Oilers fans book the trip of a lifetime on charter plane to see Game 7 in Florida

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Mark Beck figures it’s in the top three craziest things he has done — and he won’t be talking about the other two.

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But the last-minute charter flight he got off the ground from Edmonton to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, with a pit stop in Kansas City to empty the toilets and fill up with fuel, will be something he recounts over and over.

Especially if the Oilers put the capper on this impulsive venture by beating the Florida Panthers on Monday night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Beck, a forty-something lifelong Oilers fan who has season tickets at Rogers Place, decided on Thursday, the day before Game 6, that not only would there be a Game 7, but he and a bunch of co-workers and old friends — as well as some strangers who would become fast friends — were going to be in Amerant Bank Arena for that deciding tilt.

“We pulled the trigger on Thursday. It was a ballsy move, very bold,” he said.

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He arranged a charter flight through North Cariboo Air in Edmonton. The company just happened to have an Avro RJ100 available. With room for 100 passengers and a range of 2,465 kilometres, it seemed perfect for the job. Beck just had to fill it.

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“So I called Jason Gregor from the Gregor (radio) show and said ‘Gregor, I need your help.’ He said don’t worry Beck, it will sell out. He announced it and within half an hour we had all our good buddies and about 60 other people all signed up and we booked the plane within half an hour.”

Ninety-five passengers paid about $2,540 each to cover the cost of the plane, which ran to about $241,000.

“When the e-mail chain started, I picked the guys who wanted the most seats, to make my life easier as I had to navigate this whole thing,” Beck said. “So yeah, there are a couple companies involved.”

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They had themselves quite a party on the way down.

“It was basically an all-inclusive,” Beck said with a laugh.

The operations manager for HML Landscape Construction and Design said he couldn’t be happier with how fast everything came together and how the hockey trip of a lifetime was progressing on Monday.

“This is the best day of my life,” he said from the Four Seasons Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. “I have never felt so good. We had the whole pool chanting ‘Go Oilers, Go,’ and even the kids were screaming in the pool there at the Four Seasons. Even Daryl was laughing. It was good. Today is a big day for everybody.”

Daryl would be Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, who just happened to be sitting next to Beck at the pool.

“Right beside us, and we BS’ed with him,” Beck said. “My first question to him, I was so nervous, I said ‘you going to the game tonight?’ He was like, what do you think? No joke. I was so nervous. What are the chances I’m sitting beside this guy, who owns the Oilers? It was the coolest thing in the world.”

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All 95 charter passengers have arranged tickets for the game, some in luxury suites, others in the seats. They will head to the game early in a chartered bus and they don’t plan on returning to their hotel rooms. The return flight to Edmonton is scheduled to leave on the same plane at 8 a.m. Tuesday from the airport in Fort Lauderdale.

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“So as of now none of us are going to sleep tonight.”

And they are hoping to celebrate all the way home.

“I have 94 of the best friends I have ever met in my life,” Beck said. “I met some really cool, successful, awesome people from all over Alberta. It’s been awesome.”

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