Kevin Lowe: “We have two types of fans.”

It’s difficult to sell renewal in a press conference when the new general manager is coming from within, and so it was perhaps unsurprising that the Oilers brass took some hot questions this morning, most notably from the Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, team president Kevin Lowe did not handle a number of them very well.

Two Types of Fans

A noticeably aggravated Lowe initially responded to a question from MacKinnon by dividing Oilers fans into two separate tiers of different value to the team:

We have two types of fans: we have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about but certainly the people that go to the games and support we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message.

On one level, it’s a fair distinction to make. The NHL is very much a gate-driven league, and from a business perspective the most important people to the Oilers are the ones shelling out cash for tickets to every game.

On another level, it’s a breathtakingly stupid thing to say given that a) the fans that go to the games regularly represent a minority of an extremely large fanbase and b) the fans that aren’t regularly in attendance at Rexall still mean a great deal to the financial fortunes of the team. They’re the people who make the Oilers television rights valuable, they’re the people who buy the majority of the team’s merchandise, and to some non-trivial degree they’re also the people that need to be sold on community involvement in a new arena.

From a public relations perspective, there’s simply no reason to remind this rather large group of devoted fans that they matter much less to the organization than the folks shelling out big money for season tickets. That’s one of the things that can be expressed to season-ticket holders in private.

Count My Stanley Cup Rings

And then Lowe kept going. After professing that half the teams in the league would love to trade rosters with Edmonton, he said this:

In terms of the group that messed things up, you’re talking about the group that had a team one period away from winning the Stanley Cup, and you know the cycle of that. You know that we chased a dream for a few years, for our fanbase, like a lot of teams do. And then at some point in that timeframe we realized that’s a bad plan and we made a change. We’re finishing year three of that plan. Are you saying to me you’re getting impatient after three years? And lastly I’ll say, there’s one other guy I believe in hockey today, that is still working in the game, that has won more Stanley Cups than me, so I think I know a little bit about winning if that’s ever a concern.

The point about the team in 2005-06 is a valid one, to be sure; the fact is that the Oilers under Lowe weren’t nearly as bad as they became under Tambellini.

But Lowe’s comment on his Stanley Cup victories as a player was both tone-deaf and irrelevant. Tone-deaf because many fans had already written off the hiring of MacTavish as yet another example of hiring the familiar person rather than the best person available; reminding everyone about the 1980’s simply underscored the notion that this club is living off past achievements. Irrelevant, because the job of a manager and a hockey player is quite different: there is certainly some cross-over but the athletic talents that make a player great don’t necessarily make him a great executive. Wayne Gretzky was a far better hockey player than Scotty Bowman, but in terms of coaching careers there can be no question which had a greater impact; one only needs to look at the management of the last few Stanley Cup winners to realize that a law degree in a lot of cases is a better indicator of management prowess than achievements on the ice.

Does it matter?

The good news for the Oilers organization is that what was said today really doesn’t matter, a point Craig MacTavish repeatedly emphasized during the availability:

It makes very little difference what I say today. What really, truly, matters is what we do tomorrow as an organization to get better. If I can come in here and sell you guys on my capability and credibility to do the job today means nothing tomorrow.

Kevin Lowe bungled things badly at the press conference today. But if, in Craig MacTavish, he found the man who can build Edmonton into a Stanley Cup contender, nobody will remember or care about a few ill-advised comments.

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  • Sorry for comments here kevin. Afterall, I am one of those other fans.

    I remember going to Oiler games as a Bay Blueliner. Yep, up there in the deep end, WHA days, cheering the boys. My family didnt have much, so that’s all I could afford. Sorry I wasn’t a better fan Kevin.

    Then the NHL came. I was a student at the Uof A, paying my tuition, scartched together a few dollars to attend the odd game or so. Sorry i did’nt do more.

    The I graduated! Got a job. Still couldn’t really afford tickets, but i got a jersey and watched all the games I could. I know I could have done more.

    Then I got transfered to Thunder Bay! I subscibed and got the Saturdat Journal mailed to me, before the internet came Kevin, to keep tabs on the TV. I missed the games pn ITV, but found out ITV was carried in the town of Long Lac, four hours north. I went there every Wednesday I could to watch the team. Youare boys were fantastic Keven. All those cups. I bet there would have been more if I did more.

    Then, I got transfered to calgary. Close to home! Still an Oiler fans. My kids are 21 and 18 now. Since they were 4 and 2, I bought tickets every Christmas when I came up and took my father and my two sons to a game. We have been faithfully doing it every year, except the strike years of course. But i understand, you needed more money.

    We didn’s miss this year though. We came up just a few weeks ago and say you beat calgary. My 86 year old and my sons loved it. What a tradition! Alas, it’s not enough however.

    I’m so sorry I am not an “A” fan Kevin. I havn’t missed a game on TV yet this year, I have a bunch of jesey’s, even one signed by Smyth when my son was ill and in the hospital.

    It’s not easy being a die-hard fan in calgary Kevin. My neighbours don’t like me. My co-workers are on me for the last seven years. But I stayed true. Now you don’t like me.

    On behalf of all of us, who have been there from the beginning, who grew up with the team, I’m sorry for not being a better fan.

    Now it’s your turn to apoligize to all of us.

  • outdoorzguy

    Edit:

    Substitute trainers for Joey Moss.

    It was my intention to point out the organization was a joke from top to bottom but was worded very poorly. I have nothing but respect for Joey. I can see why people took it the wrong way.

    My apologies to everyone I offended.

  • “There are two kinds of Oilers fans, and the management has disappointed them both.”

    “There are two types of Oiler fans, those that think Tambillini should have been fired, and everyone else who thinks I should be fired too.”

    “There are two types of Oiler fans, the come in copper or blue; they both have variable speeds and a really solid oscillation function that can really get a room’s airflow going.”

    “There are two types of Oilers fans, the people who come and pay our astronomical ticket and concessionary prices, and everyone else who can change the channel in the second period, and not have to watch the horrible product we’re selling.”

    “There are two types of Oilers fans, ones that constantly remind people about how good a team we used to have, and everyone else who isn’t satisfied with what we currently got.”

    “There are two types of Oilers fans, ones that hate Calgary, and ones that wish I was their president. What’s that Mac T? That’s only one kind of fan, hmmmm.”

  • outdoorzguy

    In one breath Loser Lowe compares his managerial skills to Scotty Bowman.

    Then in another breath he tells almost a million taxpayers who will pay for the new arena so his millionaire players have somewhere to work, that they don’t really matter to the team.

    Quality leadership from a real jerk.

    Arrogant

    Autocratic

    A**shole

  • Spydyr

    Stupid Lowe, real stupid.

    I can (and have) afford season tickets, I cant afford the time commitment to go to that many games with 3 small children.

    I have supported the team by, buying jerseys, paying for PPV games (thankfully gone), watching games on sportsnet, tsn and on CBC and making my way to a game when I have time.

    It makes me more than a little angry when I see any GM talk about 2 classes of fans. Especially in a shortened season due to a lock out (money grab).

    When I get emails from the oilers asking me to renew my mini season packs or re-up for season tickets, they should title the email “Grab your ankles, we are coming in dry.”

  • PlayDirty

    So everyone on here who is so offended by Lowe’s stupid comment has never made any sort of negative or rude comment about Lowe? Get some skin. Lowe’s been called everything on these boards and yet when he says what would be the closest thing to any sort of direct response, everyone gets all offended.

    We take personal shots and make completely ignorant comments at players, management, owners, supporters, haters all the time. Quit being a bunch of babies just cuz someone punches back.

    I think what he said was moronic too. I have an option just like each of you do. If it bothers you that much, speak with your wallet. Quit crying wolf.

  • Leef O'Golin

    who cares… Lowe was pissed off and showed emotion. Personally I appreciate it after 4 years of Mr Dithers making rambling pointless commentary that not only didn’t answer the question but weren’t even coherent responses.

    This team needs passion. People should get over it.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    What a complete joke,

    This arrogant, pompous asshat just solidified why he is the one who needs to go.

    As a fan of the Oilers today, I could care less how many cups he won in the past While He Was Getting Paid as a Player to WIN them; Now he’s getting Paid to put together a team of managers, coaches and players to WIN now, a fact that seems lost with him after hearing todays speech.

    • 106 and 106

      Well said, bud.

      I moved outta town to the UK this year and streamed the presser live and just felt like an idiot for doing so.

      What kind of fan am I?

      A naive one.

      Up yours too, Lowe.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I have a dream.

    That one day Oiler Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed: “We hold of these truths to be self-evident: that all Oiler’s fans are created equal”

    I have a dream that one day on the streets of Edmonton, the sons of season ticket owners and the sons of those who watch on TV, can sit down together and laugh at the Canucks.

    I have a dream that the province of Alberta will come to it’s senses and buck up the last $55 million for a beautiful rink where all Oiler fans will be welcome.

    I have a dream that my four little children will be part of an Oiler Nation where they will not be judged by the cost of their tickets or if they have tickets at all, but by the extent to which they think the Flames suck.

    I have a dream today.