Ever see that episode of the Twilight Zone when the guy returns to town from a long trip and finds that everyone has disappeared? He wanders around for ages, everything exactly as it should be on the surface, food burning on the stove, phones working, church bells ringing by an unseen hand…
It’s slightly unsettling to see him try and make sense of his new reality and it takes him a far lot longer than you would think to realize that everyone has actually disappeared and the world he had become accustomed to was gone. If you want to creep yourselves out, we highly recommend watching these segments as you read the rest of our first article home. We watched them all and freaked ourselves right out. Fear beats depression, just as paper beats rock.
You see, we mention this very first episode of the longtime TV institution because this is exactly how we feel upon our return to Edmonton and the viewing of our first Oilers game. On the surface things appeared the same at first, but it has soon become apparent that things are very wrong.
Have a beer, Wanye
Last night, we sat down at Wanye Manor to watch the Oilers game with our roommate with whom we have literally watched hundreds of games over the years. Fifteen minutes to puck drop, after having watched Leafs hockey for the past hour, our roommate suddenly gets up, dresses and heads for the door.
"Where are you going?" we asked curiously. "The Oil play the Penguins in like 20 minutes!"
Already halfway outside, our roommate paused for a moment, quietly closed the door and came back and sat down beside us.
"Wanye," he creepily began, "things changed while you were gone. People don’t watch Oilers games anymore. The team is just too brutal. In fact I had tickets to tonight’s game and I could barely give them away. Here, take this beer. You’re gonna need it."
And with that ominous warning he walked out the door, off to do heaven only knows what, heaven knows where.
We cracked the beer he had handed us and sat back to ponder his words. When we left the City of Champions, people were routinely screwing each other over for Oilers tickets. We recall a buddy who gave two weekend tickets to another friend of ours with the explanation that he couldn’t attend due to a "work thing." Turns out the "work thing" was actually a date he had carefully planned. Then, at some point around Wednesday, the girl broke it off with him and my friend demanded his tickets back. And back they were given. For this was a different time, Nation, when the world was how we remember it and the Oilers were a skilled team playing before sell out crowds.
Where is everybody?
Sparing you a grisly recap of a 3-2, loss we will simply say that this looks nothing like the team we left. With the exception of a handful of players, the Oilers have completely disappeared. We get the impression that if you wandered around the dressing room down at Rexall you would find an empty dressing room, deserted training centre and empty stands. The scoreboard clock still counts down, ticking off the remaining games of the season. But the helm is untended, the ship is empty and adrift. The place is completely abandoned.
Isn’t this the same squad that started 6-2 before 99% of the team caught the flu? Didn’t they also set a franchise record of wins on the road a couple of short months ago? Now what have we been left with? One win in the past 14 games? How does this happen?
Welcome to the Twilight Zone
"I’m in the middle of a nightmare I can’t wake up from. And I’ve had it, I’d like to wake up from it now" – The Last Man on Earth, episode of the Twilight Zone
As sickening as the 2-0 collapse was, it was even more disturbing to see the manner in which the announcers on TSN carved the team so deftly during the first intermission. The normal polished banter of the TSN hotstove was replaced with genuine shock and dismay for how far the team had fallen.
Someone or other suggested blowing up the roster up and starting again, only to see the normally never-at-a-loss-for-words Bob MacKenzie shake his head with emotion we can only classify as "bewildered disgust pie dusted with shame sugar" and pointed out under his breath that "no one would take half these contracts." Then the rest of the panel nodded bewilderedly and moved on to a more positive topic, like (insert non-funny topic here.)
Well, surely there is a plan at the Oilers offices though right? It isn’t as though the 1,205 hockey executives, coaches, and scouts have completely disappeared from the boardrooms, desks and offices on Kingsway Avenue have they? They must have some sort of grip on how bad things are currently and are just waiting for the opportune moment to strike right?
It isn’t as though they are so out of touch with reality that Oilers website cheerily summarizes the game as "nipped by the Pens" or try and get us to watch a quick online video of Ladislav Smid sitting at Japanese Village and sheepishly talking about some garbage or other though right?
The Oilers wouldn’t try and pass off a load of tripe like this on a fan base in the midst of the greatest crisis this franchise has ever faced would they? Surely there is someone in charge?
*insert shocked silence here*