EDMONTON - Much of the controversy surrounding the Octane seemed like a bunch of hot air.
The Edmonton Oilers introduced the first ever cheer team for a Canadian-based NHL team on Tuesday—the Octane—when they took on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rexall Place, but there was hardly anything about the Octane to fuel controversy.
The 19-member team of women aged 18 to 29 were officially introduced after the first period when most fans had left their seats.
Dressed in outfits that resembled Oilers retro jerseys with short skirts and white knee-high boots, the cheerleading squad was only seen twice more, dancing separately at entrances to the seating area during the second period and then on the video screen during the second intermission doing a routine on the concourse.
The debut went almost completely unnoticed by the players themselves.
"I didn't pay attention," said Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle. "To be honest it doesn't really affect us. I didn't even know we were doing it until someone asked me about it earlier today. It's really not a big deal."
When the cheer team, which also helped out with in-game promotions, was first announced earlier this season, Oilers president Patrick LaForge said it would "enhance the in-game experience."
Cheerleaders already existed in 23 NHL arenas but Edmonton is the first team north of the border to start a squad.
More than 100 candidates tried out for the Octane, who have trained for the past six weeks.
"Since announcing the creation of the first-ever Canadian NHL Cheer Team, we've received tremendous interest from the dance, cheer and gymnastics communities across Oil Country," said Allan Watt, Oilers vice-president communications and broadcast.
In addition to performing at Oilers home games, the Octane will take part in charity fund raising and have a calendar that will be available later this month.