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.

  • YFC Prez

    I fell very bad for season ticket holders, especially the ones who have held their tickets for the past 7 years. I can’t imagine shelling out that kind of money to watch this team.

    That being said I do still go to the occasional hockey game, usually once a season. My wife just bought me and my son tickets to the Sharks game. Sunday game and tickets were very easy to find. Getting tickets to a weekend game less than a month away was damn near impossible for years. So I think there is a diminishing demand for oilers tickets.

    Hockey fans are hockey fans though and Alberta has become a hodgepodge of people from all over the country coming here to work.

    As the season ticket holders drop out, the tier 3 fans ( me with my son ) and the oil field workers with money to burn will pick them up. A fan boycott just isn’t possible.

    As someone who isn’t from Edmonton, going to rexall to watch a live oilers game with my son is a real treat. And it’s much different than when I’m sitting at home watching. Its about the atmosphere and bonding with the son. W/L really doesn’t matter as much then.

  • YFC Prez

    the only reason you would keep the arena empty during a broadcast…is shame. not money. shame is a powerful tool and when used properly, very effective. i believe they’d be embarrassed as heck.

    also Kevin Lowe has nothing to do with the money, that’s Patrick LaForge (he does a hell of a good job too). Lowe is hockey ops, so basically the construction of the team, which sucks. also why shame is better.

    shaming them is your only option.

  • 2004Z06

    There is one area within management that not a single other professional sports franchise can touch. Marketing! Not a single other professional sports franchise could continue to sell this s**t year after year after year.

    If you won’t collectively boycott one game, hell even one period (the team doesn’t show up until the second most nights anyway) to send the message, you need to look in the mirror and decide if you are part of the problem, or part of the solution.

  • hitchikerforajax

    Some people are mentioning a diminishing demand for tickets.

    Has anyone noticed that radio stations have started to give away Oilers tickets? That never used to happen, sports related shows sure, but the music stations are giving them away like any of their other regular giveaways now.

    I think the bounce even has a listing of the games they’re giving away, and it’s a who’s who of unpopular games. Looks like Katz and co. are ensuring the sellout streak stays intact.

  • Did any journalists / reporters / @$$ lickers ask Schultz what his thought process was on the 3rd period power play where he deposited the puck on the Vancouver players stick and gave him a free breakaway from the Vancouver blue line? Anyone critique that at all or do we all consider it a legitimate hockey play?

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

    • Quicksilver ballet

      It’s too late. He’s used the Oilers as a pawn to secure his billion dollar real estate deals in the new arena district. He’s not the least bit concerned if his playtime project (the Oilers) ever give the fans something to be proud of. He’s played this city like a musical instrument with even a few more real estate deals still to come I’m sure. His confidant Kevin Lowe is in on the ground floor on one or two of these mega deals no doubt.

      These kids go to battle 82 nights a season without the least bit of caring or fighting/standing up for each other. The players are only following ownerships lead/example. His Oilers are just a daycare for some of his junior millionaires.

  • PEBOisONit

    If you’re going to name-drop a financial guru in your lede, then the story better be about Darryl Katz being a financial genius for delivering a crap product, yet being continually rewarded in the short term (ticket sales)) and long term (arena welfare).
    Nobody forces anybody to buy a ticket to watch that [email protected]
    I don’t get a choice about paying property taxes to support corporate welfare for a Vancouver billionaire.
    Your tears are misplaced.

  • hitchikerforajax

    “In what other vendor-customer relationship could a business supply a product so substandard it’s laughable, offer empty promises to make it right, fail to deliver on those promises for nine years and still have people lining up at the door like they do to watch NHL hockey in Edmonton?”

    The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party says “hello”.

  • Burnward

    Fickle fans in Edmonton. Don’t you realize that nobody wants to live in Edmonton especially millionaire hockey players and that leaves the draft or overpay to keep players to stay for a period of time. You all want to fire the management when their hands are tied for the most part. It’s one draft at a time and a few more years before they have the horses needed to compete. The truth hurts Edmonton is cold and a dump its difficult encouraging hockey players that it is a mecca when the team is so bad for so long and the fans are so angry. I’m a fan but I wouldn’t live there either.

    • they want to live in Detroit instead?
      Or, they want to live in Florida…yeah, the panthers are really rolling these days.
      Maybe they want to win in San Jose where a good regular season is good enough.
      Maybe they want to sign 13 yr deals to play in Minneapolis…that’s gorgeous city, isn’t it.

  • Seems to me it’s pretty hard to win when you have a rookie GM, a rookie Coach, mostly rookie players.I’m sure in Katz business ventures he doesn’t seek out rookies to work for him and make the biggest decisions don’t think he would last long.There might be a salary cap on players but with his money he should be able to hire the best GM, coaches, training staff, scouts etc. etc.