It's been a long time and an unusual road travelled to get to this day.

Producing a passport that shows he was born Sept. 31, 1959, Ralph Krueger will climb on a plane to Vancouver today for his first game as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, and as a head coach in the NHL.

"I'd be fooling people if I told them I wasn't very excited and if I claimed I didn't have any anxiety waiting eight months to begin. But after just six days of practices I feel that this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm dealing with pleasure and excitement, not fear.

"I'm quite comfortable where we're at. I feel very relaxed and very prepared. That's the key as a coach. You eliminate all fear if you've done what you can do. I feel we've done that in this short period of time. I feel excited to get back at playing and coaching, and I'm going to have a lot of fun. And I quite like the idea that we're opening the season in Vancouver."

When the schedule came out for this lockout-shortened season and the Oilers ended up opening Sunday in Vancouver, most fans weren't happy, but Krueger had a little smile on his face.

"My last game as a head coach was in that rink, in a 2-0 loss to the U.S.A. at the 2010 Olympics," said the former national coach of Switzerland. "I'll be going back to that rink with a smile on my face. I like that building."

Krueger heads to his debut as an NHL head coach knowing he'll have plenty of people in Europe cheering for him.

"There will be more than a few coaches hoping that I'm successful so they might one day have an opportunity to coach an NHL team. I feel I have a real responsibility to all European-based coaches.