Kevin Lowe: “We have two types of fans.”

Jonathan Willis
April 15 2013 03:46PM

It’s difficult to sell renewal in a press conference when the new general manager is coming from within, and so it was perhaps unsurprising that the Oilers brass took some hot questions this morning, most notably from the Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, team president Kevin Lowe did not handle a number of them very well.

Two Types of Fans

A noticeably aggravated Lowe initially responded to a question from MacKinnon by dividing Oilers fans into two separate tiers of different value to the team:

We have two types of fans: we have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about but certainly the people that go to the games and support we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message.

On one level, it’s a fair distinction to make. The NHL is very much a gate-driven league, and from a business perspective the most important people to the Oilers are the ones shelling out cash for tickets to every game.

On another level, it’s a breathtakingly stupid thing to say given that a) the fans that go to the games regularly represent a minority of an extremely large fanbase and b) the fans that aren’t regularly in attendance at Rexall still mean a great deal to the financial fortunes of the team. They’re the people who make the Oilers television rights valuable, they’re the people who buy the majority of the team’s merchandise, and to some non-trivial degree they’re also the people that need to be sold on community involvement in a new arena.

From a public relations perspective, there’s simply no reason to remind this rather large group of devoted fans that they matter much less to the organization than the folks shelling out big money for season tickets. That’s one of the things that can be expressed to season-ticket holders in private.

Count My Stanley Cup Rings

And then Lowe kept going. After professing that half the teams in the league would love to trade rosters with Edmonton, he said this:

In terms of the group that messed things up, you’re talking about the group that had a team one period away from winning the Stanley Cup, and you know the cycle of that. You know that we chased a dream for a few years, for our fanbase, like a lot of teams do. And then at some point in that timeframe we realized that’s a bad plan and we made a change. We’re finishing year three of that plan. Are you saying to me you’re getting impatient after three years? And lastly I’ll say, there’s one other guy I believe in hockey today, that is still working in the game, that has won more Stanley Cups than me, so I think I know a little bit about winning if that’s ever a concern.

The point about the team in 2005-06 is a valid one, to be sure; the fact is that the Oilers under Lowe weren’t nearly as bad as they became under Tambellini.

But Lowe’s comment on his Stanley Cup victories as a player was both tone-deaf and irrelevant. Tone-deaf because many fans had already written off the hiring of MacTavish as yet another example of hiring the familiar person rather than the best person available; reminding everyone about the 1980’s simply underscored the notion that this club is living off past achievements. Irrelevant, because the job of a manager and a hockey player is quite different: there is certainly some cross-over but the athletic talents that make a player great don’t necessarily make him a great executive. Wayne Gretzky was a far better hockey player than Scotty Bowman, but in terms of coaching careers there can be no question which had a greater impact; one only needs to look at the management of the last few Stanley Cup winners to realize that a law degree in a lot of cases is a better indicator of management prowess than achievements on the ice.

Does it matter?

The good news for the Oilers organization is that what was said today really doesn’t matter, a point Craig MacTavish repeatedly emphasized during the availability:

It makes very little difference what I say today. What really, truly, matters is what we do tomorrow as an organization to get better. If I can come in here and sell you guys on my capability and credibility to do the job today means nothing tomorrow.

Kevin Lowe bungled things badly at the press conference today. But if, in Craig MacTavish, he found the man who can build Edmonton into a Stanley Cup contender, nobody will remember or care about a few ill-advised comments.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 oilerjed
April 16 2013, 02:14PM
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Nis002 wrote:

Lowe simply being subjective rather than being objective. Lowe needs to get off the high and needs to ground himself. Being a hardcore fan from Vancouver is tough and you can only say that Oilers has 5 cups and the Canucks had 0 so many times. I like the Mac T move and hopefully he makes smarter and bolder moves than Tambo. Free agents here comes the Oilers.

WRONG! From an oiler fan on VI that is a card we can play over and over in an endless loop until the west coast falls into the sea. Because there is one thing to remind The "we are all canucks" loons is that it is true they may have won the NW again but they still cant do the one thing they are in the league for. Win just ONE cup. Screw them!

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#102 Scott in Grande Prairie
April 16 2013, 02:58PM
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Of all the people on this post so far, StHenriOilBomb seems the most realistic and grounded. Kudos to you for your reality-based comments.

Listen - I suppose I should have been offended by Kevin Lowe's comments yesterday because I'm definitely in the second-tier (i.e. lower-tier) of fans who don't have season tickets, but I wasn't, really. Of course I expect the team to care more for the people who shell out thousands for season tickets each year. That's business. The casinos in Vegas comp the high-rollers ... they don't comp people like me. I'm not offended by that.

But there's another reason why I'm not overly offended and it's this: I don't really think Kevin Lowe means it.

I think what we saw yesterday was Kevin-Lowe-the-Player coming out of him. Those of us of a certain vintage will recall that he was quite the hot-head as a player. They didn't call him "Killer" for nothing. There were many-a-scrum (and many Battles of Alberta) where Lowe would simply snap and do something that he'd later regret.

Now, back then, it was considered endearing because it often took place against sworn enemies (Calgary, NYI, Philly, etc.). Heck, even in recent memory it's been endearing. Remember when Lowe and Brian Burke had their feud a few years ago after the Oilers signed Penner? That was Lowe-the-Player coming out.

Sometimes it should come out, sometimes it shouldn't. Yesterday, it shouldn't have. And I'm sure Lowe regrets it. But let's move on.

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#103 Sailboat165
April 16 2013, 03:14PM
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I think it's pretty obvious that the team they have in place is not getting it done, nor will they. They have to get bigger up front. It's really sickening to watch the young guys getting roughed up and all they can do to retaliate is send in Mike Brown. He's an ok scrapper for his size, but he's not an enforcer to put fear in most teams. I think for starters they need to trade RNH , Hemsky, and give away Horkoff for a McHappy meal. Give us just one big forward with some gonads for the 3 of em. I'm sick of watching all the talent going into corners in fear for their lives. Why they ever signed Hemsky for 5 mil is beyond me- Eberle is a mil - they should trade paychecks

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#104 ed back in canada
April 16 2013, 04:55PM
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Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

Of all the people on this post so far, StHenriOilBomb seems the most realistic and grounded. Kudos to you for your reality-based comments.

Listen - I suppose I should have been offended by Kevin Lowe's comments yesterday because I'm definitely in the second-tier (i.e. lower-tier) of fans who don't have season tickets, but I wasn't, really. Of course I expect the team to care more for the people who shell out thousands for season tickets each year. That's business. The casinos in Vegas comp the high-rollers ... they don't comp people like me. I'm not offended by that.

But there's another reason why I'm not overly offended and it's this: I don't really think Kevin Lowe means it.

I think what we saw yesterday was Kevin-Lowe-the-Player coming out of him. Those of us of a certain vintage will recall that he was quite the hot-head as a player. They didn't call him "Killer" for nothing. There were many-a-scrum (and many Battles of Alberta) where Lowe would simply snap and do something that he'd later regret.

Now, back then, it was considered endearing because it often took place against sworn enemies (Calgary, NYI, Philly, etc.). Heck, even in recent memory it's been endearing. Remember when Lowe and Brian Burke had their feud a few years ago after the Oilers signed Penner? That was Lowe-the-Player coming out.

Sometimes it should come out, sometimes it shouldn't. Yesterday, it shouldn't have. And I'm sure Lowe regrets it. But let's move on.

It's one thing to loose your composur as a 25 year old player in the midst of a battle. Quite another as a 50 year old senior executive when asked a question that should have been totally expected.

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#105 Tim
April 17 2013, 10:50AM
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I'm a season ticket holder .... I hate what was said by Kevin Lowe, it's divisive, unproductive and pits fan against fan. Not a good move when all fans are looking for reasons to support the Oilers period ! Every season ticket was a fan 1st .... season ticket holder second. The comment was insulting to all fans STH or not.

If I was a fan wanting to buy Seasons, I would now think twice ... however, there will likely be quite a few for sale.

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#106 Jay in Calgary
April 18 2013, 12:03AM
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Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

Of all the people on this post so far, StHenriOilBomb seems the most realistic and grounded. Kudos to you for your reality-based comments.

Listen - I suppose I should have been offended by Kevin Lowe's comments yesterday because I'm definitely in the second-tier (i.e. lower-tier) of fans who don't have season tickets, but I wasn't, really. Of course I expect the team to care more for the people who shell out thousands for season tickets each year. That's business. The casinos in Vegas comp the high-rollers ... they don't comp people like me. I'm not offended by that.

But there's another reason why I'm not overly offended and it's this: I don't really think Kevin Lowe means it.

I think what we saw yesterday was Kevin-Lowe-the-Player coming out of him. Those of us of a certain vintage will recall that he was quite the hot-head as a player. They didn't call him "Killer" for nothing. There were many-a-scrum (and many Battles of Alberta) where Lowe would simply snap and do something that he'd later regret.

Now, back then, it was considered endearing because it often took place against sworn enemies (Calgary, NYI, Philly, etc.). Heck, even in recent memory it's been endearing. Remember when Lowe and Brian Burke had their feud a few years ago after the Oilers signed Penner? That was Lowe-the-Player coming out.

Sometimes it should come out, sometimes it shouldn't. Yesterday, it shouldn't have. And I'm sure Lowe regrets it. But let's move on.

Actually - Doug Gilmour was "Killer"...Kevin Lowe, I believe, was Vicious (or Vish)

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#107 gman
April 19 2013, 12:43PM
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get rid of smyth, horcoff, and hemsky and bring in two big centers that can play the corners and a good backup goalie for starters

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#108 gman
April 19 2013, 12:44PM
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ps: lowe needs to go. the man is like a black cloud with or without all hi rings

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#109 gman
April 19 2013, 01:00PM
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if gagner cannot figure out how to win faceoffs maybe he should be playing in place for smyth or hemsky

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