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.

  • Hemmertime

    Also, recent picture you posted looks even more like the BTK killer than your profile one.

    So, I guess good job on diet… and stay the hell away from me.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    *kisses the ground*

    I like it, too.

    Robin, your hockey stuff is awesome, but please keep on fitting in an article here or there like your Father’s Day entry last year. That’s still the best thing I’ve read on this site.

  • What’s interesting about this story (and ON) is this idea of pooling financial resources by donation for first-hand issue-specific reporting.

    The shortcoming of initiatives like indiemedia.org (which, don’t get me wrong, is a useful and important resource) lies in their inability to provide financial resources for consistent, first hand reporting from experienced/trusted writers. I wonder how prescient the ON response to disatisfaction with MSM is.

    Maybe it’s the ultimate story-by-story commodification of news delivery, whereby the audience is only exposed to the stories and issues with which they’re concerned – a kind of tunnel-vision sampling of news events. Realistically, this is probably how most people consume ‘their’ news already.

    Overall I’m really jazzed about the excitement in RB’s article about being unbeholden to his editor or whatever giant media conglomerate owns the media vehicle which employs him. The ‘new’ news might lack in broader perspective, but maybe it’ll be free of undue influence from owners and shareholders.

    In truth, I just like reading pieces in which a writer amplifies his or her voice, rather than trying to subvert it.

    Thanks, keep it up.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I have to ask the most pertinent question — Brownlee, where’s the rest of you?!!!

    I mean, you is looking pretty damn lean in the picture. Well done!!!


    • Thanks, I appreciate that.

      I’ve always been a load. I’m six-foot-two and I played lacrosse at 220 and football at 240 as a teenager.

      I’ve lost 55 pounds, but I still weigh 260 and I’ve got 40 more pounds to go to hit 220 again for the first time since Grade 9.

      Sitting behind a laptop writing about sports instead of playing them for 27 years sneaks up on you. I almost sh*t myself when I stepped on the scale four months ago and it said 315 pounds. I feel a helluva lot better already and I’m not done yet.

  • lj

    Isn’t this the whole point? ie doing what you love on your own terms?

    Good for you Ruben – bet your old MSM buddies, while loathe to admit it, are jealous as hell. and hey – isn’t that the whole point, as well?

    *gratuitous use of italics intentional*

    **I think

    ***love your stuff, Brownlee.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As someone who has enjoyed reading your stuff for 25 yrs now Robin that is really good news. I don’t know what i envy more, your grasp of the english language or your being part of the greatest game in the world. As a person who struggles with grammar, spelling and the language in general i really enjoy reading what a hockey mind that knows more than we do has to say about our beloved game. Reading your articles always comes across crystal clear. Oilernation has allowed us to get to know you just a little more and realize that you do enjoy the odd good laugh, and when you tee off on someone i’m glad its not me.

    It’s a bit of a bummer we don’t get to hear you Monday to Friday on 1260 but you and only you know if that’s possible.

    Always had you pegged for a Mac user……best wishes Mr. Brownlee……Brian

  • Truth be told, as a Sherwood Park raised kid living in Toronto for the last 25 years, and a hardcore Oiler fan thru and thru, I have been coming to Oilers nation for a couple years now and I come here FIRST for relevant articles and opinions.. then off to MSM for the standard format, easy and boring news items (items that I already know from ON articles/reports).

    Good stuff guys (all of ya). Being out east, a site like this sure makes me feel like I am still just a short drive to Rexall, and I do love that… and, I get to make fun of the Leafs on a daily basis to all their hardcore (read -> idiot, fans)…

    Again, keep it up…


  • wiggs22

    I don’t write much but i do read every article everyone writes here. I love the points of view and all the trade talk and ideas! This site is so much fun.
    Please don’t ever leave, your witty and you have great ideas and man can you give it as well as take it!

    What business are you looking at getting into… you have a customer right here….For life!

    Keep it up!


  • JonW

    Oilersnation rocks ! I’m from Halifax and recently stumbled across the nation .being a fan of the oil since 1981 . This is the first site I go to when I turn on my computer ….. I think I’m sold on the nation , keep up the good work .

  • Hemmertime

    Good read. I love your perspective on this vs MSM now. Glad to see you’re going to continue for this (not as much as before) little site rather than giving it up for the business. Good luck with the business endeavor and I fully expect you to exploit our loyalty by telling us to purchase goods (or services) from it in the future. I would demand nothing less.

  • JonW

    Atta boy Brownlee. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Can’t wait to move back to edmonton from Halifax so I can start watching games they they were meant to be watched. LIVE!!