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'Everything is Oilers. Everything is Connor': McDavid's hometown abuzz ahead of Game 7

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The Ontario elementary school that Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid once attended is abuzz with excitement ahead of Monday night’s Stanley Cup Final.

“Everything is Oilers. Everything is Connor,” Charlene Delaney, who taught McDavid in Grade 1 and Grade 6 at Newmarket’s Clearmeadow Public School, told CTV News Toronto. “It's palpable here.”

The 27-year-old centre and captain of the Oilers, now in his ninth season of NHL play, will lead the team into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. It’s been a long journey for McDavid – one that the Newmarket community, along with the students and staff at Clearmeadow, have supported him on, every step of the way.

“I’ve been biting my nails, screaming,” Delaney said of her time spent watching the Oilers-Panthers series so far. "It's fantastic. We're all so excited."

Former teacher of Connor McDavid, Charlene Delaney, speaks to CTV News on June 24, 2024.

According to McDavid’s former teachers, he displayed a great level of determination, even as a young boy.

“I first had him in Grade 1. amazing kid. Crazy focused. Everything he did was very intense. He had this ability to block out all distractions and focus on the task at hand which is odd in Grade 1,” Delaney said. “As he got older, same thing – so studious.”

Chris Riley, the head caretaker at Clearmeadow, said the community knew from an early age McDavid was destined for greatness.

“From an early age, we knew this young man had a goal in mind,” Riley said. “Now, he’s playing for the Oilers in Game 7 for the Stanley Cup. So that's incredibly exciting, and hopefully he can deliver like we expect.”

“We weren't surprised,” Delaney said, when asked if the community had imagined this level of success for McDavid in his younger years. “We were told he was going to be the next Wayne Gretzky.”

Along with a level of ambition unusual for a youngster, McDavid displayed a dedication to his teammates from an early age. Michaela McKeown, another teacher, recalled a moment in which McDavid declined to individually accept a trophy handed to him after securing a victory in a school-run floor hockey tournament, instead, opting to include the entire team as recipients.

"I had the Clearmeadow Cup ready to hand to the winning team," teacher Michaela McKeown told CTV News. "The gym was full of students -- pandemonium, everyone celebrating -- and I took the trophy, and went to give it to [Connor], and he put his hands up and pointed to his team, and at that moment, I knew there was something very remarkable [about him]."

Connor McDavid memorabilia can be seen at Clearmeadow Public School in Newmarket, Ont. (CTV News)

The Connor craze can not be contained to Clearmeadow — now more than ever, it's being felt widely across York Region, where McDavid grew up.

"So many people know Connor and his family, and as his career grew, he became more and more well-known, of course,” Mayor of Newmarket, John Taylor, told CTV Barrie earlier this month.

“It's just super exciting to be able to cheer him on and back a Canadian team in the playoffs and, of course, back Connor McDavid, Newmarket's hometown hero," Taylor said.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid speaks to reporters on May 27, 2024. (Source: TSN)

While there’s no shortage of year-round support for the hometown hero, the school and community has gone above and beyond to cheer McDavid on ahead of Game 7.

On Monday morning, staff and students of Clearmeadow clad in Orange and Blue clothing waved homemade signs in the school parking lot as part of an impromptu rally of support.

One young student wearing an Oilers shirt told CTV News Toronto he was “very excited.”

“I’m going to be very happy,” the boy said when asked what a win would mean for him. “I’m going to be full of joy.”

The students’ excitement has only added to Delaney’s desire to see McDavid bring home the Stanley Cup, she says.

“The kids are pretty excited, so hopefully, they’ll be seeing him hoist the cup tomorrow,” Delaney said. When asked if she had a message for McDavid, his former teacher kept it simple:

“We're cheering you on. You can do it. You got it."

McDavid is just one of six players who grew up in the GTA that are on the Oilers roster. 

Staff and students at Clearmeadow Public School cheer on former student Connor McDavid ahead of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 24, 2024. (CTV News)

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