On Monday afternoon residents at the St. Albert Retirement Residence celebrated Victoria Day with a tea party. Before snacking on cookies and sipping from steaming cups, some of them had work to do.
At the front of the dining room, a group of eight retirees in Edmonton Oilers shirts and jerseys and some waving orange pompons, grooved gently to the song Sweet Caroline. They did it once, then again, a full three times before recreation aide Loida Geralde was satisfied it was TikTok worthy.
The seniors are hockey fans and post a new TikTok video each day that their beloved Oilers have a game during the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of them, dancing and cheering for the team, has been viewed more than 225,000 times.
“This is something we weren’t expecting, especially at our age,” said Gib Paradis, 98, who has been married for 71 years.
“We never thought it would get this much attention,” said Ron Espey, an 83-year-old with a flowing white mane. Still a youngster, he and his wife have only been together since 1961.
The residents have made videos for more than two years as part of the facility’s recreation and exercise program. They only became a sensation, however, very recently.
“When the Oilers made the playoffs, we decided that we should do something fun and crazy,” said Lori Kary, a recreational therapist and director of health and wellness at the residence in St. Albert, a city of about 70,000 just northwest of Edmonton. “We knew they loved the Oilers and decided to do a hockey one.
“What makes me laugh is that they are up to do anything.”
During the first round, Paradis and Espey wore hockey gloves in one video, dropped them and pretended to jab each other. Paradis wore an Oilers jersey and Espey a sweater of Edmonton’s first-round opponent, the Los Angeles Kings.
As they bobbed and weaved to Fight for Your Right (To Party) by the Beastie Boys, other members of the group waved hockey sticks.
@st.albertretirement We will fight for the cup🚨🚨 #edmontonoilers #letsgooilers #yeg #hockeyplayoffs #seniorcitizen #fyp #NHL #retirementliving #hockeyfans #hockeynation #mcdavid97 #bisonking @edmontonoilers @Globalnews.ca ♬ Fight For Your Right - Beastie Boys
They have also rocked to We Will Rock You and Paradis has shot pucks at Espey as he tries to guard a net. They even have taken the show on the road to shoot a video in front of the Wayne Gretzky statue at Rogers Place.
“The main thing for me is that they are having fun,” Kary said. “They are engaged in physical exercise and get to be creative and at the same time 15 of their buddies watch from the sidelines.”
Paradis has lived at the seniors’ home for 3 1/2 years. He is from Fort Saskatchewan, an Edmonton suburb, and owned a service station and a fuel company that sold fuel to farmers.
He has watched the Oilers since they became an entity in 1972 as part of the old World Hockey Association and once held season tickets.
“I saw a lot of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, too,” Paradis said. “I saw them hoist Stanley Cups. It was exciting, eh?” Edmonton has won five, the last in 1990.
Espey worked in management for a trucking company. “I drove a lot of people crazy but I never actually drove,” he said.
He is a newcomer at the residence, having moved in three months ago. He has two daughters, five grandchildren and six great-greats. Paradis has four kids, 10 grandchildren and a dozen great-greats.
“They married with an idea,” Espey, a character, said to tease his friend. “That, and a lot of cold winters.”
The preceding night, Edmonton defeated Calgary in Game 3 to take the lead in their second-round series 2-1. The victory featured three goals by Evander Kane and a game-misconduct penalty to Milan Lucic of the Flames for knocking down Mike Smith of the Oilers behind the net.
“I think we have the better team,” Espey said. “The Flames are a bit on the rough side. They pounded our goalie.”
They sat side by side, each in a Connor McDavid jersey, after eating pepperoni pizza for lunch. After a while, it was time to go to work.
“I never thought I would be a movie star,” Espey said.
The group assembled for its next video. Paradis sat this one out. He has a bum back.
“I’m on the mend,” he pointed out.
Geralde gave them instructions, turned on the music and got her camera ready.
The St. Albert seniors sang and rocked back and forth while Espey banged on a drum. In the front, Anna Kolbe, who is in her 90s, gripped her walker and joined in.