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: 

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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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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.

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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.

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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.


  • mr_nihilism

    It’s been years since I’ve bothered buying a ticket to an Oiler’s game. No value.

    On the other hand I’ve taken the family to watch the Oil Kings several times. Almost every time the team actually wins. Now that is a team that seems to be well run.

  • Lego

    I’m not too worried. Anyday now the oilers are gonna get blown out at home and the fans are gonna lose it!!! That’ll get the proverbial ball of change rolling!!

    • Zarny

      Anyday now? How ’bout Saturday night. Chicago rolling into Rexall to flog the Oilers which the latter having played Friday night. Don’t know if it’s a national TV game, but I hope so. Could be very ugly.

  • Soiled Trousers

    I donlt buy the argument that fans deserve more for their money. Everyone knows that chances are good the oilers will drop a big steaming turd on the ice. When you buy a ticket or season ticket you are willfully handing over your hard earned money for garbage. If you paid me to come to your house and drop a deuce on your lawn I would do it everyday. Why do you think katz is any different. If you want to keep giving katz money for a terrible product thats on you

  • vetinari

    I agree that it’s hard for paying customers to walk (bee one for five years). What would happen if all the free seats r empty? No story no presser no opinions, paying customers don’t have any influence, maybe an empty press gallery might

  • pkam

    I just want to know what would happen if it could be organized… Get the word out to not go to the game on _____________ day. Or at the least the ones who will still go, have them not in their seats for the first 10 minutes of the game. Have the broadcasters commenting on that.

    Then have them try and say they’re sold out.

  • The interesting thing is that while I believe that demand for Oiler tickets from Oiler fans has dropped, demand for hockey games in Edmonton, and demand for professional sports to watch in Edmonton, has gone up. Think about the amount of in-migration this province has. Every year there are 30,000 new people in Alberta, likely because of work, so those are all working people who want to enjoy a night out. Think the Ontario worker cares if the Oilers lose? Nope, they got to see the (insert team name here) which had (insert somewhat good player name here) which was fun to see.

    I’m a season ticket holder, and I’ve slowly gone to less and less games. First 2 years I went to 37 games a year…that’s a TON of hockey. Then I split it up, and this year I finally got into the 200’s. Even with the better view I have a hard time justifying not trying to sell tickets. If anything I’m happy to have an excuse to catch up with an old buddy I haven’t seen in a while, so I invite him to a game. Sales of my season tix have gone well…I got a 125% MARGIN on the sales of my Montreal tickets, and I expect more for the Leafs (although given their recent performance, I might have to drop price, but it’s a long ways away). That being said, I couldn’t sell my Carolina tickets for cost (Friday night game to boot).

    What this tells me is the demand to go see games has to come primarily from Oiler fans, or other Canadian hockey fans (thank you Calgary and Vancouver people who like blue collar work). Think those season ticket holder who didn’t go to the game didn’t try to sell their tickets? You bet they did.

    Now if the Oilers squeak into the playoffs one of these years, what do you think will happen to demand for tickets? It’s got to happen sometime in the next 6 years…In a couple years a new stadium will be out, and historically it’s been shown that a new stadium alone can generate additional demand for ticket sales – so I’m keeping my tickets, because even if I don’t go to a single game, I’m likely to make a profit, and I know demand for what I got is going up…as long as Oil prices don’t get to a point where

    The trick is figuring out how badly you want to go to a game…again, it’s just a good excuse to catch up with a friend, with a roughly 32% chance we see a game where we can cheer for an Oilers win. Glad my seats are only worth $83/seat. I will definitely be trying to sell more this year, and I hope that it takes a bite out of demand enough to send a message, but I doubt it.

    Further, I am a big buyer of merchandise, one of those die hard guys with tons of jerseys…I haven’t bought one in years, and I won’t be buying any more for quite some time (probably my next jersey is a Nurse jersey). I don’t drink like I used to either, so there goes beer sales, and I have dinner before the game as well…we’re talking close to a thousand bucks a year they’re losing on. My guess is that’s where they notice it first.

    Overall though, I think they’re making enough money that the embarrassment of answering to the media will outweigh any financial issues going forward…but we’ll see.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Throwing a jersey on the ice isn’t the answer either. We need to agree on something as a symbol. Perhaps a white towel. Fans, pack a white towel to throw in at the next home loss.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      It’s too late. He’s used the Oilers as a pawn to secure his billion dollar real estate deals in the new arena district. He’s not the least bit concerned if his playtime project (the Oilers) ever give the fans something to be proud of. He’s played this city like a musical instrument with even a few more real estate deals still to come I’m sure. His confidant Kevin Lowe is in on the ground floor on one or two of these mega deals no doubt.

      These kids go to battle 82 nights a season without the least bit of caring or fighting/standing up for each other. The players are only following ownerships lead/example. His Oilers are just a daycare for some of his junior millionaires.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • Orpo

    I would be happy this season if the culture of the old boys was changed, and LoweMac stepped aside. These guys are smarter then us and know it? I’d like to know what compels Lowe and MacT to not try new careers or new jobs in hockey cause when this team has made the playoffs 3 times in 14 years. They can’t feel their contributing to a winning formula and actual believe at this point that they can turn this around. In 2 or 3 years this will turn around because eventually like the Islanders you start to have enough talent at all the positions.

    I look at the Evil Red Team. If they can win two legitimate 2nd top line talents, two quality defenseman and hot goaltending while the Oilers keep floundering.

    In all due respect to Kevin Lowe and MacT, we ask you to leave while we can still be appreciative for the Stanley Cups, community service and dedication to the community. We would love you to stay in the community, cause we are not vindictive fans, we just want to see success.

    Lastly to Dallas. You decisions to play Jultz 25 mins a night, Nikitin too much, bench Petry and play Aullie and Hunt over Marincin are inescusable and deflating decisions. You should of been able to learn at the AHL level and have success before you were thrown into a circus that you were not ready for. Not your fault. However you need to start making better personel decisions, and stop thinking outta the box.

  • 24% body fat

    We need non media guys that have pull in the blogging world that can organize some boycotts. Guys like Arch and Woodguy.

    Things like boycott food and beverage sales, or do not show up until the second period.

    It will be hard, but it as hard as watching this crap.

  • Did any journalists / reporters / @$$ lickers ask Schultz what his thought process was on the 3rd period power play where he deposited the puck on the Vancouver players stick and gave him a free breakaway from the Vancouver blue line? Anyone critique that at all or do we all consider it a legitimate hockey play?

  • YFC Prez

    I fell very bad for season ticket holders, especially the ones who have held their tickets for the past 7 years. I can’t imagine shelling out that kind of money to watch this team.

    That being said I do still go to the occasional hockey game, usually once a season. My wife just bought me and my son tickets to the Sharks game. Sunday game and tickets were very easy to find. Getting tickets to a weekend game less than a month away was damn near impossible for years. So I think there is a diminishing demand for oilers tickets.

    Hockey fans are hockey fans though and Alberta has become a hodgepodge of people from all over the country coming here to work.

    As the season ticket holders drop out, the tier 3 fans ( me with my son ) and the oil field workers with money to burn will pick them up. A fan boycott just isn’t possible.

    As someone who isn’t from Edmonton, going to rexall to watch a live oilers game with my son is a real treat. And it’s much different than when I’m sitting at home watching. Its about the atmosphere and bonding with the son. W/L really doesn’t matter as much then.

  • PEBOisONit

    If you’re going to name-drop a financial guru in your lede, then the story better be about Darryl Katz being a financial genius for delivering a crap product, yet being continually rewarded in the short term (ticket sales)) and long term (arena welfare).
    Nobody forces anybody to buy a ticket to watch that [email protected]
    I don’t get a choice about paying property taxes to support corporate welfare for a Vancouver billionaire.
    Your tears are misplaced.

  • Old School G

    It’s come to this. Thank you for your post Robin, I put a lot of weight in to your words, I generally get where you’re at, and respect that you have waited this long to post an entry of this nature. This has to end. Enough.

    (Hat tip)

  • 2004Z06

    There is one area within management that not a single other professional sports franchise can touch. Marketing! Not a single other professional sports franchise could continue to sell this s**t year after year after year.

    If you won’t collectively boycott one game, hell even one period (the team doesn’t show up until the second most nights anyway) to send the message, you need to look in the mirror and decide if you are part of the problem, or part of the solution.

  • hitchikerforajax

    Some people are mentioning a diminishing demand for tickets.

    Has anyone noticed that radio stations have started to give away Oilers tickets? That never used to happen, sports related shows sure, but the music stations are giving them away like any of their other regular giveaways now.

    I think the bounce even has a listing of the games they’re giving away, and it’s a who’s who of unpopular games. Looks like Katz and co. are ensuring the sellout streak stays intact.

  • YFC Prez

    the only reason you would keep the arena empty during a broadcast…is shame. not money. shame is a powerful tool and when used properly, very effective. i believe they’d be embarrassed as heck.

    also Kevin Lowe has nothing to do with the money, that’s Patrick LaForge (he does a hell of a good job too). Lowe is hockey ops, so basically the construction of the team, which sucks. also why shame is better.

    shaming them is your only option.

  • Burnward

    Fickle fans in Edmonton. Don’t you realize that nobody wants to live in Edmonton especially millionaire hockey players and that leaves the draft or overpay to keep players to stay for a period of time. You all want to fire the management when their hands are tied for the most part. It’s one draft at a time and a few more years before they have the horses needed to compete. The truth hurts Edmonton is cold and a dump its difficult encouraging hockey players that it is a mecca when the team is so bad for so long and the fans are so angry. I’m a fan but I wouldn’t live there either.

    • they want to live in Detroit instead?
      Or, they want to live in Florida…yeah, the panthers are really rolling these days.
      Maybe they want to win in San Jose where a good regular season is good enough.
      Maybe they want to sign 13 yr deals to play in Minneapolis…that’s gorgeous city, isn’t it.

  • 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.

  • Soiled Trousers

    Well the joke’s on you this time, I only see the Oilers once in awhile when they come to Calgary to play. Sure, my entertainment dollar still goes to an organization I absolutely despise at this moment in time but it’s for entirely different reasons. Take that Mr. Katz (he typed through his tears).

  • Doctor Smashy

    Maybe someone has said this already but I worry about the league’s view of a boycott. Edmontonians have been through numerous direct or implied threats of moving the team. Even with Katz. If Oiler fans really did stop going, stop buying, how would the NHL respond to a request by Katz to move? Would Bettman say “sorry buddy, your team sucks..you have to fix it before we’ll let you relocate”. Not that there would ever be a boycott (for the reasons you pointed out) how do you see such a scenario play out in terms of relocation RB?

    • I agree the Oil’s fans have proven to be the most forgiving and giving around (okay maybe leafs are close). There is zero chance that the NHL would allow the Edmonton market to be abandoned. They know the Edmonton market is gold and that almost no other would have put up with the ongoing gong show.

      • hitchikerforajax

        What the Oilers need, is a owner wh gives a dam. With Lowe & Katz, being bed fellows, means there is 0 chance of Katz firing Lowe! Which means, the team is hosed for the next(fill in the blank—-) years. Lets hope, Katz moves this team & maybe Edmonton might get a team & owner, that gives a sh##, about the team & the fans & not about the $$ Katz makes yearly. As long as Lowe is Prez, this team has zero chance of making the playoffs or even competing.

      • Burnward

        Was there no claus in the building of the new arena that the team must stay in Edmonton, for some lengthy period if the arena is built, and built from city dollars?

        If not, our city council fudged up.

  • Seems to me it’s pretty hard to win when you have a rookie GM, a rookie Coach, mostly rookie players.I’m sure in Katz business ventures he doesn’t seek out rookies to work for him and make the biggest decisions don’t think he would last long.There might be a salary cap on players but with his money he should be able to hire the best GM, coaches, training staff, scouts etc. etc.