It goes without saying that I am a big fan of the
Edmonton Oilers. I have every piece of Jordan Eberle gear ever made. I still
use the Oilers garbage can I was given as a birthday present when I was
12. Even in these dark times on the ice
I’m still heavily invested in this ice hockey squadron and their continued
And for all the problems we see on the ice and in the front
office there is a second massive problem on the horizon for the Oilers as 2015
begins. A problem that no one amount of winning – however
unlikely THAT is these days – will help.
And that is the very possible scenario of the Edmonton
economy falling off a cliff in the coming year.
Many of our fellow Oilers fans often rant in the comments
section here that we need to boycott the Oilers, avoid Rexall Place like it’s
ground zero for a zombie attack and die of preventable diseases by boycotting
Rexall Drugs. Sending a message to Daryl Katz’s gigantic wallet is the only
remaining hope for many Oilers fans who are well past the point of wanting to witness the 124nd rebuild in recent memory.
And the “hit em where it hurts” crew is already seeing some
impact. Reports that “4,000 to 5,000 seats were empty at a recent game” have
lit up the web, although the Oilers were quick to blame this on inclement
weather, not icing the worst team in the NHL for the past 15 years.
Indeed the dubious streak of selling out Rexall Place has to
be one of the more hilarious outputs of the Edmonton Oilers Spin Factory –
anyone with a working set of eyes who has attended an Oilers game in the past couple of years can
tell you that the building isn’t full.
Many folks are getting texts and calls on a frequent basis from people with tickets wanting to know if anyone wants them. That wasn’t happening a few years back. I am getting StubHub emails on the reg
suggesting that plenty of good tickets are available for upcoming games. That too is a new thing.
Last week I went to the ticket sales counter at Rexall Place just
prior to puck drop to ask if there were any available seats and the lady smiled
sadly and said “take your pick.” Further I swung by the Oilers store in
Kingsway on Christmas Eve to ask how the Mark Fayne #5 Jerseys on the rack were selling in
addition to the rest of the Oilers gear and the fellow told me “last Christmas was slow. This
one – way slower.”
The Oilers fans wanting to put a dent in team revenues: your
wish is coming true.
AND NOW FOR THE OTHER THING
Anyone noticed the price of Oil lately? It was buzzing along
in the summer and then has since fallen off a cliff, down
approximately 50% from it’s high in July. Not good news in these parts as so goes the price of Oil – so goes the Alberta economy.
We can talk about whether or not the price of Oil will stay
in it’s current downward spiral or where it will possibly settle in the next 12
months. If I knew that answer I would be loading up on Oil futures and then
fanning myself with wads of cash surrounded by the entire Maxim Calendar of
models in 2013 on an island somewhere. No one saw this current crash coming and no one really knows what is going to happen next.
But a reasonable person can conclude that if the price of
Oil stays anywhere near it’s current price of $53.50 per barrel we will see a
significant pullback in the Oil patch. And once companies
in that industry start reducing their budgets and personnel counts we could see
the Alberta economy as a whole stall.
Edmonton is in the classic late stages of an economic boom.
In sitting down with the boys over Christmas I asked them what they think of
the prospects of the economy if the price of Oil stays tanked. “Oh man, there is so much going on that isn’t Oil
related. All this construction downtown, #yeg hashtag use at an all time high.
Edmonton has long diversified past being dependent on Oil.” Then they lit cigars
with $100 bills and toasted their good fortune of low prices at the pump leading to
a cheaper commute to their jobs in the Oil patch.
It may be true that the Edmonton economy isn’t as
reliant on Oil as it has been in other recessionary cycles in the past. But we are still
heavily dependent on construction jobs and construction jobs come to an end
when a project is built. If there aren’t new projects to take their place those
construction jobs go away quick. And then companies one ring out start to get
affected and pull back too and so on and so forth.
Add in the heavy net migration of folks moving to Edmonton
to find work and you could see a situation where the unemployment rate spikes
as people with existing jobs are laid off and people moving to Edmonton find
their prospects a lot more dim than when they decided to pull up stakes and
head out west.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE OILERS?
If Oilers fans are still doing well economically and they
decide to stop spending their hard earned dollars on the Edmonton Oilers that
is a significant problem for the team to be sure. But a solvable problem – turn
the team around, the fans will return, the Nuge will get a hat trick and we
will all storm down to the Oilers stores to buy Oilers branded oven mitts and the good
times will return.
Hit those very same Oilers fans in their wallets though with
a good ol’ fashioned bust cycle of the economy and the Oilers are suddenly
powerless to right the finances of the ship.
The point is this. The Oilers are moving into a much more
expensive building in the fall of 2016. Costs of operating the team will go up.
Oilers fans patience have worn out and we are already rightfully lowering
revenues on a nightly basis.
Now mix in a recession.
When the thousands of small companies
that buy seasons tickets see a pullback in revenue and have to start cutting
non essential expenses “those stupid Oilers tickets no one at the office even
wants anymore” will be the first thing to go. Families facing job uncertainty
will undoubtedly tighten their belts too and “take the kids to watch the Oilers
get shelled” won’t rank very high on the strict new household budget.
The fanciest arena in the world and the best team ever would
see attendance fall in the economic scenario we are staring down. A team that
has tanked, tanked and tanked again, then refused to take responsibility for
anything and has alienated a good portion of it’s fanbase on the eve of moving
into an expensive new big arena and with a recession very possible? Yikes.
To those of you wishing economic collapse on the Oilers to
match their collapse on the ice – your dream may come true.
The perfect storm is now on the horizon.