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‘Everybody’s cheering’: Why this small Sask. town is throwing its support behind the Edmonton Oilers

A small southern Saskatchewan town has adopted the Edmonton Oilers as its official NHL team during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Imperial is the hometown of Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch and a few hundred Edmonton super fans.

“Everybody’s cheering for the Oilers,” said Town of Imperial administrator Joslin Freeman.

Knoblauch was coaching in the American Hockey League for the Hartford Wolf Pack before getting called up to the NHL seven months ago. He joined the Oilers organization when the team was ranked second last in the standings.

“I had sent Kris a text when he got called up that said, ‘you got a long ways to get them out of the basement, but I know you can do it,’ and he’s done it,” Freeman said.

Edmonton clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Final after besting Dallas in a 4-2 series win. They now face the Florida Panthers in a battle for the cup with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday.

As Knoblauch’s success behind the bench grows, so does the hype around Imperial.

The community recently put up a “Home of Kris Knoblauch” sign on the outskirts of town, and Oilers flags are flying in front of the town office.

Kris Knoblauch’s parents, Holly and Bob, plan to attend Game 3 in Edmonton. (CTV News)

“I know it means a lot to Kris. He talks about Imperial lots, where he got his start,” his dad Bob Knoblauch told CTV News.

“He’d been on the ice here from nine in the morning till eight at night. He lived down here.”

Knoblauch grew up skating and playing hockey inside the local rink. Photos of his university hockey team still hang on the lobby walls, along with a signed Team Canada jersey from the year Knoblauch coached the national junior team.

“This was his goal all through his coaching career,” Bob said. “His dream was to get to get to the NHL and he’s finally made it.”

Knoblauch isn’t the first Imperial resident to make it to the top. Former Arizona Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram is also from Imperial with his own “home of” sign to prove it.

“To have two people in the NHL that are playing completely different roles from a town of 372 people, it’s pretty impressive,” Freeman said.

Dozens of Edmonton Oilers fans gathered at the Imperial rink to show their support. (CTV News)

Even more impressive would be if the Oilers win the Stanley Cup and Knoblauch can bring it back home to Saskatchewan.

“It’s going to be great to see him behind the bench trying to win the Stanley Cup for Edmonton and Imperial and Canada,” Bob said.

A Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. 

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