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.


  • SHARKY5150

    Robin,
    You summed it up perfectly!

    Thought I’d share a little anecdote.
    My son who is six years old (six and a half if you ask him), asked me a question that would be funny if it wasn’t so sad…..
    “Daddy, do the Oilers practice? You told me that when you practice you get better. The Oilers always lose so I don’t think they practice.”
    My reply,”Yes son, of course they practice. They practice almost every day.”
    “Are they paying attention at their practice? I don’t think they are learning at their practices. Maybe the coach should get in trouble because he can’t help them get better at practice.”

    Seems so simple!

  • BlazingSaitls

    Everything that ha$ needed to be $aid ha$ been $aid. By fan$, by media, and by other NHL team$. The only one$ not $aying what need$ to be $aid are the Oiler$ franchi$e them$elve$. All they have are platitude$.

    Until there are Ch-ch-ch-change$ I’m done watching/li$tening/cheering for the Oiler$.

    “Where’s your shame
    You’ve left us up to our necks in it-
    Time may change me-
    But you can’t trace time” –
    from David Bowie’$ $ong Change$

  • Sofa King Bad

    Nothing changes until Lowe and MacT step down and they’re replaced, after a thorough recruitment process, by some capable hockey guys from outside the organization. That’s the only way this changes – there is no accountability in this organization from top to bottom.

  • Hemmercules

    Not even December and they are practically eliminated from the playoffs. Worst part is it likely won’t be much different next year.

    Rush in another high draft pick, need new goaltending, half the defense, more forwards and a new coach. The turnaround on this team is ridiculous. Mact is no further ahead and will probably take a step or two back this summer if he’s still around.

    Prepare your a$%holes everyone, we are probably getting bent over for a few more years………

  • Serious Gorg

    The oilers should just give tickets to kids 10 and under. after all its not about winning its about playing.every ones a winner even if you finish last.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Organized demonstrations are only good if they’re designed to really shame people who are capable of being shamed. Experience suggests Katz Incorporated and Friends probably don’t fit that description.

    I remember a few years ago, Baltimore Orioles fans organized a “walkout” after the third inning of a game. Very similar situation to the Oilers, with a long-respected franchise owned by a really wealthy guy who made horrible decisions, and who appeared not to really give a crap. Well, the walkout got a lot of attention, the point was made, but it still was years before things changed for the better.

    Honestly, I think the only “power” we Tier ‘X’ fans have is to cancel our TV Sportsnet subscriptions, and that probably isn’t going to happen.

    Sucks to be us…

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    I won’t be watching Oilers next year if Mcdavid or Eichel aren’t wearing an Oilers Jersey. Add to this, buying out Nikittin and upgrading our goalies. Same as Doug Weight era, lots of talent, zero results. No thanks. Wake me up when we regain our passion.

  • Kr55

    Too bad the Oilers are too busy asking guys on Nielson and Fraser Show to stop being negative about the Oilers to improve this team.

    This team definitely does not deserve the fans money at this point. We are well on our way to breaking Florida’s playoff drought record. There will be zero accountability for the guy that has been leading the team the entire time to break that record, Kevin Lowe, unless the fans finally stop donating their money to this embarrassing franchise.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Well for those of us who can’t afford to take our kids please feel free to send them my way. I would still take the kids to a game just for the experience.

  • 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.

  • Hemmercules

    Anyone know of the percentage of seats that are held by seasons ticket holders??? Just curious.

    I hear alot of people say “just stop going to games” but its just not that simple since all the tickets for the season are already sold. Most people aren’t going to just trash the tickets they paid good money for even if the team will likely lose.

    If the fans really want to make a stand it has to be next summer when tickets go on sale again. Will they do it?? Sadly I doubt it.

  • 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?

  • ginwarrior

    Can anyone tell me what our record is since Principe started doing his stand-up schtick. maybe he’s the cause of the suck for so many years. Everything should be looked at K-Lowe should be willing to piss on a spark plug if he thought it could help.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Soiled Trousers

    Hey oilers, you think 1 or 2 jerseys on the ice is disrespectful?? Wait til the next blowout at home!!! I wonder what kind of story hundreds of jersey raining down onto the Ice is gonna be…. We’re just waiting for the right moment… Anyday now

  • BlazingSaitls

    OPTIONS

    I see the odd game live. A buddy of my brother-in-law has a box. It’s a special treat, even if the team plays badly.

    As a non-paying fan, I certainly have options. Stop wasting time on this stupidly-run disgrace of a “professional” team and start rooting for another (hopefully Canadian) NHL team.

    If I had seasons tickets, I would do this. Contact Mr. Katz DIRECTLY. Do it by phone, letter or e.mail. Don’t let yourself be sloughed off onto Mr. Laforge or some other minion. Tell Mr. Katz what you REALLY think of the team, Eakins, MacTavish and Lowe.

    What would happen if five or ten thousand people did this?

    If you choose to do nothing, then you are letting Mr. Katz play you for a sucker, and you should stop complaining.

  • nugeformayor

    20 games in and as predicted Connor Mcdavid is only thing to look forward to this season. I figured they would have fired Eakins by now so he is obviously the fall guy for klowe and mact. Watching how many mistakes this guy has made just 7 games in any other organisation would have said goodbye and so long. hmmm just think of Connor Mcdavid and linesmates 2015/16 cant wait!

  • 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!

  • BlazingSaitls

    At the end of the day, sports is an entertainment product. Most of the entertainment comes from watching a winning team.

    Even if you don’t make the playoffs, at least being IN THE MIX to make the playoffs in March and April can be entertaining as we sit on the edge of our seats wondering if they can get CLOSE to POTENTIALLY basking in Stanley’s glory.

    At this stage, that’s all most Oilers fans are asking for. I don’t think that’s asking too much. But at this stage, this organization isn’t even giving us that. Being virtually out of the playoffs in November means 5 months of meaningless hockey and 5 months of very little entertainment.

  • 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.

  • ginwarrior

    I keep reading about people’s brilliant idea to not take their seats for 5 whole minutes at the start of the game, wait till the anthem is over they say. Yeah, that’ll show them let’s pay for our parking, buy our tickets, wear our Oiler sweaters, buy the beer and concessions and then wait 5 minutes in the concourse before we sit down, that’ll teach Katz and 6 rings a lesson.

    Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m just a realist. But can somebody smarter then me explain to me just what this would prove, I can provide the answer myself. It wouldn’t prove a friggin’ thing.

    The idea is a great one except it’s lacking 1 small detail. That detail is this. Don’t go to the game period! Don’t go to Rexall, don’t give them any more money. Your tickets are already paid for you say. Just don’t give them away and don’t show up.

    That whole 5 minutes thing makes me laugh out loud.
    Surely I’m not the only one that thinks that is a stupid stupid idea.

    • pkam

      I agree that “don’t show up for 5 minutes” thing is not a very smart idea.

      But if Katz and the OEG only cares about money like most fans here said, what will your suggestion “buy the ticket but don’t show up at all and don’t give it away” really do?

      • pkam

        I said “your tickets are already paid for you say”. What I mean is of you have season tickets, or you’ve purchased tickets in advance. Those tickets would already be paid for. Obviously there’s nothing that can been done there.

        My point is don’t go to the games. Keep the building empty.

        • 24% body fat

          It is not fair to ask someone who has paid hundreds of dollars for tickets to a hockey game to not go to the game.

          There is always hope before the game. It might be fairer to ask those paying patrons to leave the game early, you know once your hopes have been crushed one more time.

          I have to leave when it becomes obvious the team is dogging it and has no heart. Without effort the game is not fun to watch. When the coach is making unfathomable decisions, it is time to leave.

          Recognizing when the game is crap and leaving also sends a message to management and causes the camera crew to further zoom in on the ice so as to not show the emptiness.

  • Torcida

    I used to love going to Oilers games. You would get to wear your jersey and hat to work/shopping/parties.Now it is embarrassing. You would support your team by buying tickets and merchandise. I guess now you can call me a Tier 5 fan or whatever it is. Last few years I haven’t spent a penny on the this garbage and not going to. If the organization doesn’t care why should I, it’s not about winning the cup( of course it is) but show your fans you are trying to build something, not constantly drafting first pick overall, any monkey can do that.. Financially they won’t get anything from me. Probably doesn’t affect them much and they don’t care but every fan has a choice to stop this torture.