I’m not sure if it’s blind loyalty, stupidity or simply a lack of options, but fans of the Edmonton Oilers obviously aren’t easily discouraged as they continue to buy the failure their hockey team is selling them.
The 16,839 who showed up Friday to watch the Oilers get waxed 5-0 by the St. Louis Blues represented the 228th consecutive sell-out at Rexall Place, a stretch of packed houses dating back to Nov. 29, 2005.
That’s a lot of money for tickets and parking, jerseys and hotdogs. That’s a lot of clicks on the family SUV driving in from Leduc or Lloydminster or Devon. That’s a lot of time standing in line for beer and washrooms. All told, those 228 sell-outs represent a big investment by fans, financially and otherwise.
There aren’t many NHL cities where so many show up so often and get so little in return — with a 10-18-4 record at Rexall Place after taking a collar from the Blues, the Oilers are on the way to setting a franchise record for fewest wins in a full season (15 in 1995-96) at home.
It must be the boom-box bumpa-thumpa or Octane that keeps ’em lining up at the turnstiles because the Oilers game-night presentation seems to be selling like hotcakes without the benefit of what, you’d think, is the most important component of all — success on the ice.
This is a hockey town, to be sure.
HOME SWEET HOME
I’m not sure what a pair of good tickets in the lower bowl costs, but I’m guessing it’s plenty. Likewise, the beer and the jerseys and the parking and the rest of it that comes with filing into a crumbling old rink that’s been around since 1974 and cheering for a team that loses more than it wins at home. Tough sell? Apparently not.
The Oilers have 10 wins in 32 home games this season. They had 18 home wins in 2009-10, another 18 in 2008-09, 23 in 2007-08 and 19 in 2006-07. As it stands, with a second straight 30th-place finish in reach, the Oilers could hit 237 straight sell-outs by the end of the season.
For all the great work Don Metz and his crew do to jazz up the game-night experience, all the energy Mark Scholz puts into yelling at us during promos on play breaks, it’s all style over substance as the losses keep coming. While the Oilers are doing their best to provide bang-for-the-buck off the ice, they certainly haven’t delivered on the ice.
Despite facing a fifth straight season out of the playoffs, the fans keep coming. They keep driving in. They keep lining up. There is, after all, a rebuild on the go and better days on the way. At least that’s part of the sales pitch now. Hope sells.
Watching another sell-out crowd file out of a rink that was about as quiet as a library on Friday night, I couldn’t help but wonder when, or if, actual success will become a factor in the Oilers marketing plan.
WHILE I’M AT IT
— While the looming NHL trade deadline will dominate the headlines between now and Monday, Tyler Seguin will attract plenty of media attention locally when the Boston Bruins arrive for Sunday’s game against the Oilers. We’re likely not going to get much of a crack at Seguin, though, as the Bruins face the Canucks in Vancouver tonight then fly in after the game. I’m guessing Sunday’s pre-game skate will be optional.
— Save for Gerry O’Flaherty rattling around by himself, there wasn’t much action on scouts row in the press box at Rexall Place Friday. No sign of Rob Laird from Los Angeles, who was in Denver. Most pro scouting staffs have done their due diligence and are back in their respective territories filing reports for their GMs.
— Barring a gross overpayment, word is Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi is highly unlikely to move Brayden Schenn, so if he and Steve Tambellini are going to get something done, it’ll more than likely be a move involving other names already out there — Vyacheslav Voynov, Kyle Clifford, Wayne Simmonds.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.