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.



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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

  • 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.

  • 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”…….

  • 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

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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!