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.

Recently around the Nation Network

  • 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.

  • I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.. I think Lowe should be gone. I think he’s a better guy than people give credit for.. I think his heart is in the right place, it’s just he’s doing things wrong, saying the wrong things…

    But today’s comments seem to be similar to MacTavish’s before he stepped down. Might be the actions of a guy who sees the writing on the wall… he’s next if things don’t go well next year.

  • Ducey

    If there is something for Kevin Lowe to learn…….it’s about messaging. It’s also speaks to needing a comprehensive communication strategy, that incorporates PR professionals that can help guide the process.

    The Oilers have under Katz ownership have been operating in a public arena using a private buiness model for a communication strategy.

    Silence by Lowe and Katz and empty words ( like only Tamby could do) have amounted to a full scale backlash.

    It’s time for the Oilers to hire some marketing/PR professionals……..their image is in tatters.

    • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

      Actually they do have a few of these people. However, they do not tell management what spin is going to be put, but instead it’s the other way around. The current ones are told what to do, and not allowed to actually tell new narratives. I only know this after speaking to one of the higher ups for a job in this field, it was clear new ideas and narratives are not what the PR job is about.

      But, you know, boyz on the bus, so it really isn’t that surprising to find out the organization is interesting in talking about anything new, other than how bright our future looks.

  • TDSM31

    The next person in line to be forced to do something immediately within the Oilers organization is J.J. Hebert…he better make damn sure he gets Kevin Lowe in front of the media to retract/clarify some of the statments he made in the presser today.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    So my ten jerseys, thirteen hats and countless shirts and other various memorabilia…

    Plus the countless pay-per-views, actually everyone of them…

    …Makes me less important of a fan because I didn’t have the disposable income to spend on overpriced season tickets.

    What a complete idiotic fool.

  • 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.

  • Leef O'Golin

    Easy there, KLowe. I’m a life-long fan now living in Calgary. I take my kids up to E-town once a year to watch a game at Rexall. I’m not the richest guy on the block so this is quite the extravagance for me, but it’s our little tradition. I’ve bought jserseys online for both my boys and me over the last couple of years. I’m not sure if I fall into your neatly delineated taxonomy of fans there, but you would be wise not to alienate that fan base as there are many Oilfans outside of YEG.

    Oh, and as the brother of someone with Down Syndrome I caution everyone to leave Joey Moss out of this discussion. End of story.

  • slats432

    I don’t think I’ll wear my Oilers gear around PDX anymore. I don’t want to be known as THAT fan…

    I was the more importantly regarded fan until ’96 when I moved to the US as my life required. Then I became THAT fan who has owned the NHL package since ’99 to watch the Oilers, bought 4 jerseys and just finished drinking out of my Oilers coffee cup (at least it wasn’t KoolAid)but has only been able to attend one game in the last 10 years (3-0 loss to Minny – good game there Klowe!).

    Should I tell my 10 year old that he is also THAT fan too?

  • Dipstick

    a very well written article. i was one of those “non season ticket holding” class of fans very put off by kevin lowe’s attitude this morning, and wrote anangry bog expressing that. i don’t forgive him for what he said and have no respect for lack of responsibility he takes for the teams predicament. however, don’t we owe mact a chance to turn the teams fortunes? perhaps, he’ll stand up to lowe and be able to make meaningfull trades and free agent signings. i know it seems like same puppet master different puppet, but i’m willing to give mact the draft and free agency to see what he can do.

  • “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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

      Wow..you 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.