Professional ‘crowd ignitor’ brings Victoria spirit to Stanley Cup Final

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The Edmonton Oilers are on death’s door in the Stanley Cup Final, but it’s not for lack of fan support. Rogers Place was packed for Game 3 of the series, and leading the charge in the seats was Victoria resident Cameron Hughes.

“I still believe,” says Hughes from his hotel room in Edmonton’s Ice District.

Hughes lives in Victoria when he’s not on the road firing up crowds as a “professional crowd ignitor” at some of the world’s premier sporting events during commercial breaks and timeouts. He’s even written a book on cheering.

“It goes to commercial at home, but at the arena there’s 18,000 people who want to party. I get up and I dance, I go wild. I throw T-shirts and I change the energy in the room.”

He’s worked with the Oilers for eight seasons, and as an unabashed fan of the team.

It’s been a wild post-season ride, but with one more loss to the Florida Panthers, the Oilers are out and Florida will hoist its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. Hughes, however, is planning on a longer series.

“The Oilers will win it in seven,” he says.

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He’ll be chucking T-shirts and leading the charge in Saturday night’s Game 4 and he’s urging Oilers fans far and wide to keep the faith.

“Wear that jersey, fly that car flag. Do you think Draisaitl and McDavid are home thinking, ‘This is over’? No. They’re not. So why should you?”

Car flags are indeed flying on Vancouver Island, but not in great numbers. A flag is flying in Esquimalt above Iluka Espresso, only it’s no ode to the Oil. It’s a Florida Panthers flag.

Debbie Salter says it has nothing to do with the cafe. “We don’t own the property,” she says. “We own the space. The property owners are flying the flag.”

Salter says she’s not certain why Florida’s flag flies high above the patio.

A comeback of this magnitude has only happened once in finals history, by the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Of all the teams, hey,” laughs Hughes.

But as long as there’s a pulse, there’s purpose. And for Oiler fans, there’s hope. “It’s not over until the cup is raised, and it hasn’t been,” says Hughes. “The Oilers will win.”

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