody's got the bug. He's filling every stadium in the league," Frank Shychoski said.
Many people at the park and ride locations across the city said they simply want a fond memory to look back on later, and have the opportunity to say they saw Connor Bedard play in Saskatoon before he went on to the pro ranks.
Father and son duo Pat and David Fodey were eager to attend their first Blades game in years. With Pat growing up in Regina as a Pats fan and raising his son in Saskatoon as a Blades fan, the pair bought their tickets over a month ago realizing what a perfect occasion it would be.
"The next time we have a chance to see Bedard, the ticket (cost) will be tenfold," David said.
For the Fodeys, the hockey experience will be more special to them than the historical aspect.
"We were joking around how a lot of people are going to film it on their phones and not really pay attention to say they were there for history's sake," David said.
Staff have been preparing for the influx of fans for days, by not only opening the doors early, but deploying extra parking staff and preparing all the extra food necessary as the Blades average attendance this year has been around 4,000 fans, meaning 11,000 more people were expected for the game.
Gary Brandt remembers going to Humboldt as a young child to see Glenn Hall play hockey before he became "Mr. Goalie." He's happy to pass on a similar lifelong memory going to Sunday's game with his son in-law and grandson.
"We can look years down the road and say 'I remember him playing in Saskatoon!'"
Krissy Essar remembers sitting with her family during the World Junior Hockey Championships over the holidays and made the decision to buy tickets nearly three months in advance.
"We just couldn't miss the opportunity," she said. "He's blowing it up. This is great for hockey and great for hockey in Canada."
With the hopes of 15,000 people creating lifelong memories in one of the most anticipated games in the Blades’ 59-year history, fans will get a chance to do it all over again on Friday when Bedard and the Pats are back at SaskTel Centre for a rematch.
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