A Wainwright girl got to meet her hero Connor McDavid Saturday, after a hockey sign mix-up at the home opener left her in tears.
Taylor Friedel was hoping to celebrate her 12th birthday with a puck, stick or even a glance from her favourite player at the Edmonton Oilers home opener on Wednesday.
Instead, the little girl was left sobbing when a security guard told her she couldn't bring a poster she had made inside the arena.
Taylor and her father Tyler Friedel, who live in Wainright, made the two-hour journey to Rogers Place to see the Oilers play the Vancouver Canucks.
For years, Taylor has been a huge Oilers fan and says her favourite player is McDavid.
"She's an avid hockey fan…she watches lots of YouTube videos where kids are at the glass getting a stick or a hockey puck," said Tyler. "What 12-year-old wouldn't want the same thing?"
To that end, the father and daughter made up a posted board sign in Oilers colours reading "Hey McDavid, it's my b-day today!! Can I get a selfie, puck or stick?"
Tyler said their intention was to hold up the sign during the pre-game warm-up, but when they tried to enter the arena, they were confronted by security.
"As soon as we got to the metal detector they scanned us in and said, 'You can't bring these signs in because they're too big,'" Tyler recalled.
Tyler said they were told they either had to take the signs back to the car or throw them out.
Tyler explained that Taylor wanted to keep the signs to hang up at home, so a manager offered to keep the signs at coat check and let the pair take photos with them in the hall during the first intermission.
“It was a kind gesture, but obviously wasn’t going to make up for the memory that was going to be there forever.”
During first intermission they took photos with the Orange & Blue Ice Crew, and then returned their posters to coat check.
Tyler says that when they picked the posters up after the game there was an Oilers T-shirt wrapped up with the posters. They thanked the manager, and left the arena.
He said the entire situation wasn’t a big deal until they got home, and started re-watching the game.
"We were watching the warm-up videos and you see people walking to their seats and they're carrying signs,” said Tyler.
"Having been at the game and seeing people in the section next to us with a sign the exact same size right beside my kid, it was just pouring salt in the wound."
Tyler says the rules about posters need to be made clear to everyone attending the games, and enforced equally among the crowd.
"If they're going to bend the rules for an adult who's loud and boisterous because they're drinking alcoholic beverages, how is that any less of a distraction than a 12-year-old with a sign?"
“In consideration for fellow guests, signs larger than a poster board (22 x28), signs on poles or sticks (of any kind,) or signs with inappropriate language will not be permitted,” the Oilers Entertainment Group said in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.
It goes on to say that signs must be able to be rolled up and placed under a seat, and are only to be displayed during breaks in play. The OEG say this policy only applies to Oilers and Oil Kings games, while concert tours each have their own sign policy.
Tyler wrote to the Oilers to ask why his daughter was singled out, when his friend Rod Oracheski posted a tweet saying the situation was “Not a great look, birthday or not.”
On Friday, Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson reached out to Tyler and apologized for the situation, and invited Taylor, Tyler and some friends to the Saturday night game.
Tyler says he didn’t tell Taylor about the Oilers surprise until right before they left for the game Saturday afternoon.
“She was speechless. The reaction was awesome, just couldn’t believe it. She was stunned.”
Tyler says the Oilers treated the group like royalty. They sat in the owner’s suite during the game, and after the game the Oilers had an extra surprise for Taylor.
“We weren’t too sure where we were headed until we saw the door on the locker room,” said Tyler.
“I’ve seen the doors open and they walk through,” said Taylor. “But I never knew I’d be down there in real life.”
Taylor got to meet Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and got a signed stick and puck from McDavid.
“I got to meet Connor McDavid, which is pretty crazy,” said Taylor. “I thought I was dreaming.”
Saturday was Taylor’s third NHL game, and she says it’ll be hard to top.
“Couldn’t have turned out any better than that, considering we weren’t expecting anything more than clarification on the whole sign thing,” said Tyler.
“They just went above and beyond, and made one little girl’s birthday the best one she’s had yet.”
Tyler says after this experience, they’ll be back to watch the Oilers again.
“After something like that, how can you not continue to support the team,” said Tyler. “I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeff Lawrence.