NHL fans in Edmonton are used to watching millionaires skate for the Oilers. It’s a whole new experience to have one of them become a millionaire during a game, but that’s what happened Monday.
The NHL playoffs are in progress
The National Hockey League is back in business following nearly five months of inactivity due to the pandemic. Unlike the NBA, the NHL has proceeded directly to its postseason.
Sixteen teams across the league are playing down to the final eight berths in the playoffs. The Edmonton Oilers evened their best-of-five Western Conference series with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday with a 6-3 victory as Connor McDavid registered the hat trick.
Game 3 in Edmonton, which is serving as the Western Conference hub, is Wednesday. Under ordinary circumstances, the arena at Rogers Place would be rocking for playoff hockey, but the stands are empty for the 2020 postseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And without fans in the stands, holding a 50/50 raffle is usually an exercise in futility. Until now.
Not all the action in Edmonton is on the ice
Yes, Edmonton Oilers fans like their hockey – with good reason. In their heyday, the Oilers won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons beginning in 1984, led by the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Jari Kurri.
One of the traditions at games in Edmonton is the 50/50 raffle, where the stakes can get pretty sizeable. With no one having claimed the prize at the previous game, a drawing on Dec. 22, 2018, reached $365,000 (U.S.), sending a lucky fan home with 50% of the jackpot and the rest going to charities.
With fans unable to attend but still eager to be part of the action, the Oilers took their 50/50 raffle online this month. Saturday’s drawing shattered the record by coming in at about $571,000 to be split between the winner and the charities.
According to the CBC, the action was so frantic that fans crashed the server.
But the real excitement was yet to come.
The mother of all 50/50 raffles
Interest in the multistate lotteries like the Mega Millions drawings tends to wane once someone wins the top prize. After six or seven drawings in a row with no winner, lines at supermarkets grow longer as more people aspire to beat the astronomical odds.
There was no such lull in the action this week in Edmonton, even with the 50/50 raffle jackpot starting over at zero. By the time online entries were cut off on Monday, the prize pool had reached $2.45 million. Some $350,000 came in over the final hour despite a fresh round of problems caused by overwhelmed computers.
With half the money going to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, the person possessing ticket A-13893018 still bagged a record $1,222,600.