RAW DEAL

Value

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: 

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?

WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR

Market

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.

BUYER BEWARE

BuyerBeware

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.

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

    Robin you need a reality check… I have an unhealthy obsession with the
    Oilers from day 1, like you do.

    But

    Katz is the only guy in Edmonton with the money and
    interest in a hockey team in Edmonton. Who is going
    to put $160M dollars up for a team in Edmonton?
    The team makes about $15M a year so it is a 10 year pay back.
    Not a super investment, for people with the choices a billionaire has.

    Katz has spent basically to the cap every year.

    He had a plan. Tank so you can crest together…
    It did not work, BUT he had a plan.

    Lowe and MacT are reasonable choices to lead the team.

    Edmonton is getting a great new arena in downtown that will be a centre piece
    like WEM was for the city in the 80’s.

    I get you want to win, but every other professional team does as well.

    Enjoy the hockey. Ask the fans in Quebec City and Winnipeg if it better going
    to live hockey or ….

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Actually, you need a reality check because it’s obvious you don’t have any idea how the team does or doesn’t impact me — two of your paragraphs make this abundantly clear.

      “Robin you need a reality check… I have an unhealthy obsession with the Oilers from day 1, like you do.”

      I have no obsession, unhealthy or otherwise, with the Oilers. I was paid to cover the team by the Journal and the Sun, where I worked from 1989 to 2007. It was a great job and one I enjoyed. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      “I get you want to win, but every other professional team does as well.”

      It doesn’t matter to me if the Oilers win or lose. I document, discuss and debate the results, whatever those results might be, here and on the Jason Gregor Show. There’s no emotional skin in the game for me.

      Everything you wrote in between those two lines is you hoping for the best and rationalizing the failures of recent seasons. You aren’t alone. The Oilers are counting on that.

      • hitchikerforajax

        Robin, I had moved away from Edmonton by 1989 and
        you were my connection to the Oilers in those pre blog/
        Internet day. I am surprised that you play the “it
        was just a job” card. There are only 50 beat hockey writers in
        North America, you had one of those jobs.

        I am saying from my experience…. owners, managers
        make mistakes and don’t alway get it right, it is tough
        out there someone is always “trying to eat my lunch”

        Katz was the best option for the EIG to sell the team
        to… Can you say that was mistake selling the team to Katz.

        Can you say he did not have a vision for the team?

        The strategy just did not work. Don’t make it personal.

    • vetinari

      May as well put in there that Eakins is the right choice for a coach as well. Lowe and MacTavish are incompetent fools who make bad decision after bad decision.
      I’m glad that KLowe’s family reads these posts and responds once in a while.

  • Orpo

    Are Oiler’s fans so disillusioned that they believe those running the organization are choosing to loose? Maybe I’m naive but I don’t see the payoff in running a team to lose. It doesn’t make any sense. Some disastrously bad decisions have been made within the organization in the last few years, ones that the fans, the journos, the bloggers all saw coming (see Edmonton Oiler’s Centre Depth Summer 2014) but I think one would be hard pressed to find an organization that didn’t have at least a few of these type of blunders every year. Unfortunately those blunders when paired with huge gambles that didn’t pay off have sunk the oil consistently. The big problem is that the gambles haven’t payed off yet due to an extraordinary run of bad luck. So what should the management do (beyond stop making these blunders), operate the team in a more conservative manner, or continue to swing for the fences with faith that eventually the bad luck will stop? If it was me, I’d continue to swing for the fences. A few of those gambles will pay off eventually.
    But really, it’s gotta be said, this management team, much like every sports management team in every sport around the world, wants the club to win games.

    • I think you’re partially right. I can’t see Lowe and MacT wanting to do anything else but win, because they are winners. I’d even put Eakins on that list.

      Problem is, their owner has (apparently) decreed no playoff revenue will fill Northlands coffers – ever again. I have an idea why this might be, but the reason is mute. So management is left with stocking up on high draft picks and developing them on the fly and filling out the roster with substandard players or just plain not filling obvious needs (2LC, 1st pairing D).

      We’re in a holding pattern. There is no impetus to win now, that much is obvious – fans be damned. You could only pull that off in a market with little other top level sporting opportunities.

      This team will “magically” begin to put things together right around the time the new arena opens. People will flock and playoff revenue will roll in. Until then we are in a “controlled rebuild”.

  • 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.

  • Serious Gorg

    Sowing the seeds of despair is not going to get you anywhere. This team will continue to develop and in two years it should be fine. If you keep blowing it up year after year by changing over the roster by more than 20% you will do nothing but create a lack of accountability where no one feels like they are part of the long term solution.

    I am seeing good things. The defence isn’t there yet but you would be a fool to think that this aspect of the team wouldn’t be an issue going into this season. If this team is going to get any traction it needs to overcome the goaltending excuse by playing a strong possession game with a cohesive defensive structure.

  • mithaman

    As a faithful Oiler’s fan I can feel the frustration everyone has from being let down game after game for the last nine years. But as a major hockey fan first and foremost and also being broke-ass university student, I can’t get enough of hockey, especially Oiler games, regardless of the consistent losses and lack of effort. Every game I get to go to I absolutely love and makes me just enjoy that I get to watch players i’m in awe of. Taking that into consideration it bothers me to see some posters saying they can’t “giveaway” tickets to anyone, when to be honest people in my position, as well as my niece and 2 nephews, are completely envious of you having season tickets and would gladly take those tickets you can’t “giveaway” and enjoy the experience that we get to enjoy so rarely. Just a thought for you posters

    • If Oilers Nation had a “Ticket Swap” section for people that wanted to give them away that’d be pretty cool. You could charge a miminal administration fee for charity (say $10 a swap) and everybody would win.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    It’s not reasonable to ask people not to attend games, it’s what we do.

    But others have suggested boycotting the opening faceoff, or first shift, I think that’s a fantastic idea.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oiler fans love NHL hockey independent of how the club is doing in standings . We just make Oilers our preference , which has been rather frustrating the last 8-9 years . Our managerial team is full of generally good qualified people , but have had poor results that make them appear worse than they really are . You want NHL hockey in Edmonton you support the gate or risk losing franchise down the line . Still better than going back to when we had no NHL club or access to see all the best payers , etc. in the game we have such a passion for . Even bad results are better than losing our franchise . Go out and enjoy a game and the ambiance , but do not expect too much in the way of wins for now . Maybe wins and a better on ice product will emerge next year to kick off a decade of futility .

      • Quicksilver ballet

        In Journal last week Renney and Tams raved about the managerial team here and qualifications , even now , and after they were removed and gone elsewhere in their hockey careers . Being as I value opinions like that from hockey people generally in the know over just most bloggers, etc.. Maybe they are good , but trying to get players here of quality might be tougher than we know or they let on ? My own opinion is they have done a poor job of the on ice team and results . However , the GM is in control of quality control , and thus perhaps a new face may be required if one can be found that can do better . We need better personnel on team and that comes from your GM first and foremost .

      • Doctor Smashy

        In Journal last week Renney and Tams raved about the managerial team here and qualifications , even now , and after they were removed and gone elsewhere in their hockey careers . Being as I value opinions like that from hockey people generally in the know over just most bloggers, etc.. Maybe they are good , but trying to get players here of quality might be tougher than we know or they let on ? My own opinion is they have done a poor job of the on ice team and results . However , the GM is in control of quality control , and thus perhaps a new face may be required if one can be found that can do better . We need better personnel on team and that comes from your GM first and foremost .

        • Doctor Smashy

          Renney and Tambo aren’t going to publicly rip Oiler management because its low-class and makes them look bad.

          Also, I’m sure MacT and Lowe are good guys. However, they have had a decade to turn this thing around and its not working. They need to move on and let another management group take over. The relationship between organization and fanbase has become toxic and the reputation of the organization around the league is at an all-time low, even by Oilers standards.

          This organization needs a top-down change in management and if Katz can’t see that are doesn’t have the stones to make the changes then he is a fool.

  • pkam

    I know I will get a lot of trashes.

    I went to a few games every year. 2 or 3 years ago, you could leave the game in 2nd intermission. The Oilers would be down 2 to 3 goals by then and they rarely scored 2 goals in a game let alone a period.

    I just went to the Sens game last week. Despite the 1st period, the game was much more entertaining to watch. The team can really come back to tie the game after letting in 3 goals.

    If you only care about wins, then why do you even go to a game? Just check the result after the game and save yourself a couple of hundred bucks.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    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.

    • Zarny

      Umm no.

      Their possession numbers are better than last year; that doesn’t mean they are “good”. The Oilers are currently 14th in the league for Corsi so you could say their possession numbers are OK or average.

      As for “how could this be”?

      It doesn’t matter what your possession numbers when your SV % is last in the league, your ranked 25th for shooting % resulting in your PDO also being last in the league.

  • Torcida

    Check the tickets to get into the games…do any say guarantee win night? You are paying to see a scheduled game in the National Hockey League. Some players you watch don’t belong in the league necessarily, that’s another issue.