‘Celebrate the wins:’ Family of tiny Oilers fan cheers team on from hospital

A hospital room in Saskatoon has become a cheering section for perhaps the youngest and tiniest fan of the Edmonton Oilers.

Baby Mark’s hospital bed at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital is adorned with orange and blue memorabilia, including a hockey stick, pucks and a sign that reads Baby’s 1st Stanley Cup Playoff.

The fourth-generation Oilers fan is just shy of three months old and weighs in at five pounds. 

He’s been in hospital since he was born 12 weeks premature at just two pounds, hooked up to ventilation and breathing tubes.

Nurses at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital decorated the room of Mark Lay with Edmonton Oilers memorabilia as shown here on Monday June 10, 2024. The fourth generation Oilers fan is just shy of three months old and weighs in at approximately five pounds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Katelyn Lay

The last few months have been tough for Mark’s parents, Katelyn and Tyson Lay, and his older brother, two-year-old John. 

“We’re trying to focus on the positive. Take it day by day and celebrate the wins. Mark’s a fighter,” Katelyn Lay said in a phone interview Wednesday from the hospital. 

The family has formed a special bond with the hospital’s nurses, who have provided endless care and information during Mark’s hospitalization. During a recent conversation, Lay told one nurse that Mark and his father were excited for the Stanley Cup final, as they are diehard Oilers fans.

The team is heading into Game 3 on Thursday against the Florida Panthers for the National Hockey League’s top prize. 

“I mentioned how my husband’s just a huge fan, and the next day there was handmade decorations everywhere, and they just lit up the room,” said Lay, 28. 

The nurse decorated Mark’s bed with small signs with the Oilers logo and other memorabilia. His parents also purchased the smallest jersey they could find, which fits more like a blanket on the wee one, and held a photo shoot on Monday. 

“It’s pretty unbelievable, because it just kind of takes your mind off of your situation and try to get some normalcy,” said the mother.

“It’s really amazing that the nurses take the time to do those kinds of things for the parents and, essentially, for the babies.”

The Saskatchewan-born family lives just outside Loon Lake near the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary. Lay said the area is home to a large number of Oilers fans.

The family’s loyalty to the Oilers runs so deep that Lay’s parents-in-law named one of their sons Mark after NHL great Mark Messier, who played for the Oilers for 12 seasons. 

The name Mark has now been passed down to Lay’s youngest child. 

Asked if she shares the same enthusiasm for Edmonton’s home team as her husband, Lay chuckled and said she married into the fandom. 

“My dad is a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I was fairly neutral coming into this relationship, but it kind of came with the wedding vows.”

She said she also knew that meant her kids would be Oilers fans as well. 

The team is trying to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since Messier and company hoisted Lord Stanley’s trophy in 1990. 

The team is currently down 2-0 to the Panthers in the seven-game series.

“It’s not a great start. But, like Mark, they just need to take it game-by-game and stay positive,” Lay said.

The family is also revelling in a win that hits a little closer to home. Mark had his breathing tube removed for the first time on Wednesday.

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