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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Recently around the Nation Network

    • There’s no doubt that what Lowe said was true. If you’d asked me yesterday whether the team cared more about the season ticket holders, I’d have said ‘Obviously.’

      If you’d asked me, ‘Would an executive with the team ever publicly point out that they care way more about the season ticket holders?’ I’d have said, ‘No, they aren’t dumb enough to do that.’

      • outdoorzguy

        If you’d asked me, ‘Would an executive with the team ever publicly point out that they care way more about the season ticket holders?’ I’d have said, ‘No, they aren’t dumb enough to do that.’

        Kevin Lowe sure is stupid enough!!

        He should do the right thing…resign. After all the rage over Tiger Woods not withdrawing from the Masters because he dropped his ball three feet behind his original one, you’d think there would be a deafening roar for Loser Lowe to resign. Just think of how many people he pissed off. Almost all of a city (minus the 14000 season ticket holders), all of the sponsors, all of the bars and restaurants who televise the games, all of the single parents or families who can’t afford to go to a game.

        This idiot has proven nothing, other than how to dismantle a team. Maybe if he took those 6 cups out of his ass he’d be able to figure it out.

  • Reg Dunlop

    As a season ticket holder and an extremely valuable fan I would like to request that all the TV riff raff pseudo-fans here be immediately silenced. Your opinion means nothing to me and my close, personal friends Kevin and Daryl.

    My true opinion of this day is that it is all a smokescreen, a diversion from the anger we all felt at the boot-jacking Calgary handed us. Bottom line, Oilers have many non-NHL players and players who lack the character to give their best effort all season long.

  • 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.

  • slats432

    Though I am not really a fan because I have children and am raising a family and can’t afford season tickets, I still have an opinion on the current state of the Oilers.

    From top to bottom, owner to players, to Joey f**king Moss. The Oilers are a joke.

    And I have loved the Oilers since I was a kid growing up in the eighties.

    F**k Em.

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        i assume he wont have the stones to show up and defend his comment either.

        i 100% get the frustrations today. i dont get taking a shot at the guy who folds the towels and vacuums the floor.

    • positivebrontefan

      Dude. If you have any brains retract this idiotic statement.
      It’s fine to go on a rant, but please leave someone who has done nothing to you or anyone else out of this. He has done nothing but worn his heart on his sleeve and may very well be the greatest fan any team has. Joey has touched alot of people’s lives and is not deserving of this comment.
      I would have to ask that if you do not edit it with an apology that the moderators do so for you.

  • what scares me is the comments on impatience that mac T made. Yes Tambellini was far to patient and the moves he made (we presume he made the decisions over) were for the most part, terrible. I would hope for the sake of the oilers that impatience does not lead to selling off assets for intangible things such as ‘grittyness’ or whatever word you want to describe it as. As Lowetide put it, this team needs hockey players, not speciality rolls that players like Mike Brown fill. I would also hope that age is taken into account in the moves this team makes. The priority should be finding affordable hockey players in their mid 20’s, not early 30s, and I would be very worried about trading players with a lot of potential for these things.

    David Clarkson or Milan Lucic would not be the answer Edmonton. Anyone who thinks they are is misinformed over how a good hockey team plays. This team lacks the ability to possess the puck and drive the play. Evidence is in their lack of improvement in scoring chances created.

  • Lowe simply being subjective rather than being objective. Lowe needs to get off the high and needs to ground himself. Being a hardcore fan from Vancouver is tough and you can only say that Oilers has 5 cups and the Canucks had 0 so many times. I like the Mac T move and hopefully he makes smarter and bolder moves than Tambo. Free agents here comes the Oilers.

    • oilerjed

      WRONG! From an oiler fan on VI that is a card we can play over and over in an endless loop until the west coast falls into the sea. Because there is one thing to remind The “we are all canucks” loons is that it is true they may have won the NW again but they still cant do the one thing they are in the league for. Win just ONE cup. Screw them!

  • Ducey

    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.

    Well said.

    In this day an age of instant messaging and blogs people love nothing more than to jump on every little comment anyone in the public eye makes.

    If the Oilers make some shrewd moves over the summer, Lowe’s blather won’t matter.

    Don’t underestimate the impact of Howson. He has the requisite law degree and experience and is key to this deal.

    • outdoorzguy can’t be serious?! Looks like losing has really got to Alberta’s minds. Howson got fleeced on Carter/Vermette & Nash….guy should be picking up sticks…
      And, Mac T is another recycled ex-player – whose ignorance as a whole destroy the game & many franchises….more losing in store for the OIL

  • outdoorzguy

    I thought his bit about not being the decision maker over the last few years was interesting.

    Woodguy, over on LT’s site, noted this from a Gregor interview with Lowe.

    From April 25th, 2012: “Meanwhile in Edmonton, Kevin Lowe was interviewed by Jason Gregor.

    When Gregor asked:

    Steve Tambellini is the GM, and you have said on record that he’s the guy who makes the decisions. He came out and said, “Tom Renney take a few weeks off. I’m going away for a few weeks and then we’ll make our decision.” Does he come back to you with his thoughts, or how do the dynamics actually work right now in the Oiler’s hierarchy?

    Lowe responded:

    “Yeah. Steve will make the recommendations as to what he thinks the team needs to do moving forward, and he and I will discuss them as we have done for the last number of years. When Steve made the recommendation to hire Pat, and I thought that was a good idea

    Woordguy’s take: “For everyone who says that Lowe is not in charge and that its Tambellini’s team, well you have it right from Kevin Lowe that he still makes the decisions.

    Steve Tambellini – General Manager of making recommendations”

    Lowe made statements that would appear to be contradicted by his own words on Gregor’s show.

  • 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.