Losing and the long walk through hell


Saturday night after the Oilers lost to the Blackhawks, I witnessed an event that unfortunately we have seen here too often and one that I have been on the receiving end of. Oilers fans loudly booed the players the last minute of the game and it did not stop there.

For those of you who don’t know, there is an open area, beside a bar, through which Oilers players must walk to get to their dressing room after each period and at the end of the game. On Saturday night, the fans in that area booed, and gave it to the players for the twenty yard walk from the bench to their room. 

When you win that is a nice walk. When you lose, and have been losing lately like the Oilers, that walk is a walk through hell. I know — my teammates and I got booed there more then a few times, as we struggled through injuries and weak play. 

There is no where to hide on that twenty yard walk. Your fans are very close to you. By the time you reach the dressing room doors you are two inches tall and simply walk in right underneath them.  It is much different from getting booed on the ice. Getting booed on the walk feels much more personal. On the ice or bench the fans are a sea of people. The noises all blend into one resounding negative vibe. 

As you walk through the twenty longest yards in the world, it becomes very personal. You can see individual faces and hear each specific comment – they no longer blend in with the crowd.  I can still remember some of those faces and have since run into them. That night they were giving it to me and my teammates – the next time I saw them they wanted an autograph. It’s crazy.

The struggles of the team lately are well documented and both now and as a player I had no issue with fans speaking their mind. I do however have issue with comments about how players feel about those boos. Too often, I hear on my post game show on TSN 1260 that these “million dollar players just go home or that they don’t care”. 

ARE YOU NUTS? THAT IS THE FURTHEST RESPONSE FROM THE TRUTH!

FeelIt

Walking through the twenty yards of hell getting abused by YOUR fans gets to you. You don’t just shake it off with a shower and some axe body spray. It stays with you. You are already embarrassed by your performance and the outcome and then you are rattled by the response from your fans. You don’t just shake it off. Even now, I can still feel that horrible range of emotions.  You don’t feel like eating. Sleep doesn’t come easy. You are grumpy to everyone around you.

This isn’t written to suggest the fans are in the wrong for voicing their displeasure. I have no problem with that. As a player you take the good with the bad. When the team rattles off multiple wins the twenty yard walk is awesome, you feel ten feet tall. 

My goal is to make it clear that the players do hear the fans frustrations and they do not simply forget about it. It does bother them greatly. Don’t buy into the noise that players don’t care — they do. What is said behind closed doors is much different that what is said publicly to the media. MUCH DIFFERENT!

  • Jason, we know what is said publicly because we hear it or read about. From your experience, what would you think is being said behind closed doors? Your right in that some fans think that players can just blow off our frustration, so I’m curious as to the closed door reaction.

  • CMG30

    Oiler fans are some of the most patient in the world, but it would seem that they are well and truly fed up, and with good reason.

    The GM needs to wear this. I’ve been supportive of many of his moves. I think that overall the trades he made have been good. However, it was all the moves that he didn’t make that are hamstringing this team. We don’t have the depth up the middle we need and we’ve got people on defense playing too high up the depth chart.

    Finally, we have a norris trophy candidate who continues to make game breaking defensive mistakes yet never loses ice time.

    • I think there is something to your comment. Why choose to play in Edmonton?

      bad travel, bad airport location, cold, can’t live your “normal” life outside the rink, the team is very poorly run and then your fans throw jerseys on the ice, and cat call you as you leave the rink. Sounds like a fun place to work for the next 5 years of your career.

      I can’t image the current players calling their Free Agent hockey friends saying you have to come to Edmonton to play professional hockey.

      • WHY CHOOSE TO PLAY IN CALGARY?

        Everything you say about Edmonton is also true about Calgary. They overcame this supposed problem to ice a competitive and PROUD team. I imagine many players and agents in the near future looking at Calgary as a very attractive destination.

        I know the season is only one quarter over. Calgary’s performance is amazing. I don’t accept the BS rationalization of Stauffer (and others) that their success is due to their goalies playing over their heads. The stats of Hiller and Ramo are almost right on their career averages.

        Edmonton is the WORST CANADIAN TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF THE NHL. Missed the playoffs eight consecutive years, soon to be nine. The previous record for Canadian teams is seven years. Who in their right mind would want to have anything to do with this endless sh!t show?

        Calgary is successful because Burke and Hartley are smart. Edmonton is a failure because Lowe, MacTavish and Eakins are stupid. If all three of them got fired, DO YOU REALLY THINK ANY OF THEM WOULD GET SIMILAR JOBS WITH ANY OTHER NHL FRANCHISE?

        IMHO, it has almost nothing to do with airports, weather, and demanding fans.

      • Natejax30

        True enough, however there are many examples of smaller market teams in the major sports leagues that have competitive relevant teams. If the Oilers were run properly, they could have a competitive team that was respected around the league. Edmonton is cold for sure, but no worse then Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Minneapolis and some other northern cities. Edmonton also has an incredible living standard and is a very prosperous city in a growing province.

        I don’t care if the Oilers are a perennial powerhouse every year, but I do care that our impotent managerial team does not have the ability to get this team even close to a playoff position in 9 years. Its inexcusable and they should be replaced.

        A well-run team should make the playoffs, 6-7 times every 10 years, and with a little luck go on a playoff run at least once every 10 years.

        The Oilers are in the same class as perennial loser franchises like Florida, Columbus and NYI and until KLowe and his buddies are gone, this will never change.

        • vetinari

          I basically agree with your points, but the management
          needs to build a culture that says Edmonton Oilers
          are great place to play professional hockey.

          Green Bay Packers and OKC Thunder are
          franchises that have built a winning culture in smaller markets.

  • tealyn

    That video is tough to watch, but not as tough as it was to watch that game Saturday. I’m on the fence about fans booing the players there but what isn’t cool are some of the slurs and profanity going on there. There are small kids hanging around to see thier heros and Oilers game should be a relatively family friendly experience.

    The Oilers should change that set-up and move the ropes back until we can ice a real team. Either that or Management needs to nut-up and take the walk with the players.

  • vetinari

    Frustration. I don’t like the idea of intentionally being that negative, that close and in the personal space of the players but I think that when ownership and management make themselves so scarce that sightings of Bigfoot are more common, fans unload on the most visible and accessible members of the team: the players and the coaches. And at that moment, fans know that they’ve been heard. I wish that Katz, Lowe and MacT had to do that walk instead because I think that that is where most of it was directed but as usual, good luck in finding them for a comment.

    • judgedrude

      They have not previously, currently do not, and never will take responsibility for the product of their making.Not only incompetent and arrogant, but you can add cowards to the list. We are going to need a bigger bus.