OilersNation: The way we do it

Robin Brownlee at the NHL Entry Draft in LA

Let me take off my Grumpy Old Man hat for one day and say this — I’m more blogger than MSM hockey writer now, and I’m just fine with it after coming to that realization at the NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

I don’t mind saying I had a helluva lot of fun in L.A., and it’s not because I was out drinking like a pig with my old ink-stained buddies at The Conga Room or some other joint. I got all that carrying on while on the road out of my system a long time ago. I was legend.

I didn’t get sh*tfaced the night before to the point where I had to puke in a garbage can in the Staples Center the morning after. Hell, truth be told, and risking never getting a PHWA card again, I didn’t have a single drink. Not one. Tequila ain’t on the diet plan I’ve undertaken.

The reason I had a great time in Tinseltown was because I was able to write what I wanted and how I wanted for OilersNation. I could play things straight, as I often still do, like in my newspaper days, or have some fun, which is why I got into this writing business almost 30 years ago — back when it was a lot of laughs — in the first place.

I thought of that a lot when I looked out over the media riser in L.A., seeing a lot of the same old crew I used to run with hacking away at their laptops with this deadline or that deadline to meet.

I know a lot of great writers and damn good guys — Jim Matheson from The Journal, Iain MacIntyre from the Vancouver Sun, big Mike Russo from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Eric Duhatschek from The Globe and Mail, to name just a handful — in this business.

It’s a business that has been slow to change, a business that spit me out three years ago, even though I’d like to think there’s a lot of good writing left in me. They’re still at the same old thing. Having been pushed, I’m on to something new — OilersNation.

I like it. I like it a lot.

The New Way

The MSM dailies are slowly changing to meet the demands of the consumer and the appetite for immediate news-on-demand via the internet. They all have blogs and most have live updating.

Long gone are the days when you’d write something at 5pm Thursday and have it still be relevant the next morning. That stuff is DOA by the time it hits the doorstep now. They’re getting it, slowly. I’m almost as late to the party as they are, but here I am.

I like not having editors. I like not having my words re-written by some desker editing my copy and stuffing it into a news hole that’s usually been allotted before the story is even written. I always believed if that person was qualified to change my stuff, he’d be a writer.

While I haven’t come off the rails and abandoned all of the newspaper conventions I grew up with dating back to J-school — I know I often still play it too staid for a lot of you out there — I like being able to make jokes about Jesse Niinimaki. I like writing "fartcatcher."

I enjoy saying what I have to say, then hitting the send button, knowing nobody will mess with it. I like the goofy pictures Bingofuel runs with my stories. I especially like it when Wanye writes because it reminds our readers how friggin’ good I really am. I like hacking on our readers when they hack on me, which is often. And I still like getting the story first and getting it right before my MSM peers do. I can do all that at OilersNation.

After contemplating getting out of the business altogether just a few months ago to concentrate on raising Sam and help my wife run the business we’re in the process of buying, I like it enough that I’ve decided I’ll stick around awhile. I made that call in L.A. I still like chasing a story, cornering a GM, getting the dope.

Sticker Shock

I’ve got an OilersNation sticker on my laptop and I was absolutely astounded by how many times people — old pals from the dailies, fans, team PR guys, scouts, GMs etc — at the draft commented on it. "I love that site," or "Did they actually send you here?" or "WTF is OilersNation?"

I can tell you this: fans and hockey people out there are finding out fast about OilersNation, and websites like it. Being shoulder-to-shoulder in scrums, hotel lobbies and GMs meetings with the old MSM will do that.

I have no clue how our traffic or page views — fancy interweb terms I’ve learned — add up leading into and through the draft, but I’m guessing that interest will be reflected when we crunch the numbers.

With the mix of writers we’ve got at OilersNation (Jason Gregor has proven to me a radio guy is actually capable of writing, which is a revelation in itself) and the interaction — good and bad — we’ve got with an expanding legion of readers, we’re a going and a growing concern. That’s a good thing.

I don’t know if the owners of this website will ever figure out how to make any real money at it, but I hope so because I think we’re on to something here. And I think they deserve it for taking the chance.

One of my old MSM pals, one of those damn good writers still on the newspaper treadmill, asked me over the weekend, "Brownlee, who are writing for these days?"

"OilersNation," I said.

"You like it?" he said.

"I like it. I like it a lot."

Damn straight.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.