David Chilton, he of Wealthy Barber and Dragon’s Den fame, knows a bad deal when he sees one. Buying tickets to watch the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place, where Daryl Katz’s team has won just 60 of 157 games since the start of the 2010-11 season, unquestionably qualifies as that.

The latest episode of the Oilers providing their customers with defeat and frustration to be washed down with over-priced beer unfolded Wednesday in a 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, a result that dropped the Oilers to 4-6-1 on home ice and 6-11-2 overall this season. That prompted Chilton to chime in via Twitter: 

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Oiler fans deserve better. You’ve sold out Rexall Place for seasons on end. Year in and year out, with no charity receipt forthcoming, you’ve bought the tickets. You buy the beer. You buy the jerseys and food and pay for parking. With the Oilers well on the way to missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season, fans have been loyal to a fault. That’s part of the problem. 

Like it or not, Tychkowski has a point – one that’s been made several times by many people in recent years. In what other vendor-customer relationship could a business supply a product so substandard it’s laughable, offer empty promises to make it right, fail to deliver on those promises for nine years and still have people lining up at the door like they do to watch NHL hockey in Edmonton?

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Let me be clear where I’m coming from right from the top here. This isn’t about calling fans suckers or mocking people who’ve supported the Oilers season after season, continuing to line Katz’s pockets while a once proud franchise languishes as a laughing stock. Like I said, you deserve better.

You support the Oilers because they are part of the fabric of this winter city. In the glory years, Peter Pocklington and the Oilers delivered five Stanley Cups with, I’d argue, the greatest hockey team ever assembled. The Oilers put Edmonton on the international sporting map.

Those who remember the parades long for those days again. Those too young, who maybe got a taste of the good times with the unexpected run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, want their turn. The emotional connection is undeniable and understandable. So the Oilers sell hope, and you buy.

After all, buying tickets to Oiler games isn’t like buying a car. I get that. If a dealer sold you a lemon, promised to make it right and didn’t for nine weeks or nine months, let alone nine years, you’d flip that dealer off, tell everybody you know how badly you were treated, how much their product sucks and shop elsewhere.

You can’t tell the Oilers to get stuffed and buy NHL hockey down the block from a competitor. You want it, the Oilers have it. They’re the only NHL game in town. If you do walk away, chances are somebody else will take your place in the ticket line-up. There’s a waiting list of people willing to buy hope. There’s the rub.

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I’m not going to presume to say you should boycott the Oilers, turn in your season tickets and refuse to support the team until there’s a real change in the on-ice results. I haven’t paid to get into the building for 25 years. There is no emotional connection for me. That’s too easy for me to say.

Boycotting the Oilers, refusing to support the team with your dollars, should be an absolute last resort, not the first option. Some people have gone that route as there have been an increasing number of empty (but paid for) seats at Rexall Place in recent seasons even as a new rink rises from the ground in downtown Edmonton. They’re done buying hope and empty promises.

Not one player remains from the 2006 Stanley Cup final team. Coaches have come and gone, with Craig MacTavish leaving and now acting as GM. The front office has been revamped. Kevin Lowe, GM from 2000 to 2008, was bumped from the day-to-day spotlight by Katz and made president of hockey operations. Lowe was replaced by Steve Tambellini, who was fired and replaced by MacTavish. The results remain the same.

Going on nine years after the 2006 Cup and five years into the “official” rebuild, Katz and the hockey people he employs continue to pick the pockets of the faithful. They sell empty promises and hope without providing any actual results or tangible improvement to loyal fans who support the team emotionally and financially.

It’s a raw deal. Shameful. You either buy it or you don’t.

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Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m from Calgary and I bought tickets for the game this Saturday, a decision I now regret. I pretty much live cheque to cheque and am admittedly a Teir 3 fan.

    2 tickets in the 300’s – $180
    Gas to drive up the QE2 – $100
    Hotel – $150
    Beers at the game – $40

    $470 just to able to watch one game of hockey from a team that I used to go to battle for but now just feel betrayed by. It’s ridiculous to think this could have that much of an impact on my life but it does. I love this team. But I woke up in the middle of the night and just wanted to punch sonething as hard as I could. Just seething anger. A game that is suppose to be fun should never make a person feel that way. But the Oilers have pushed me to that point.

    That is about as sad and pathetic of a statement as there ever was.
    I mean it’s a game!!!

    Thanks for nothing Oilers. You don’t deserve a fan base that loves you this much.

  • ginwarrior

    I’m a season ticket holder and have been for the last 4 years. I paid $50 a year for 5 years to keep my name on the season ticket waiting list before finally getting my tickets. Every summer I renew my tickets based on hope/optimism/patience/*insert descriptor here.* Every winter, literally within the first 6 weeks of the season, I can’t give my tickets away, even when I try to.

    Could you imagine if the Oilers allowed you to pay for your season tickets in two installments? Half prior to the season, and the remainder at the halfway mark? Imagine the financial impact that would have on the team. Holy cow, would that ever be an accurate barometer for the discontent of the fans in this city.

    I give away what tickets I can, donate them sometimes, and occasionally suck it up and head down to Rexall to watch. There is no way I should have to refer to going to an NHL game as “sucking it up.” But that’s what it is. It just isn’t worth my time. I am willing to consider the money for my season tickets a sunk cost within 6 weeks of the opening game. It shouldn’t be that way.

    As it stands, I’ll continue to save my pennies for next year’s renewal (boy it’s coming up fast!), and put my money down on hope for next year’s team. They can’t be any worse, right?

    Maybe I’ll turn this meaningless rant into an annual event.

    Dammit Oilers.

  • Randaman

    Great article Robin,
    I live 700 miles north of Edmonton and used to have season tickets in the eighties with three other guys. Good times…

    I wouldn’t take a free ticket to this gong show now! What a joke this organization (if you can call it that) has become.

    I haven’t even watched the last three televised games and won’t until significant changes are made.

    Sad thing is that I don’t even think they care…

    • Randaman

      I really feel sorry for Taylor Hall.

      This must be eating him up! How long until he demands a trade? I give it until the end of this season unless Conner is coming here.

  • Rebuilding the Rebuild

    I’ve been a season seat holder for 4 years and I can’t give away tickets for free anymore. Every game Rexall looks emptier. Support is seriously wavering. The sell-out is a bit of an illusion as the actual value of these seats is almost nothing. Sad truth.

  • No Clue

    I turned in my season tickets a couple years back.

    They asked me to bring in my entire season seat package, all remaining tickets, all the Oiler bucks and all the stickers and that crap.

    When I brought it all in I figured the account representative that I had dealt with for years, might bother to ask “Why are you leaving? Is there anything we can do to retain your business?”


    Not even a “Thanks for supporting the team, sucker”

    I walked in, the dude behind the counter just said “Ya, leave all that stuff with me.”

    That’s it, that’s all. Some other sucker took my spot. I only watch about 1/2 the games now, I just don’t care. The Oilers beat that out of me.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    yup the fans really are the ones getting shafted! they MUST love hockey or be a sucker for punishment to have seasons and sit there year after year after year and watch this crap! i tip my hat to them because i couldn’t do it. it’s hard enough just watching it on TV!

  • When you read a little about human ressources management, you learn that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a bad culture within an enterprise. Usually people won’t admit they are doing things the wrong way and the enterprise goes bankrupt.

    For the Oilers, I would suggest that it will be even harder to get rid of the lonsing/incompetence culture, because there isn’t even a danger for bankrupcy. Untill Katz ends his man-crush for former Oiler players and clean the entire front office, things are not going to get better. Even phenom Connor McDavid won’t be able to turn this ship around if the culture of the organization isn’t changed first.

    By the way, the simple fact that Dallas Eakins is still the head-coach of this team is flabergasting.


    The last time the Oilers were entertaining to watch on a consistent basis is the Hemsky, Stoll, Smyth and Torres days. Heart and fight in a lot of games. I watch now for one thing only…Connor Mcdavid wearing an Oil jersey. I couldn’t imagine paying to watch the Oil in this state, it’s hard enough watching on T.v. FAR from any sense of entertainment. All those who pay to go to the games are blind, stupid or both. The squeakiest wheel gets greased and paying fans are not squeaking enough…the product on the ice is proof of that!

    • Randaman

      That’s the most painful part of all. We’re not blind or stupid. We’re financially involved before the start of the season. Prior to the gongshow. At the point where hope runs highest. There isn’t another choice.

      It’s an investment that is literally at rock bottom. It can’t get any worse.

      Not until next year anyway.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Unfortunately , the media in Edmonton is also complicit in this monumental debacle. Boomer and Rhett on The Fan 960 Calgary (Spits) called it like it is this morning. This team needs to fire, Kevin Lowe, Craig Mactavish, Scott Howson, The entire coaching staff, all the scouts and their staff. Edmonton media all we hear is crickets.While it is nice to see the recent criticism from RB and JG it is far too light and it is time too hold the managements feet to the fire until they are fired for their gross incompetence, or resign in disgrace. The ironic part is they are disgraced already but they are blissfully unaware.

    • Aside from Stauffer, who has to tow the company line because the Oilers and CHED are in bed together, which member of the media hasn’t been rightfully hard on the Oilers? Pretty much the only thing anyone ever writes on here is about how terrible this team is. Have you read Rob Tychowski’s twitter feed? Mark Spector wakes up in the morning and literally takes a dump on the team. Hell even Matheson has been lamenting on the sad state of the team for a couple of years now. National media guys like Aaron Ward, Ray Ferraro and *spits* Damian Cox have been feasting on this teams carcass for years now.

      And on top of that can you please point to any point in time where the media has had any sway whatsoever in moves the team does or does not make? Do you honestly think that if Gregor wrote 5 “They need to fire Kevin Lowe” articles a day that it would make a lick of difference??

      It’s crazy to me that a large majority of you think that anyone on the Oilers brass is just sitting there NOT noticing the team has been the laughing stock of the league for almost a decade now. Kevin Lowe didn’t snap with his “I know a thing or two about winning” line because he was super happy with where his team is.

      Just because they’re bad at their job doesn’t mean they’re willfully ignorant.

      • Zarny

        Which members of the media has been rightfully hard on the Oilers? (names and examples please )Other than the 6 Rings press conference all we hear is crickets from local media. # of columns on a blog will make no difference. Roast them live in a press conference. They have embarrassed our team and our town long enough.

  • Hemmercules

    This city is bubbling right now, and it legitimately seems to be reaching a boiling point. In fairness, we have this same conversation every year, but it seems to be just a little more venomous this year.

    Should be interesting…