Chasing the puck as a robocam operator Closing the chapter in the old barn

Wake up. Get up. Go down rink side. Skate up. Suit up. Warm up. Game time!

The whole world watches men skate around, competing to put a puck in a net guarded by a padded wall of a human. Many have made a fine living following the puck, chasing it back and forth from one end of the rink to the other.

Thousands have also seen my work although they don’t know it. I chase the puck too, but I do not have dreams of becoming an all-star or representing my country. No one knows my name. It is never chanted, cheered, or jeered. When I do my job correctly, I go unnoticed.

I am a robocam operator. My camera is hidden high up on a pole behind the glass, up above the goaltender. I operate it remotely, hidden in the bowels of Rexall Place. The camera is near where the Oilers warm up pre-game without equipment or skates. They kick a soccer ball back and forth. A misplaced kick lands the ball in my lap. I’m startled when this happens (at least once a day on game days) and there is laughter at my surprise. I hand the ball back to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, or whoever comes to me red-faced and apologetic, like a child who has hit his ball over the fence and into the neighbour’s yard.

Many have made their careers inside of Rexall Place. Their whole careers have spanned within the 40 plus years this building has stood as the home of the Edmonton Oilers. Everyone I work with has stories of their own. Run-ins with famous faces in some of their more private moments. Runny stories recalled at family gatherings. And everyone’s heart has been broken at least once in the dark depths of this building.

Throughout the season, we spend many long days hidden from sunlight and fresh air to prepare for that night’s game. Everything has become familiar and the building feels like home. At every turn, we know which face to expect and with whom we can joke.

Because of the work we do inside this building, many of us have been able to build a life. Due to its close proximity to Rexall Place, my wife and I bought our home in Alberta Avenue.

Times are changing with the Oilers moving from their old home in Rexall Place into their new home. Yet it feels as though our memories will be locked away in this time capsule.

April 6 was the last time the Oilers played professionally in the old barn. Like our childhood homes, pieces of us all will remain there. And like all childhood homes, Rexall Place will have helped shaped each of us into the people we have become.

Feature Image: Working in Rexall Place has created many fond memories. Credit: Stephen Strand

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