EDMONTON — It can be found on the odd wind-worn lamppost on downtown streets of Edmonton — a loonie-sized sticker that is equal parts idolatrous and sacrilegious.
It’s the Oilers logo with the oozing O-I-L-E-R letters replaced with others: McJesus.
Edmonton Oilers rookie phenom forward Connor McDavid is expected to return from a cracked clavicle in either late January or early February, but he has already made a transformative impression on a hockey-loopy city that hasn’t beheld a playoff team for a decade.
Walk into Jack Jensen’s sports memorabilia store in West Edmonton Mall and there’s a full Connor McDavid photo display underneath the cash register.
On the walls are framed pictures of McDavid, and McDavid’s first NHL goal.
There are packs of Connor McDavid cards and autographed Connor McDavid jerseys. (The signed jersey is yours for $649.95).
McDavid, said Jensen, has reinvigorated sales for all things Oiler at his West Edmonton Coin and Stamp shop.
“Connor has been the lead seller at this point,” said Jensen.
There’s lots of Connor merchandise selling, whether it’s stickers or autographed stuff.
The Connor biz has been booming ever since the Oilers won the right eight months ago to select him first overall in the NHL draft. The 18-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., has not disappointed.
The centre hailed as the next Sidney-Crosby-Wayne-Gretzky needed just four NHL games to figure things out.
After just one goal in those first four games, he totalled 12 points in the next nine to take over as the team’s top scoring threat.
His impact is everywhere in city where hockey is not just a sport, it’s geography where north-end commuters take Mark Messier Trail and get to the rink via Wayne Gretzky Drive.
Fans flew in from remote places like Vancouver Island and Yellowknife to attend McDavid’s first home game.
Oilers ticket prices on the secondary market soared 131 per cent on news of his arrival, according to StubHub.com.
The ripple effect goes beyond the city.
Fans chanted McDavid in the closing notes of the national anthem at an Oilers pre-season game in Saskatoon.
NHL broadcaster Rogers built up an ad campaign around McDavid getting the lowdown from Messier on Alberta’s rolling plains and soaring mountains.
The local sports radio station delivers regular tongue-in-cheek Connor McUpdates, such as the one after the Oct. 18 Vancouver game: “Connor dipped his feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, and then explained the difference between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to (Oilers forward) Luke Gazdic.”
The Oilers organization has had to deal with a fan interest not seen since the Boys on the Bus Stanley Cup years of the 1980s.
When the team selected McDavid in June, fans filled the lower bowl of Rexall Place to cheer on the announcement.
When McDavid and the other Oiler rookies played the University of Alberta Golden Bears in their annual fundraising scrimmage in the middle of September, the event had to be moved from the Bears’ 2,700-seat rink in order to accommodate 14,000 fans who packed Rexall Place.
The media crush at his first training camp became so overwhelming, handlers broke it up into two scrums: print people here, radio and TV types there.
“(McDavid’s) come in and really committed himself to being a great pro in the NHL and doing all the things he needed to do to be a great teammate as well,” said Tim Shipton, the Oilers vice-president for communications.