GDB LXXVIV: Wild on Minnesota

OilersNation – you’ve almost made it to the end.

The Oilers wrap up the final week of one of the worst seasons of hockey the City of Edmonton has ever had the misfortune of seeing and the Oil need two wins to avoid being the worst team in franchise history. Two wins doesn’t seem like a lot, but with only 24 wins in 78 games, getting two in four game will be a tough task for the Oil.

Next stop in the voyage is tonight when the Oilers face the Wild.


Linus Omark signed a two-year entry level deal with the Oilers today, because of his age he was able to sign for two years rather than the usual three-year entry deal. Steve Tambellini commented on the deal: “There is only going to be so many people with his skill and size that will make our club, and I think he’ll come and try to make the Oilers, and if not he’ll report to Oklahoma.”

I find it interesting that the Oilers expect Omark to play in the AHL if he doesn’t make the Oilers, because he could make way more money in the KHL than he would in Oklahoma.

Tambellini also took in the first two games of the Windsor/Plymouth series and while he wouldn’t comment on Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin specifically I did ask him his thoughts on if he thinks a centre can have more of a winger in game situations. “That depends. Ovechkin is a winger and Malkin is a centre. Both have impacts on the game. We have to be careful and focus that we need a lot of good young players coming, regardless of position. We will decide in June, but they are both good players; very good players."


The 37-35-7 Minnesota Wild are the opposition tonight, and thankfully they aren’t as boring as past years, but with both teams out of the playoffs there is not intriguing story line. I’ll get to some tidbits later on but the real story around the Wild that should concern Oiler fans is the rink the Wild call home. The Excel Energy Centre is quite simply – spectacular. I was in Saint Paul, Minnesota for the Rush game on Saturday,

Side note: What a comeback for the Rush. Down 11-6 going into the fourth quarter, they stormed back and tied it at 12 with fourteen seconds left, and then Brodie Merrill won it in OT. The Rush is a league best 9-4-and if any sports fans in the City of Edmonton have any interest in watching a team that is not only in the playoffs but is winning games with real energy and excitement they had need not look any further than the Edmonton Rush.

Think I am Rush crazy only because I am the play-by-play man for the team and have been able to witness this team improve substantially this season? Think again. Even OilersNation’s own L’il Wanye has been caught up in things. I used to try and tell him about the Rush all the time early in the year but stubborn as he is he would only want to talk hockey. Like with so many other Edmontonians he wouldn’t give the Rush the time of day.

But how things have changed. Not only has Wanye been to a pair of games lately but he has even started texting me to see how the team is doing. After the game on Saturday he even took it a step further texting me "HUGE WIN" after the final buzzer. To go from not even caring to following the team on untelevised road games – even a goofball like Wanye is starting to see what the Rush have become:

The winningest team in Edmonton.


After the Rush game ended I took some extra time to tour the EEC. My concclusions? When the new rink eventually gets clearance in Edmonton, they should build a clone of the EEC.

I know the Oilers honchos have toured the many rinks around the NHL to see what works best. Colorado, Toronto, Phoenix, Philly and Montreal are all great, but the ECC is now my favourite. It’s a spectacular facility. I did take some pictures on my phone, but clearly I don’t use it often enough because the lens was dirty and the pictures suck. Instead here are some stock shots from the ‘net.


The lower bowl has 26 rows in most sections, and 23 in others and has between 20-24 seats per row. There are 26 sections in the lower bowl, but the biggest difference from Rexall is you can only exit to the main level. How many of you have sat in the lower bowl watched the first period, then headed down to the bar underneath at intermission and never return back to your seat? It’s a ritual for many and you end up watching the game on the big screen downstairs. Imagine meeting your buddies or business partners while still being able to watch the game LIVE, rather than on TV.

The suites and the “club” seats have access to one massive meeting place/bar. The main club area is similar to the main concourse at Rexall Place, except it is open and you can see the ice. The site lines are spectacular. For many the hockey game has become a social meeting place, so combing the two makes perfect sense.

The food? Awesome. The Headwaters Bar and Restaurant offers a great pre-game buffet, and even boasts a fireplace for those of you who want to combine hockey and romance. Nothing says romantic like crushing a few pints, enjoying an array of pasta, chicken, veggies, soup and cheesecake in front of a fireplace prior to a sporting event.

The concourses are three times as wide as Rexall – okay probably only two – but I wheeled down there at halftime and I was able to walk around without feeling like a sardine. The 2nd level seats seem closer to the ice, and the press box is the highest seat in the building; as it should be.

Now I’m not a real artsy guy, but the design and the look of the ECC stands out. There are glass windows all around and you get a spectacular view of the surrounding area and the Mississippi River. I’ve been to the ECC before, but this time I took the time to tour the entire facility and it’s the best I’ve seen. As an aside, I haven’t been to the Devils new rink, but I’ve seen all the other new ones.

I can see why the Wild continue to have such great fan support, because even though the team hasn’t been that exciting the “In-game experience” at the ECC is world class.


So while you dream about a new rink in Edmonton here’s a few tidbits about tonight’s game.

  • Dustin Penner needs one goal to set a new career-high and be the first Oiler 30-goal man since Ryan Smyth did it in 2006/2007.
  • With Gilbert Brule done for the season, the Oilers will only have one 20-goal scorer for the first time in franchise history. Unless Ryan Potulny scores five goal – soooo it won’t happen.
  • The Oilers signed Chris Vande Velde today and he will report to Springfield. He is a 6’2” centre, who would be a 3rd liner if he makes the NHL. He is more of a shut down guy, than a scorer.
  • Sam Gagner still isn’t skating, and it looks like his season is over. Quinn doesn’t expect him to play Wednesday and is doubtful for the final two road games of the season.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin has resumed skating, and was in full gear for the first time on Friday. He took a few shots over the weekend. His back his responding well so far, and they are optimistic he will be fine come September.
  • Charles Linglet will sit out tonight. Robert Nilsson will play with Marc Pouliot and Patrick O’Sullivan, Jones/Comrie/Stortini, Moreau/Horcoff/Pisani and Penner will skate with Potulny and Cogliano.