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.


  • Harry2

    “Boycotting the Oilers should be a last resort” –

    If we are not at the bottom of this sh’t heap then for all that is sacred an holy when will we be!!

    The last resort has come Oilers fans a full on BOYCOTT is far from over reacting and should be welcomed by all

    • ginwarrior

      It just might sink in, if it happened on a “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast.
      I don’t think the “money man” has the balls to tell his “friends” who run this mess, to go home. Do you?

  • vetinari

    We used to always go to Edmonton (from Saskatchewan) to see the Oilers every February but we haven’t in the last five or six years because by that time, although tickets were usually available online (and sometimes cheap), the team would be hopelessly out of the playoffs and it was no fun to sit through yet another loss or blow out on my mini-vacation. Instead, we now head off for a family trip to Banff each year and somehow, it seems to be money better spent.

    Tier 1 fans– go, not go, I don’t care. It’s your money but ask yourself if what you are seeing is worth the price of admission.

  • 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.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    I wonder how long it would take to get kicked off Northlands property/arrested if we got a group of people to hand out paper bags to everyone coming off the LRT or heading into Rexall? Paper bags are cheap and easy to hand out. Signs could be created indicating a time to put the bags on your face too. If, after the first goal against, all 16,000 fans simultaneously put a paper bag on their face, something would happen.

  • Torcida

    Awesome article Robin. I commend you for writing it.

    I agree it’s tough to ask season ticket holders to not attend games. My dad has 4 season tickets, he goes to 4-5 games a year and gives the rest away to his employees and clients, ect. I believe it is tax deductible but I’m not 100% sure on that.

    Anyways, he is barely invested in the team at all, doesn’t closely follow their porgress. I bet a decent % of season ticket owners fall into this casual category. sure he wishes he saw more wins or got to see a playoff run but he is not engaged at all.

    A more grassroots movement ?might? be to not shop at Rexall. Back when tensions were regarding the arena I bumped into a Rexall manager/accountant at a bar and they said the negativity from the arena negotiations were hurting the bottom line (I doubt it was significant but it was being discussed within Rexall). Probably won’t work as fans need some kind of leader to follow and it’s diffcult to organize some type of common vision.

    Fans not taking thier seats at the begging of games is another good idea but another example of something that is difficult to organize and doesn;t actually affect anyones bottom line at all.

    Bitch and moan on internet forums doesn;t seem to be getting much notice.

  • 24% body fat

    From Oilers website:

    KEVIN LOWE
    PRESIDENT OF HOCKEY OPERATIONS & VICE CHAIR OEG/ALTERNATE GOVERNOR

    After serving as General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers for eight seasons, Kevin Lowe was promoted to the position of President of Hockey Operations on July 31, 2008. Lowe’s promotion was part of a restructuring of the team’s Hockey Operations department by Daryl A. Katz, the organization’s owner.

    Lowe has been instrumental in the renewed success of the team both on and off the ice and will continue to work towards the continued success of the franchise in his new role. In recent years, Lowe has been assisting the strategic rebuild of one of the outstanding franchises in the League and was an integral part of the management and scouting team that selected Taylor Hall with Edmonton’s first ever number one overall draft pick in 2010, as well as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.

    • Serious Gord

      The last part of that bio is about as damning an idictment of a hockey manager as you could have – you were responsible for putting a team on the ice that was so bad you were able to Pick first in the draft three years in a row.

      That he considers it bragging material says so much about how out of touch he is. It is almost clown-like.

  • oilerjed

    I was thinking that last nights broadcast while harsh was also hopefully very insightful for many. It seemed like Hughson and Craig had nothing better to do then tell us how much the Oilers suck. They were right mind you but it seemed pretty poor broadcasting.
    While on the other hand those who should be using their voice and speaking out are doing nothing.

    “Oilers: 6 wins in 19 games, in 28th place, 0-9-1 against the West. Nine years out of the playoffs. See you at Friday’s Sellout!
    — Rob Tychkowski (@Sun_Tychkowski) November 20, 2014 ”

    This in twitter but where is the scathing article in the front page of the sports section!?

    And even this article from Brownlee, while calling a spade a spade never really gets down to the point. Other then to say how sad it is to be an Oilers fan. Tell us something we dont know! How about a high profile journalist calling out Katz and Lowe in the boldest headline they can talk their editor into and get it picked up by every outlet that will run with it??

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^but surely people realize by now that any unsold Oiler tix are probably bought up by the team so that they can continue to claim that they have a sellout. i suspect this anyways. maybe a hundred or tow for some games?

      • oilerjed

        If the press would get on board and start shaming these guys daily they would be forced to act wouldnt you think? regardless of whether or not there is a sold out building. The damage to the Oilers brand is becoming unreversable to many. If I had moved to Etown now instead of in the 90’s I would still be a Bruins fan. They didnt have alot of success but they were a ton of fun to get drunk watching. Now just a good reason to drink…

  • 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.

  • Guy Lafleur

    NOTE TO DARREL KATZ:

    Brian Burke was right when he said Kevin Lowe would run this team into the ground!

    For the love of God, please go hire Brian Burke with your billions and make him the Super President……..have Klowe report to him for good measure.

    Time for some Cleaning and let’s finally start at the top!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • hitchikerforajax

    “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?”

    The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party says “hello”.

  • 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

  • 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).

  • Soiled Trousers

    I grew up in a small northern Albertan town, hockey was my life and the Oiler were my team. We only had 3 channels growing up so I used to listen to most games on CHED but we were so far north that it would have to be a really clear evening for the signal to come in decent. Most nights I would crank that scratchy radio signal and shoot endless shots of a foam ball into a net while pretending I was Gretz or Mess. I would look forward to Hockey in Canada all week, on Saturdays the foam ball would never come out as I was stuck at the edge of my seat 15ft from the TV watching in suspense. If the Oilers happened to be playing on TV it was extra special but generally it didn’t matter who was playing, I just loved watching, I was the biggest hockey fan.

    The first few years of the Oilers rebuild I was ridding the hope train thinking and discussing with other Oilers fans that we should all continue to watch, attend, and support the rebuild because once we start winning it will taste that much better knowing we stuck by them through the tough years. Even though the Oilers were out of the race well before Xmas I still watched nearly every game and attended as many as I could. I was also still a devoted fan joining hockey pools, watching other (good) teams duke it out, jockey for playoff positioning, and still got really excited for the playoffs especially the first round.

    The next few years of the rebuild it started getting more and more difficult to watch the Oilers despite my original beliefs. A plethora of questionable decisions, numerous let downs, and seven consecutive Oiler losses watched live and I could barely bring myself to watching the Oilers. At this point though I was still a hockey fan and would look forward to watching other teams, especially those would rose from the ashes to become competitive like Chicago or even St. Louis because it gave me hope, hope that the Oilers could do the same.

    By the end of the regular season last year and especially the start of this year I had lost not only what love I had left for the Oilers but my love for hockey itself. The Oilers gutted me of almost all of excitement, passion, and enthusiasm I had for the game. Hearing about MacT signing Niki “healthy scratch in Columbus” Nikitin to that ridiculous contract then letting both Leddy and Boychuk go the Islanders was absolutely gut wrenching, it still makes me want to puke. I never thought it would come to this or that I would be writing about it but the Oilers have stripped me of my hockey fandom all together. I don’t even care who’s in first, who’s leading the league in scoring, or who’s playing on TV. It bores me and it’s depressing but it’s tough to cheer for a sport when you have no allegiance, no loyalty……no team!!!

    As my wife says “thanks Oilers, couldn’t have done it without you”…….

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • In 2003 I was 24 years old making $32,000 a year. I decided to get 2 season tickets even though I really couldn’t afford them. I did it because I thought the team needed me. In those days the oil were part of the revenue sharing program the nhl had and they needed a minimum of 13,000 season tickets sold to get the cash. I was happy to do my part.
    In 2010 after the first 30th place finish, when renewal time came I remember thinking that the team had a long waiting list for tickets, they didn’t need me anymore plus I wasn’t going to as many games as I used to and I just simply enjoyed watching at home more than I did going to the games. I remember pulling up the 50 man roster at he time and thinking to myself that there was no way this franchise was gonna make he playoffs for 5 years. My friends thought I was nuts. Two years they said until the team was competitive. I gave up my tickets and have never looked back.
    Now I still watch every minute of every game. In fact I have watched every single minute of oilers hockey since I got a pvr in 2008. Even before that I rarely missed games. Every blowout and every embarrassing loss and I still watch. I love the team and the game and quite frankly there’s nothing else I would rather watch on tv. So the team still gets some of money from my cable package.
    I would never tell paying fans not to go to a game that they have paid for I just vote with my wallet and I choose to spend my money elsewhere but at the end of the day I still watch with realistic expectations. I’ve never once thought since 2010 that they had a realistic chance at playoffs. Not with all these holes on the roster. While everyone was optimistic in September I knew that with 2 centres and 2 backups and arguably the worst defence in the west that there was no playoffs again. In fact I will be surprised if we finish higher than 25th.
    Anyway, I’ve minimized the amount of money I spend on the oilers but I still watch every minute because I want too. I just refuse to pay for tickets until they make the playoffs.

    • 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.

  • 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.