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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Lots of ways to try and reason this. Lots of variables at play here. But there’s only one common denominator: THE OLD BOYS CLUB AND CONSTANT RESHUFFLING OF THE SAME OLD CHAIRS. And that’s a fact.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Phuryous George

    Everyone going to a televised game should bring a paper bag in with them, and put it on after the first whistle. Think of the message that would send, on national TV, Oiler fans demonstrate their loyalty to the team that they love, and their embarrassment for it at the same time. IT would be better than the empty seats, since most of them are paid for anyway. A full house of paper bag heads.

    Someone give this idea a hashtag. and also, dont use a plastic bag, the results could be disastrous, even if as an oiler fan, you long for the release.

  • Chongler

    This organization is a disgrace to the fans, a laughing stock to the rest of the league and disappointing to its core. No one has taken any ownership for what has happened here. We the fans pay the price…financially and emotionally. At the very least we know who to blame, there have been fewer and fewer lynch mobs calling for players heads. This mess is pinned 100% on the Management, from the owner down to the coaches. F-you for making me care less about hockey!!!!!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Prongers Promises

    Raw Deal? You mean like ordering a Jr. Chicken but getting a filet of fish instead?

    That is what its like being an oilers fan. So full of promise and within the first bite its over.

    • Rob...

      No, more like seeing that luscious Big Mac on the Menu and ordering one, only to find out it’s about half the size that the picture shows and the patty that’s spilling out of all sides on the image is actually the size of a toonie and tastes like cardboard. Of course the next time you’re at the ‘restaurant’ you look up and see that luscious Big Mac on the Menu and order one…. rinse & repeat. THAT is being an Oilers fan.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • BlazingSaitls

    I remember the Harold Ballard days with the Maple Leafs. A consistently bad team that sold out every game. It was a tough time to be a Leafs fan.

    But Ballard was smart (cheap but smart). He didn’t spend an extra nickel on the team because he knew his return was going to be exactly the same.

    What about Katz. I have to commend him that he doesn’t seem afraid to spend money( at least on the team if not the arena). His problem (and ours) is he doesn’t have the hockey people in positions of authority to deliver what his money promises and he doesn’t make any changes.

    Mr Katz, please clean house and hire someone with a real track record of delivering a winning hockey franchise.

  • 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.