RAW DEAL

Value

David Chilton, he of Wealthy Barber and Dragon’s Den fame, knows a bad deal when he sees one. Buying tickets to watch the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place, where Daryl Katz’s team has won just 60 of 157 games since the start of the 2010-11 season, unquestionably qualifies as that.

The latest episode of the Oilers providing their customers with defeat and frustration to be washed down with over-priced beer unfolded Wednesday in a 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, a result that dropped the Oilers to 4-6-1 on home ice and 6-11-2 overall this season. That prompted Chilton to chime in via Twitter: 

Oiler fans deserve better. You’ve sold out Rexall Place for seasons on end. Year in and year out, with no charity receipt forthcoming, you’ve bought the tickets. You buy the beer. You buy the jerseys and food and pay for parking. With the Oilers well on the way to missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season, fans have been loyal to a fault. That’s part of the problem. 


Like it or not, Tychkowski has a point – one that’s been made several times by many people in recent years. In what other vendor-customer relationship could a business supply a product so substandard it’s laughable, offer empty promises to make it right, fail to deliver on those promises for nine years and still have people lining up at the door like they do to watch NHL hockey in Edmonton?

WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR

Market

Let me be clear where I’m coming from right from the top here. This isn’t about calling fans suckers or mocking people who’ve supported the Oilers season after season, continuing to line Katz’s pockets while a once proud franchise languishes as a laughing stock. Like I said, you deserve better.

You support the Oilers because they are part of the fabric of this winter city. In the glory years, Peter Pocklington and the Oilers delivered five Stanley Cups with, I’d argue, the greatest hockey team ever assembled. The Oilers put Edmonton on the international sporting map.

Those who remember the parades long for those days again. Those too young, who maybe got a taste of the good times with the unexpected run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, want their turn. The emotional connection is undeniable and understandable. So the Oilers sell hope, and you buy.

After all, buying tickets to Oiler games isn’t like buying a car. I get that. If a dealer sold you a lemon, promised to make it right and didn’t for nine weeks or nine months, let alone nine years, you’d flip that dealer off, tell everybody you know how badly you were treated, how much their product sucks and shop elsewhere.

You can’t tell the Oilers to get stuffed and buy NHL hockey down the block from a competitor. You want it, the Oilers have it. They’re the only NHL game in town. If you do walk away, chances are somebody else will take your place in the ticket line-up. There’s a waiting list of people willing to buy hope. There’s the rub.

BUYER BEWARE

BuyerBeware

I’m not going to presume to say you should boycott the Oilers, turn in your season tickets and refuse to support the team until there’s a real change in the on-ice results. I haven’t paid to get into the building for 25 years. There is no emotional connection for me. That’s too easy for me to say.

Boycotting the Oilers, refusing to support the team with your dollars, should be an absolute last resort, not the first option. Some people have gone that route as there have been an increasing number of empty (but paid for) seats at Rexall Place in recent seasons even as a new rink rises from the ground in downtown Edmonton. They’re done buying hope and empty promises.

Not one player remains from the 2006 Stanley Cup final team. Coaches have come and gone, with Craig MacTavish leaving and now acting as GM. The front office has been revamped. Kevin Lowe, GM from 2000 to 2008, was bumped from the day-to-day spotlight by Katz and made president of hockey operations. Lowe was replaced by Steve Tambellini, who was fired and replaced by MacTavish. The results remain the same.

Going on nine years after the 2006 Cup and five years into the “official” rebuild, Katz and the hockey people he employs continue to pick the pockets of the faithful. They sell empty promises and hope without providing any actual results or tangible improvement to loyal fans who support the team emotionally and financially.

It’s a raw deal. Shameful. You either buy it or you don’t.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 ….

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Zarny

      Umm no.

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

      As for “how could this be”?

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

    • ginwarrior

      I was 16 in 06. I am now 25.. and my fun exciting party days are diminishing quick. and I would just like to say a big F U to the Edmonton Oilers, not once in that entire time frame of my youth did I get to experience even an exciting push to the playoffs or a playoff atmosphere to celebrate and enjoy. I was a bit to young when you made the cup finals in 06 and I saw how great and fun that looked. However you have let me down in a huge way in this regard and not once during the prime of my life have you given me anything even close to a team worth chearing for.

      See ya never, what a joke.

      Great article.

  • 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!!!!!!

  • Chongler

    The only people that should pay for tickets are the ones that yell out fire lowe chants and toss Jerseys on the ice or have paper begs over there heads, everyone else is just a part of the problem.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Lego

    People should ask themselves if they are a “Oilers fan” or a “hockey fan”.

    Good news if you are a hockey fan because there is plenty of great hockey to attend live in the Edmonton area. We have the CHL Champion Oil Kings and the AJHL Champion Spruce Grove Saints. Both teams play highly entertaining hockey and since they win more often than they lose you leave the rink feeling great. And for the price of a single Oiler gold seat you can get season tickets. Check it out.

    Return to watching the Oilers when they make management changes necessary and turn this thing around (maybe never). Until then you don’t have to stop going to hockey games.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.