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

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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:

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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

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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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  • positivebrontefan

    A guy like that gets angry over a question like that , he must have people saying yes to him all the time. I feel sorry for his family. Probably a bully.

  • Dyckster

    “And then Lowe kept going. After professing that half the teams in the league would love to trade rosters with Edmonton”

    If I’m Krueger, this comment ticks me off.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am a season ticket holder and I am not happy about lowes comments. This team is edmontons. The people in this city bleed copper and blue. For him to make these comments just shows what he actually believes. That this team is his and a select few that are fortunate enough to have the money for season tickets. What a complete crock. I am happy tambellini is gone and I really hope that mact gets it right. The fans deserve to have a winning team but I am not so sure management does.

    Ps I am a season ticket holder.

  • 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.

  • Lowe needs to reiterate his mistake and apologize to all of Edmonton ,as well as others . That was a major blunder he should immediately fix, or Katz should reassess his(Lowe’s) value to this city about to build a new arena . Grounds for dismissal in many minds?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Another fine example of how Kevin Lowe lets his ego get in the way of him doing his job. Was a little surprised they fired Tambellini before seasons end, maybe Lowe falls on his sword in two weeks when Katz finally shows up, Lowe just doing half of the dirty work for Katz.

  • 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.

  • vetinari

    No matter how you cut it, the optics are bad for Lowe and I suspect that he’ll fade into the background until the draft and keep out of MacT’s way (at least publicly) for the short term…

    To demonstrate what good decision-making skills Lowe has, wasn’t that him standing beside Katz when they went to inspect Seattle and indirectly threaten Oilers fans with moving the team?

    Did Lowe’s Stanley Cup rings (which he reminded us of so candidly) help him remember where he made his career as a player and as a manager?

    By Lowe’s logic, winning Cups as a player should be transferable to all other facets of the organization. Get ready Oiler fans and meet your new Octane Girl, Kevin Lowe! He’s won a few Stanley Cup rings, you know!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • The Soup Fascist

    All the Oiler blog faithful should chip in for a large bottle of whatever Mark and John like to drink. Tension, the pressing feel of of all the ‘other’ fans’ expectations weighing heavily on management shoulders has been sorely needed for a long time. Kudos gentlemen. If the Oilers blackball you, Klowe had better move to Darryl’s neighborhood in Vancouver.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I guess I’m the fan that sits at home now… I didn’t renew my days for this exact reason. Maybe if this team actually improves I may buy back in some time from now. I’m not holding my breath… Best four grand I have ever saved!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    So can I still watch on tv or should I become a jets fan?? I’m confused…. I like MacT! He’s intelligent, passionate and easy to get behind. Lowe on the other hand is a full blown limp wristed saliva drooling retard. How he got into the position he’s in instead of MacT I’ll never understand.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Here is a small list of players Oilers seem to like in past that they might try to get perhaps . D.Stafford and J. Voracek . T.Myers worth getting now that his value is dropping ?

  • outdoorzguy

    And we have two types of hockey executives… nah, I won’t go there, lol.

    I do not live in Edmonton so am part of the second group of fans, and I am not the least bit offended by Lowe’s comments. I think his comments are a sign that he’s finally getting the message that the fanbase, in its entirety, is unhappy with his management team’s performance over the past 7 years.

    I’m not sure how and where Lowe gets his feedback or if he even reads any blogs or newspaper articles, but he’s been feeling the heat over the past few weeks, if not months, if not years, and it looks like it’s getting to him.

    • wiseguy

      Obnoxious outdoorzguy, I hate Lowe (and management) as much as you do, but the name calling is juvenile and tiring. You’ve made your point; you’ve been doing it for weeks; it hasn’t and is not going to stick… adult posters aren’t going to attach a name to Lowe just because it starts with the same letter. Give it up. I agree with most of your comments but the name calling drowns out everything else you say because it undermines your credibility.

  • 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.

  • Lowe is an incredible narcissist and will never see the errors of his ways. He will continue to revel in his past glories and keep trying to tell the fans “even the 2nd tier fans” that this team is close. I’m so frustrated by him. He’s like that one guy at everyone’s job that no one likes and he ass kissed his way to the top and will continue to rub it in everyone’s faces. As much as I want to say I’m going to stop going to games or watching games (which he could care less about), I just can’t because this team is in my blood!

  • I am glad that some tough questions were asked at the presser. Lowe handled them very clumsily. I didn’t think that Lowe’s public perception from many Oilers fans could get much worse but I definitely think that it did today.

  • outdoorzguy

    Personally I never had season tickets .My parents did for several years. However over 40 years of Oiler hockey I have attended several hundred Oiler games. Back in the day I was responsible for several visits to the Edmonton Suns front page during playoffs. The journal did a story on me as the number 1 fan. Do to health issues and the fourth most expensive ticket in the league my days of going have become limited. Does that make me a second tier fan? I think not. . Even during the mid nineties I was there with maybe six thousand other fans .Kevin you were a great Oiler fun to party with but apologies are in order. New arena ticket prices will be outrageous.

  • Considering they can only put 16,000 butts in the seats at a time it is shockingly stupid to alienate the group of Oiler fans who make EVERYBODY ELSE who cannot be a “Paying Customer” in any given game.

    The Merchandise, the Cable packages, the poorly executed Pay Per View games that used to be. The Oilers are only viable because their fan base is large. No NHL franchise can survive the Tambellini era and sell out games constantly without having hundreds of thousands of potential ticket buyers.

    Not all will buy season tickets. Some can only afford to go to a few games a year, but since there are also thousands more like him or her its ok for the Oilers.

    The Hubris that Lowe shows here is as bold as his new GM claims to be.

  • positivebrontefan

    I’m just confused – I’m a mini-pack holder, so does that make me a Class 1 fan, or Class 2? So – not actually sure whether I’m allowed to comment or not. Maybe they should give badges out, like a Diamond shaped one with “Class 1” on it and a small sqaure one with nothing on it for everyone else… just to avoid the confusion…

  • TDSM31

    Lowe looked like he was an angry hyena that has been wandering in the desert just snapping at any animal that even glanced his direction. Well got to admit, I like the passion. Now put that into your players and the fans will forget some of that snappy smoke and mirrors combination.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Did anyone notice if Lowe at least took his shoes and socks off prior to putting both feet in his mouth?

    It sure didn’t take the media suckups long to start explaining away Lowe’s brutal performance today. Rishaug and Spec fell all over themselves trying to tell us we didn’t see what we saw and heard from the buffoon convention from Rexall. They even went so far as to read Lowe’s mind to explain what he intended. They must have taken a big pull on the Koolaid bottle.

    What happened guys did someone threaten to cut you off from the freebies at Rexall or maybe your press passes? What a cave-job. The E-town media spin cycle is alive and working well.

      • wiseguy

        The excuse making came after the presser on the radio. The dissembling by the media types was sickening. I couldn’t continue to listen to Stauffer and Tencer after 5 mins.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Fair enough about CHED, but honestly what did you expect from Milhouse and a guy whose check is literally signed by Daryl Katz? Stauffer is a lot of things, “stupid” is not one of them. Milhouse is … well ….. Milhouse.

          The press conference was one of the first times in a long while that some VERY tough questions were raised. I think it was very unfair to take a shot at the media as a whole just because the rights holder predictably decided to tow the line.

          Spector and MacKinnon asked excellent questions. Rishaug has put himself in “harm’s way” in the past. Give credit where credit is due.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    120 Days of Edmonton:

    get a whole bunch of your old rich friends together and seal your selves away in Château de Rexall. then take a dump on your fans through the media (the ones who arent making you millionaires properly) who are addicted to your perverse 5+ year hockey punishments.

    bravo.