Daryl Katz Reaches Out To Oilers Fans


The Edmonton Oilers’ famously reclusive owner didn’t make an appearance on Monday, but he did something else, addressing an increasingly hostile fanbase through a letter on the team’s official website.

The full text of the letter can be found there, but a few key points stand out.

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Kevin Lowe. Katz does two things with his letter with regard to the Oilers’ president. The first thing he does is defend him, citing the way Hockey Canada values Lowe’s knowledge and emphasizing his importance to the organization. The second thing he does is make it clear that Craig MacTavish is the man building the Oilers today. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. A little over a week ago I suggested that the team’s best option if they continue to find Lowe’s perspective valuable might be to give him a demotion in title; this letter falls short of that but strongly suggests that Lowe isn’t the guy pulling the levers these days. 

Emphasizing the rebuild. There was a lot of fan support in the early stages of the Oilers’ decision to build via top picks at the draft, and it’s still a policy that many will support in general. Katz’s letter puts the spotlight squarely on that strategy and in doing so urges fans to be understanding of the transition. While the owner acknowledges that Edmonton’s playoff drought will hit eight years this spring, he frames the issue in a more positive light, one that can be compared to the droughts suffered in Pittsburgh and Chicago before those teams emerged as contenders. 

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Accentuating change. The Oilers have been extremely busy, in particular since the ascension of Craig MacTavish to the general managership. Not all of the changes have been good, but given how much losing Edmonton has suffered through there’s a definite constituency for any kind of change. Emphasizing the Oilers’ activity on the trade front, through free agency, and in the front office tells fans that the team is trying to make positive strides, doubtless with the aim of encouraging patience in the fanbase.  

Appealing to fans. The Oilers as an organization – and Lowe in particular – have suffered a lot of self-inflicted wounds over the last year. Naturally, the entire letter is structured in an effort to quell discontent, but there are some specific measures made to heal some specific breaks. The letter itself is addressed "To Oilers Fans Everywhere" which seems like a not-so-subtle repudiation of Lowe’s unfortunate comments which divided the fanbase into more- and less-valued components. It also does the most important thing when facing frustrated fans: acknowledging their complaints. The letter commends fans for being "incredibly patient and supportive" and stresses that the team both values and hears them. Toward the end, it emphasizes pride in the Oilers’ colours. In other words, it’s saying: we know you’re frustrated, but we’re making progress and let’s all rally around the flag. It’s a good argument, since even the fans most bitter with the current management group have a deep emotional attachment to the team

Will It Work?

The letter is almost certainly going to do a few things.

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For one, it’s going to go at least some distance toward cooling anger. Yes, these arguments have all been made before, and no a letter won’t generate the wins the team so desperately needs, but it does something else. One of the reasons we’ve seen such vicious reaction from segments of the fanbase is because fans feel powerless; with this letter Katz acknowledges that fans matter. Even for those who don’t buy the arguments, that will ease some frustration.

It isn’t going to be a cure-all, and it isn’t going to solve the real problem: losing. What it might do is buy a little bit of time and take some of the edge off, but the fans have suffered through so much (and will continue to suffer) that at best it’s a stall. 

One way it may backfire is with the local media. Anybody who has spent any time reading the local beat reporters on Twitter or in the papers knows that a) they really don’t like that Katz doesn’t talk to them and b) they hate it when they aren’t used in a gatekeeping role. A direct letter to fans that bypasses the professional media and a continued lack of interviews with Katz is only going to encourage them to dismiss the letter. 

One final note: some media outlets are branding this as an apology. It isn’t. It’s an acknowledgement of fan frustration, but at every level it defends the current management and direction of the orgnaization.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • A-Mc

    It would had been nice if the word “sorry” was in the letter. The lack of apology for years of crappy ownership, retaining buddies instead of hiring real hockey minds – the letter comes off as shallow damage control.

    I’m not saying Katz needed to throw anyone under the bus, just man up and apologize. Glen Grunwald, former GM of the Toronto Raptors actually went out to centre court and apologized in person to the fans. A shame no one in Oilers management can do that.

  • Chainsawz

    PHEW!! For a moment there I thought maybe we were not on the right track. Guess everything IS going according to plan. Boy do I feel silly. Anyone wanna watch the Oilers game tomorrow? I have cheap tickets, only $300 bucks each!

  • vetinari

    The letter strikes me more as buying time for his best friend (Lowe), his new GM (MacT), and his new coach (Eakins), then being a heartfelt acknowledgement of fan’s frustrations.

    Just because Lowe is valued by Hockey Canada in selecting Canadian players doesn’t translate into him being the right man to help rebuild the Oilers. Last time I checked, in international Olympic play, he literally has access to every player in the country without salary cap implications. Big difference to managing a team in the NHL.

    Katz’s “toy”… er… I mean “investment” (the Oilers) becomes worthless if the fans disappear.

    This letter is a punt. It is to buy his friends and management team one more year to try and turn things around. With it, he does not have to deal with fans or the media face-to-face to answer the hard questions.

    Too little too late.

    • Oilerz4life

      Why would hockey Canada pick a guy who is leads the worst management team in hockey (statistically a fact), and also voted as the worst in North America by a US sporting magazine.

      So, clearly hockey Canada made a big mistake.

      I wouldn’t let Lowe or Mac T run a lemonade stand the way they have destroyed the Oilers.

      It is going to take years following a change in this team to earn the respect of the players on free agents list before we see a good team.

      Welcome to another 14 years of losing.

  • Chainsawz

    I cannot fathom how the person to whom an entire paragraph, in a letter to all Oiler fans everywhere, is dedicated to protecting/backing/excusing said person by the owner of Edmonton Oilers does not immediately resign.

    How can you show up to work and muster the courage to even look in the eyes of the lobby secretary, the custodial staff, the interns, the VPs, SPs, management, assistant coaches, head coachs, and GM?

    And what ‘personal attacks’ does he mean? We’re just telling it like it is.

  • vetinari

    I for one think that it was good of Katz to at least acknowledge the fans, and let them know that he hears them. He as the owner does not have to give in to the wishes of a hand full of fans. I truly do believe that he wants the Oilers to win as much as the fans do. I also know that it is easy to sit back in ones arm chair and come up with all kinds of trades that other teams would never make. I also would not want to be a team that does trade it’s future now, to just squeak into the playoffs, and then get bounced in the first round. Mac.T. Has been on the job for less than a year, and Rome was not built in a day. I for one will continue to wish the team were better now, but with that being said, I will put my trust in MacT. and give him the time it takes to make this team better. And if I could have one wish, it would be to replace the entire coaching staff, and get an experienced group to guild the team.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As a Flames fan, I’m really starting to wonder if Katz isn’t one of us.

    He keeps Lowe in place, even as the team swirls around the drain.

    He bent over the city for hundreds of millions, setting exactly the precedent the Flames want to see as they look for a new building.

    His awkward threats to move the team, even though the Oilers have been one of the more profitable clubs over the past several years, make other small-market owners look better.

    In short, his letter says everything that I wanted to hear from Katz.

    Stay the course, everything is great, Oilers domination to follow.

  • The Last Big Bear

    How have Hockey Canada done in events where Rubber Boots has been involved? I love how Hockey Canada spends our fees. see summer evaluation camp in Calgary to play ball hockey

  • S cottV

    The letter is buying some time.

    If the team continues to lose at an alarming rate, showing little signs of coming together in any particular way – then Katz will pull the pin on Lowe.

    He will make him a retirement offer that he can’t refuse.

    It’s not gonna get any better, this year, so – I say it gets done in the off season.

  • TayLordBalls

    You guys have no patience.

    Edmonton, Daryl Katz, coaches, and players are winners and won’t settle for anything less than many cups.

    This is a dynasty in the making!

    What don’t you get?

  • The Last Big Bear

    “How can you show up to work and muster the courage to even look in the eyes of the lobby secretary, the custodial staff, the interns, the VPs, SPs, management, assistant coaches, head coachs, and GM?”

    @ Soccer Steve, I know how Lowe shows up at work without feeling embarrassed, etc.

    When I was on a job with him years ago I found him to be the most conceited, arrogant and full of himself person that I had ever met. That’s how.

    That came across in spades when he immortalized the six rings phrase.

    The guy truly believes all the BS that he spews.


  • Serious Gord


    Hey Jonny “The Apologist” Willis. Getting tickets to one Oilers vs. Blue Jackets game per season comp’d by Katz & the gang every year must be enough to keep your loyalties in check. What did you see in this letter that the average fan who thinks this team is in an out of control tailspin didn’t. How will this buy anyone anytime? To me all I see is K Blowe going into Katz’s office crying about the sale of bumper stickers outside rexall, crying about being publicly criticized and just overall reeks of pure pathetic FAIL. If K Blowe didn’t compose this letter himself and forward this onto Katz to release then Katz himself is a dittering fool and we should all be ready to shut it down for the rest of his god awful, unnacountable tenure. This to me say’s I approve of failure, so keep up the campaign’s slagging K Blowe and soon enough that creepy bug eyed freak Katz will move this debaucle to Seattle.

    • Let’s get a few things straight:

      • I’m analyzing what this letter is trying to do, and guessing as to the response. Nowhere in the piece above do I offer my personal response to the letter.
      • Not one line of the above text is an apology for the Oilers organization.
      • I have never received a penny from the Oilers organization and have no plans to ever be remunerated by the team for anything.

      Lots of what I write is fair game for criticism and I think I’m generally a pretty good sport about it. You want to explain why you feel I’m an idiot? Fine, that’s fair. You want to accuse me of siding with the team in exchange for financial considerations? I’m not going to put up with that.

      • Serious Gord

        Hey Jonny how do I read into this line anymore than you agreeing that this helps Katz and the Travelling Willknots, and I quote:

        “For one, it’s going to go at least some distance toward cooling anger.”

        Sounds like your take, and if you truly agree with that statement then yes I am going to have to criticize your for being an idiot. This will only fuel pissed off fans because this sounds like a cop out not unlike Eakins going to the media crying that some 8 year old kid told him the ugly truth. “You Suck”. If it’s true that your not supported by the Oilers in anyway then stop being a shill, man up and call it as it is.

        • Go take a look at the poll on this site. See all the anger in the comments section? Now do you see how many people agree that Katz is right? Now, some of them have the caveat that he needs to fire Lowe, but the point stands: Oilers fans are fans of the team and to some degree a letter acknowledging concerns is going to cool anger.

          It doesn’t cool my anger, because I’m not angry at the team. They’ve been run incompetently for ages but there’s no sense in me being emotional about it if I want to analyze them objectively. The whole point of the piece above is to objectively analyze what the team is is trying to do and what the likely response is – not what the response should be, or how I’d respond, but how I expect fans in general to react.

          Now: you are welcome to say “your an idiot because…” (I advise ‘you’re an idiot’ because you look like a nitwit when you say ‘your an idiot’) but that’s not what you said. You suggested I’d been bought off by the team with free tickets. That’s across the line – I don’t mind my thinking and reasoning challenged but when you take shots at my fundamental honesty I start thinking about IP bans.

        • Serious Gord

          not that willis needs me to defend him……but, buddy lay off the personal attacks…..you sound like a wing-nut……

          you can disagree with stuff but be decent

  • A-Mc

    Every year the Oilers are out of the playoffs should be $1 off a rexall beer. For every year they MAKE the playoffs, add $1 to the current price.

    Right now i think the fans would be making money whilst buying crack beer.. Or at the very least drinking for free!

  • Serious Gord

    I think fans should look to the Islanders for teams that don’t “stay the course” during a rebuild. They had a very nice rebuild under way in the 90’s but a multi-year rebuild became decades long. Dealt away high end prospects and picks for more established talent and got burned multiple times. The 2nd overall pick (Spezza) for Yashin. Dealing away Roberto Luongo and drafting Rick DiPietro. The Oilers got some top Islander prospects too. Eric Brewer has had a great NHL career.

    We’re close to becoming the Islanders, the only thing separating us from them is that we haven’t dealt away our kids. One trade is allowable and that is to acquire an elite defenceman. But go beyond that, and we are the Islanders.

  • reaperfunkss

    Words and no accountability. This is the katz business model apparently.

    Don’t worry about results just say the right things.

    Also didn’t lowe state last week that he has his hands in all decisions still? So now Katz says it has all been up to MacT.

    Talk about a clueless greedy bastard selling his snake oil.

    Think I am about done now but probably not. Fans since ’79.


    However I did throw all my Oiler crap in the garbage

  • Zamboni Driver

    The one positive from this is that, at long last, the Edmonton Oilers PR department is no longer staffed by, like Semenko and Lummer.

    Great to see that “Our Owner” cares.




    I’m so emotional right now that I have lost the ability to keep track of painful, expansive tracts of time.

  • pkam

    This letter is an attempt by an owner to protect his brand loyalty. Smart business acumen, just too little, too late. As for ticket prices going down, we all know that wont happen.

  • pkam

    Let me put this another way…if the Islanders had stayed the course, they would have had a core of Jason Spezza, Olli Jokinen, Zdeno Chara and Roberto Luongo over the past several years. Add some useful players around that core… is that team a Stanley Cup contender?

  • Rob...

    Too many attacks on people that don’t deserve it. Some of you are the equivalent of the guy who gets yelled at by his boss so goes home and kicks his dog.

    Hey Willis, stole this from the interweb to lighten the mood here: A physicist, an engineer, and a statistician go hunting. They see a deer in the distance and the physicist takes the first shot, missing low because in his calculations he assumed he was shooting in a vacuum. The engineer shoots next, raising her rifle too much to account for air resistance, and misses high. The statistician yells, “we got it!”.

  • “Katz suggests ” stay the coarse”! Is he blind, this Titanic is heading straight for an iceberg, and he wants to stay the coarse.Then again he’s not on the ship, he’s hiding in Vanacouver as well as a PR written letter to save his ticket campaign.

  • CaptainLander

    Just don’t get what firing Lowe will do. Suddenly Nashville will trade Weber to the Oil? Four years ago when the Oil “Started” the rebuild there was nothing. They could not move quality vets for good prospects. They had none. If Lowe was to be fired it was for the GM work but that would have been shortly after the 2006 run. Hardly could say see did a bad job at that point. So instead he was moved out but kept in the loop. This “pull the strings” is pure speculation and no one on this site including the writers knows any different then what is be told to us. I want results as much as the next guy but this “rebuild” is just that.

    I guess my question is how would firing anyone now make this team better on the ice?

    • Serious Gord

      You are conflating micro and macro management.

      Trades are micro management and replacing Lowe would be a macro.

      Replacing Lowe with a competent outsider with nil non business links to Katz would begin the long and desperately needed root and branch elimination of the old boys network that racks this organization and has caused more than a decade of failure.

      It will not bring immediate results on ice – and no one should expect it to. But is an urgently needed move – the longer it’s delayed the longer the agony of failure will be.

      As for pulling the strings – Lowe himself says that he is involved in every decision regarding the roster.

  • Sal-Sational

    I dont think some of the people on here get it. This organization has a really BAD reputation with the players/managers around the league. No matter how much they pay or try they’re not going to Land a Stud D-man or a Goalie. No one wants to play for the “Old Boys Club”. and by the time our D-men in our system get developed, our Forwards (Hall ,RNH, Eberle, Parron, Yakapov) contracts will expire. This team needs a Major Culture change and the only way thats going to happen is if Katz Cleans house.Which Unfortunatley is NOT going to happen.

  • First time poster long time reader. This may not be the proper forum for trade talk but I’ll give it a shot anyways. How much would the Oil have to give up the get Chris Kreider away from the Rangers? 6’3″ 230lbs, big, strong, fast, annoying to play against, seems to be developing some scoring ability. Some sites even have him listed as a center but I think he’s been playing on the wing in NY. Maybe if the Rangers wanted to do the Oilers a huge solid and work out a package for Kreider and impeding UFA Dan Giradi. Dare to dream…

  • Serious Gord

    Every oiler fan is just mad and venting Jon, don’t take anything personal, there’s nothing you can write that wont get attacked

    Says alot about the state of the team when an owner has to put fourth a letter like this

  • Tikkanese

    Nowhere in the letter does Katz admit to mistakes being made by the organization. This would have went a long way with the fans in my opinion. If it wasn’t clear to everyone in the past, it should be now…he does not give one iota about the fans and to me, this letter is an insult. Not only does he still need to fire Lowe, he needs to fire his PR guy.