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!

  • Joy S. Lee

    Kudos to Spector, everyone needs to read his article on sportsnet.ca here is a little peek behind the curtains “The only person looking out for anyone around here is the owner, who hired all his childhood heroes to run the team.” I am happy the media is calling it as they see it too. Enough is enough.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Ps Serious Gord,
    I am not calling you a moron. I understand your points. I definitely understand everyone’s frustration. I just have a hard time with rationalizing something we all know is wrong. I don’t care how much they earn, how much average tickets costs in comparison to going to a movie, or anything else. This behaviour is ridiculous, no matter how it’s rationalized.

  • That walkway is a privilege to have and a completely awesome experience for young non jaded kids to watch their heroes enter the arena.
    Its not part of the new rink and that is somewhat unfortunate, Understandable….. but unfortunate.

  • Oilers4ever

    JS I get and agree the players have feelings and such. I myself have never sat down in that area for an Oilers game. Tickets are over priced as is for other seats and the level of non-talent we get to watch so I can’t imagine the cost there.

    I just think its hard for some fans to believe how much they really care when the same broken record is played year in and year out performance wise. Makes it very difficult to not complain and feel that way when nothings improved for so many years.

    Personally I blame Daryl Katz on this. For a guy who was so high and mighty when he bought this team and making it a winner again he’s done NOTHING to improve it. He treats this team like his toy play thing that makes him money and that he gets to chum around with his buddy Kevin Lowe. Any other owner in this league who cared about a winning team would have fired KLowe 2 to 3 years ago.

    My first ever attended NHL game was game 5 against the Islanders when we won our first cup. Not a word of a lie on that. Peter Pocklington and Glen Sather knew how to build a winning team. We havent had it since they were gone.

    I dont even watch Oilers games anymore because i refuse to support an owner who doesnt care anymore. If i had 260 mill I’d buy this team, fire absolutely everyone, and ask Scotty Bowman to give me his services for one year with one mandate: Find me winners who are not ex-oilers and not my friends.

    Sadly I don’t have that cash. So i guess I’ll continue to avoid the team I fell in love with as a kid because the ownership and mgmt team breaks my heart every day with how they’ve run what was once a proud team into the ground… and turned us into the laughing stock of the NHL.

  • Spydyr

    Why do the fans insist on embarrassing not only our young Oilers but the city we live in? If you don’t like the team then stay home and watch something else on the tube. Also you can be asked to leave the game if your language is bad. I found that out a long time ago when a fan sitting behind me would not lay of the bad language, zero tolerance is what I was told so perhaps they need to in-force it. Perhaps a little more cheering for the guys would help, also putting the same lines together and keeping them together would help also. Arco is one of the smartest players on the team and he gets knocked around by the coach, Hall said he likes playing with him as he is a great play maker. Perhaps he is not a very big but he has more talent to make passes then any other player on the team. Oh I am sure this will get a {lol} but believe me I have been around hockey longer then most of you have lived and if you asked my husband he would agree with me in my knowledge of the game, and yes I have played hockey in my younger years. But no I am not interested in any coaching as we enjoy our winters away now but get to watch the games on TV. I really am ashamed when I hear the fans booing! so childish. Perhaps some of the players are not happy being an Oiler that is there choice they can always ask to be traded. But please guys try and get it together sooner then later………Hope you get more ice time Arco my favorite player, and my right to say so……………..You can all joke about this comment who really cares. Go Oilers Go. Hoping you win all your road games. You should have picked up the old New Jersey goalie he could not only play a few games but would be great to help our young goalies, and he still wants to play so makes sense to our family.

  • Peg Macdonald had a farm, E, I,E, I,O
    And on that farm she had some chicks,
    E, I, E, I, O….
    And just like her they,,,,
    Clucked, Clucked here and,,,,
    Clucked, Clucked there,
    Cluck, Cluck, everywhere a,,,,
    Cluck, Cluck,,,,
    Peg Macdonald had a farm….
    E, I, E, I, Ooooo

  • Not naming names, but there is a blogger here that should know that Massingil has come out with a new feminine hygiene product, with extra vinegar.
    So, after those uncomfortable, er, shall we say, “Ladies days” just a quick spritz here and there, and, Voila, Best yet, there is usually enough left ou=ver to toss a salad for that man in your life afterwards.

  • To be honest,I don’t care for a second how the players feel about the walk of shame,I watched that game,and many others.the part that disgusted me about this video,was the children that had to stand there,watching their parents do this.what do think those poor kids home lives are like,if their clowns for parents would do something so simple,let alone on TV and in front of them.i sure hope none of those little ones play hockey themselves,could you imagine what kind of things these goofs yell at their children’s hockey games,or after them?at least this is one flaw the organization was able to fix,as Katz new barn won’t have a walk of shame.

  • Spydyr

    2 douche bags in a row, the first called “oilersfan4ever” and the second “my2cents”.

    I guess they both like to use numbers instead of letters.

    Not saying.. just saying.

  • Spydyr

    You people have sand in your virginias b/c fans booed and heckled The World’s Worst Sports Franchise(tm)?
    Do you people even know how sports works?
    Anybody who pays money to go see a hockey game at the Edmonton Funeral HOme deserves the pantsless boning they’re getting right now.
    But I’m Sure the New Arena Will Fix Everything ™

  • Spurzey

    Well everything has a flip-side doesnt it?

    Why dont we count the steps the Players take down the Walk of Shame and see how much they are being paid for each step,that should give us all a better perspective.

    These guys are walking straight to the bank.

    The venting Fans are going back to the grinding life-challenges EveryMan and EveryWoman deal with daily,down a few hundred very important dollars.

    You pay to watch,cheer,Boo,eat,drink, park,and crap so who cares to what degree or volume you do either one as long as you dont break the status quo rules.

    No one broke the Barriers,no one threw drinks or beer or food on players,the only thing missing was K-Lowe and Mac-T walking with the real men.

    Its no wonder we cannot turn things around, there is simply to much debate over meaningless things,right from the Oilers Managers to the Online crowd,there is a lack of accurate meaningfull conversations,people are so lost as to what to aim at with their frustrations they are shooting at anything that moves,if the Oilers presented some targets this would not be quite so bad for the Players.

    O.E.G is a goddam joke , they are absolutely out of touch with how to connect with the Fanbase and with how to Manage a Pro Sports Image in Edmonton.

    It is derelict to not have non-drinking Family Sections,to not give Families some decent space to take their Kids,give a dam discount to the Kids when they walk in the Doors for having to sit in a special section,20 bucks each CASH…..and get the hell on with building a winning team here you Bozos.The Gypsies running the show know most of those 2o dollr bills will be spent in-house anyways.

    I swear to god these guys running the show are sleeping at the wheel,they just dont have any creativity or vision,none,they are all following some script,the bloody stats perspective again,the “book” perspective,jeepers this is out of control.

  • Zarny

    Nice article with a good perspective. I think Struds struck the right tone.

    Fans should certainly be free to speak their mind within reason. And given the long run of futility in Edm frustration is easily understandable.

    But it’s also a reality that the toxic atmosphere in Rexall and booing players will have a negative effect on the team and results.

    Players are human. It’s beyond silly to think they don’t care about losing because they make lots of money. They care to the point of not being able to eat or sleep because of the anxiety and frustration. That only serves to compound the negative effects.

    Every GM will tell you they want their team playing loose and confident because that is when athletes perform at their best. The Oilers players are undoubtedly the complete opposite of that.

    And it started with game 1 of the season when some goofball tossed a hoodie on the ice after the Oilers lost despite making Calgary look like a pee wee team for most of the game. I can only imagine what players like Draisaitl, Pouliot and Fayne thought about that. The team has undoubtedly been on pins and needles and wound up tight ever since. There is a lot to think about in hockey and worrying that every mistake will result in a shower of jerseys only serves to make the players perform worse.

    That doesn’t mean fans don’t have the right to boo or even throw jerseys on the ice, but the effects are unmistakable. You can’t escape from the fact that such actions have consequences and only results in making the team worse.

  • Serious Gord

    I would agree with Struds for the most part here. For most players and most teams I would agree. But this team seems different. Losing seems to be accepted. Many of the players here have been losing for 3-4 years straight. Eventually you just get used to it and it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. So many players have simply stopped trying because why bother? There is zero accountability by anyone in the whole organization. That’s what is happening here in my opinion.

  • Serious Gord

    I don’t think I’d boo the players but I can’t begrudge the people that did. Fans do have the right to boo. When the Oilers play well, they get some darn good cheering making that walk.

    It’s costs good money to go to the games (whether or not you’re on ‘free’ tickets) and it’s a good 4 or 5 hours out of your life.

    It’s enjoyable going when they win, or at least appear to put in the effort. Too many times I’ve gone to games and left in a bad mood wondering why I support this hockey and thinking about other things I could have been doing in that time.

    I have Oiler stuff I used to not think twice about wearing. Now when I’m heading out of town, it’s a debate and I usually end up leaving the hat or t-shirt at home. I’m still an Oiler fan. Just not a proud Oiler fan.

  • DyeGuy

    The problem here isn’t the management or the coach.

    The problem is what is going on in the Locker Room and the mentality of wrongful entitlement.

    Could we have a better coach for the job? Sure. Maybe Eakins wasn’t the right man for the job but I don’t think he is hurting anything. He has hockey sense and knows what works. Unfortuantely, what he learned as a veteran, might not work on these Oilers because they don’t see the big picture. If they bought into it as a collective group and cared about each other, It would work.

    Calgary has Bob Hartley, a proven coach in the NHL. The Flames are also a group that care for each other and who don’t want to let each other down. Both of those factors equal success. It is easier to coach a team that cares.

    We had a hard working team with a great leader in 1997. Not much talent ouside of Weight and Smyth, But they cared for each other. Ron Lowe fed off of that and they upset Dallas..

    I have had it with “Lowe must Go”. If you had to choose a person to be in charge of the franchise, wouldn’t you want a guy who personally loves the Oilers?

    Kevin Lowe is not the problem. He Won 6 rings, he played most of his career in Edmonton, he decided to retire here and loves the city. When he was a player, he played his heart out. When he was a coach, he had a winning record and got us to the playoffs. When he was the GM he made the moves he needed to, with what he had and we got to the finals. Now that we haven’t made it to the playoffs and he should go? He doesn’t have anything to do with the players.

    You know who does, that nobody blames? The Enitled fans.

    Do you think booing your team helps the mentality in the locker room?

    Do you think that if I played for the Oilers and saw a bill board that said “Lowe must Go”, that it would inspire me to play here? That Arm Chair team owner should have gave that money to charity instead of trying to bully Katz and demotivate our team.

    The fans feel entitled which is fine, but why rub your negative thoughts on the team and the city.

    We are not stupid. We see the team is in a major slump.

    Craig Button said that MacT’s press conference was a joke. Like he would know better.
    He fired Darryl Sutter in Calgary and then was replaced by him, which led them to the finals.

    Fans can have an opinion, but that doesn’t mean you are right. If you knew what was best for the team, why are you not working for a hockey organization? The Islanders were a horrible team a lot longer than the Oilers were. Fans wanted Garth Snow fired after he made brutal trades and bad signings. Now the Islanders are winning games and he is still the GM.

    How about fans try and help motivate their team instead of whining and yelling at them like spoiled kids. If you can’t afford to goto games than don’t. If you can and don’t want to go, donate your tickets to kids, who remember why going to the game is fun and will cheer our team no matter how bad they are.

    Those of you who say that Lowe, Katz, MacTavish and Eakins should’t run our team, get over it.

    Eakins was successful as a coach in the AHL. Lowe has more than proven himself and is constantly asked for his input on our national teams from people like Steve Yzerman(who I am sure knows what he is doing). Katz could afford the Oilers for a reason. He isn’t stupid. MacTavish is a smart guy and has proven that as a coach and player.

    Point the fingers at yourselves as bad fans for causing so much grief for the people who are trying to do their job both on and off the ice.