So something named Craig Custance does an informal poll of 10 NHL
agents and concludes that Edmonton isn’t high on the list of places NHL players will willingly move. Colour me surprised – this isn’t exactly a secret but is
yet another kick to the ballular region for a city that gets these sort of bootings
on a regular basis.
It doesn’t disappoint me in the least that the ESPN dude
wrote this article or that agents would report this back from their players.
People love bad news — it makes for big traffic. People also love slagging on other cities and Edmonton is an
easy whipping boy at the moment.
You know what is disappointing? That not a single player –
those collecting $68,944,000 in Edmonton generated payroll for efforts that
have ranged between “non existent” and “brutal” on most nights – steps forward
to defend the city.
Not. one. single. player. No one stepped forward to say, “I
read that article and it is a bunch of bullshit and I for one love playing here.” Or maybe, “Sure it’s
cold but given the all-you-can-eat crap buffet that we have served up on so
many nights there are few places I can think of that will be better to play in front
of with a winning team than Edmonton.”
No one saw fit to stop this latest negative wave of
publicity in its tracks and beat it back with positivity clubs. You know where
is a legitimate Robocopian hell hole? Detroit. Worse weather. Worse City. Worse
Taxes. Do you see it on the list of places people don’t want to play? Nope.
Know why? Pride. Winning. Honour.
None of our leaders or superstars or grinders or muckers or
glue guys or fourth line players stepped forward to defend the city.
This fact goes to show you why a great many players don’t want to play in
Edmonton and it has nothing to do with the city itself.
It’s not a problem with Edmonton, the weather or anything
like that. It’s a lack of character among the men that are charged with the on ice
and off ice performance of the hockey club – our most high profile institution
whether you are a sports fan or not.
80s Oilers as we have seen are quick to rep Edmonton as the
greatest place since sliced bread. The Great One continues to applaud
everything about Edmonton down to it’s curbs at every opportunity and he hasn’t
played a single game in Oilers silks in almost 30 years. 90s era Oilers still speak
highly of their time in Edmonton – Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Todd Marchant, Janne Niinimaa
have all gone on record in the media saying what it meant to them to be an
Oiler and play in the city of Edmonton.
ONCE AN OILER ALWAYS AN OILER
What the hell does this mean anymore?
Does it mean throwing teammates under the bus on and off the ice? Does it mean
not taking it upon yourself to make an impact in the
community? Is there a single micron of pride in each other, the city and the
logo on the front of the jersey in the room?
The recent silence answers the question.
What more of an opportunity could be provided for one of these
guys to man up and stand before a microphone to give an equal blast of
positivity back to the eternal echo chamber of sports media, saying that
Edmonton is a perfectly great place to play and things are on the up and up?
The city is getting nicer, not grosser – the 159 cranes on
the skyline and the new arena district can attest to that. It isn’t getting any
colder – global warming is seeing to that. We aren’t a small market team anymore, developing players for the richer teams – the salary cap and Daryl Katz’s endless money has solved that problem too.
It isn’t any materially different
than it was in the 1990s when the Guerins and the Weights of the world were
here and loving life before they had to leave for money reasons. Except in one important way.
It’s gotten a hell of a lot more losery.
This is why people don’t want to come play in Edmonton. It’s
this dark cloud hovering over every aspect of the franchise that is keeping players away. It’s a team
awash in bad karma which is spoken openly about in NHL circles. It’s a dressing
room riddled with bad attitude and loser mentalities that is preventing this
lineup from playing to its potential.
draft 100 Connor McDavids or switch the coaches 1000 times a year and it isn’t
going to make a lick of difference until these fragile little “me first men”
calling themselves Oilers take a look in the collective mirror and decide that
this is where they make their stand as professional athletes, that it is a matter
of honour to stand up for themselves, their teammates and their city, and crawl
their way back to respectability.
Look at the resurgent Yak City. It took Derek Roy – Derek
Roy, of all people – to come in here, take some interest in our resident Yak
herder, pump his tire and restore some level of pride and confidence in
himself. The rest of the room was seemingly fine with watching a #1 draft pick whither on the vine.
And look what happens when someone took the kid aside and showed him an ounce of leadership. The kid is on fire. Character matters. Leadership
matters. Pride matters. We have precious little of it at the present time.
I am sick and tired of these “play anywhere that pays, give spotty
efforts and count my millions at the lake in the offseason” types coming to
Edmonton, gliding around Rexall ice and not showing an ounce of courage or
honour the entire time. Then we left wondering why we spend to the cap, draft #1 every other year and still don’t win. And we read articles like this ESPN poll that seem to suggest Edmonton itself is the problem which could not be farther from the truth.
Edmonton is one of the best places in the world. Every
single day that I have to be away chasing my own hustler’s ambitions is a day I
know I will never get back. I can’t wait to come home and laugh at the potholes
as I saunter down Jasper Avenue. And I know I am not alone among Edmontonians –
many of whom have opportunities to leave on the regular and elect to stay and
put down roots because of a deep love of the city.
It’s a crying shame none of our most high profile citizens seem to be of the same mind. And Edmonton continues to pay the price.
We have lost our way.