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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

Character matters. 

Pride matters. 

Honour matters. 

We can
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. 

  • Travis Dakin

    Spitting hot venom today! Totally on point. For the record, I’m putting an offer in on a place tomorrow. Spruce (due to custody arrangements) but for all intents and purposes it is Edmonton to me. Coming here is a 35 year dream come true for me. I love Edmonton and I love my Edmonton Oilers who love Edmonton.

    Now, can we get the ladies of Edmonton to come together and give Derek Roy a big thank you for what he’s done to my beloved Yakupov? If the ladies aren’t willing, I certainly am!!

  • Well done. Are there others that remember last year, Yak and Hall on a two on one? The defenceman plays pass all the way and Yak makes the right decision to shoot. He had Hall screaming at him all the way to the bench.

  • SmythsMullet

    absolutely first class comment. I brought my family to Edmonton 20yrs ago and it was the best move we ever made, love the city, love the people, love the Oilers and Esks. Went to BC two years ago and ever since I went I’ve been looking for a chance to get back there.

  • toprightcorner

    Unfortunately the 20-somethings in todays society are filled with entitlement and a “me-first” attitude. They know nothing of loyalty or what it means to actually be wearing an NHL jersey for any team. Team blood does not run through their veins.

    It is very sad and it shows the lack of veteran leadership on the team. You can’t have Andrew Ference as the only guy that speaks to the public about the team and city. Until these players fight tooth and nail for the jerseys on their backs, they will never take that step required to make it to the next level and make the playoffs.

    • Rob...

      I think the “me-first” attitude is gaining prevalence in all generations. Whether it’s the ignorant arse tossing their cigarette butt out the window of their car, or the NIMBY complaining about the noise from an airport that was their BEFORE they bought their house.

      When it comes to the Oilers, there have been more than a few ‘veterans’ with a reputation for being the bad apple in the dressing room, or that dogged-it on the ice with no care for the fans or pride in the jersey.

  • Hemmercules

    Build a winner and they will come. Simple as that.

    Edit: Good article and I agree. I have feeling we hear something from a player or two between now and the deadline about the city and their rank on that list.

    • TKB2677

      Winning helps for sure but at the end of the day, every player is looking out for himself and if you gave him a bunch of truth syrup, I don’t think winning as important as they pretend it is.

      If winning was so important, can someone explain the Kane and Toews contracts that start next year? Their cap hits will be 10.5 EACH next year. That’s 4 mill more per player than this season. The cap is supposed to barely go up if at all. The Hawks today have a grand total of 1.240 in cap space.

      Players due for contracts.
      Richards – UFA – made 2 mill
      Kruger – RFA – Made 1.4
      Saad – RFA – Made .833
      Carcillo – UFA – .55
      Oduya – UFA – 3.383
      Rozisval – UFA -2.2
      Runblad – RFA – .870
      Erixon – RFA – .600

      Even if everyone of those guys agreed to the exact same contract, the Hawks would be almost 7 mill over the cap. So they are going to have to probably not sign a few of those guys and get rid of a few other current roster players just to fill out the line up. Kane and Toews are fantastic players but how much does winning really mean to them when you jump your salary cap hit by 4 mill a piece. Resulting in your having to not sign and get rid of very valuable players just to make it under the cap. If they were truly “committed to winning” wouldn’t it have made sense to take a little less to keep the team together? They already have more money that they will spend in a life time. What if they signed for the same or a modest raise? But they didn’t. They as players are at their peak right now. They will be at their peak for a few years but it’s not like they will have another gear. After this season, other teams around them will get better because they will take players away from them and they will get worse because they will have to lose key guys to get them under the cap. After this season, their chances to win the cup will go down substantially because of their contracts. So how “devoted to winning” is any player really?

      • Hemmercules

        I thought we were talking about free agents, the list that put the oilers at the bottom and team character issues??

        Kane and Toews were drafted by the Hawks, had a winner built around them and won a couple cups. Every player in the NHL wanted to play for them after they won that first cup, not because they loved the city of Chicago, but because they were a likely winner for years to come. I can’t really blame Kane and Toews for taking those contracts. They won that team two stanleys in 3 years and are still two of the best players in the NHL. We are also talking about two guys, its not like there are 50 guys in the league all handcuffing their teams with 100million dollar contracts.

        If the Oilers can build around their draft picks and become a perennial playoff team, players will want to play there regardless of location or weather.

  • PutzStew

    I’ve been thinking about the role of the team in the community for a long time, and this season ti’s really started to bother me.

    Something I find really interesting is that in many other markets, the players take it upon themselves to be involved in the community in a more meaningful and powerful way than just through a team-sponsored community foundation (and and associated obligatory appearances).

    I’ve seen countless videos of guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and Sidney Crosby and Steve Stamkos and Travis Hamonic taking time out of their days to spend good one-on-one time with fans, whether it’s sick kids, or kids who have parents serving in the military, or kids who have had parents pass away. Alex Ovechkin jokingly asked to be drafted last at the ASG so that he could win the car – not for himself, but for a family he knows that is in need.

    What do our guys do, beyond the obligatory? I know Scrivens is involved in mental health awareness campaigns, and through his wife has done some stuff at Ronald McDonald House. I know that some members of the team spent their own money and bought Christmas gifts for kids at the Stollery. Luke Gazdic got his head and beard shaved as part of the Hair Massacure (and looks way less terrifying). I hope someone took up Horcoff’s Heroes after he left, because that was pretty awesome.

    It’s shameful that some of our highest profile residents can’t be bothered to really get to know the community they’re in. Sure, it’s been a rough number of years for the team and we are hard on the players (but only because we love them so much, right?), but this is their job, and as Wanye pointed out, they are earning a collective $68.9 million dollars. I’m sure that somewhere in there, someone can spare a few bucks and some meaningful time for a good cause.

    The feature that Sportsnet did on Ference the other night tugged at my heartstrings. And I’m really glad that he’s kept up the connection to this little girl. But what about the Maggies of Edmonton? Don’t they deserve to have someone do the same for them?

    Maybe Edmonton isn’t the best city in the league. But it’s the place these guys have ended up. It’s a city full of good people, trying to make life a little better for everyone else, and it’d sure be nice if these guys showed some of that same heart, both on and off the ice.

  • SlaveLake

    I would like to think that the players and agents who think negative about us is that they are not dissing the city that is Edmonton, they are dissing the team that is the current Oilers. Katz, Kblowe and MacT have seriously damaged both the quality and reputation of this team.

  • Rocket

    This is by far the best piece of writing I have witnessed on this or any other site about standing up for a city and it’s residents that reward you.

    I could not for the life of me, believe that NOT ONE MILLIONAIRE on the Edmonton Oilers had One Ounce Of Guts or Pride to deliver a very stern rebuttal to the posting that made claims to OUR HOME not being good enough.

    If you don’t have the guts to say this is a good place to be. If you don’t have the guts to openly ask for a change of scenery. Maybe you’re just gutless.

    Of the 10 agents, how many have clients on this team, taking millions from the people in this city?
    How many agents are OK with that, while adding to their own bulging bank accounts ? Every damn one of them sewer rats.

    You don’t want Edmonton, Edmonton don’t want you. Get the hell out.

  • On point Wanye. The real problem is the owner. He’s the one who has put this team in the hole it’s currently in and he’s done it with intent. If even the idiot’s row of commenters on various Oilers sites can figure out how to make a decent team I’m quite sure MacT and Lowe could do the same or more in spades. Problem is, they have a boss with other ideas on his mind. He’s the guy with little or no honour or character.

    • JSR

      Bang on. I’ve tried saying this in other posts but you sum it up nicely.

      This was a team in ’06 that didn’t want to celebrate a 2nd place finish. They did anyway to salute the fans.

      Today they gleefully celebrate last place finishes with the whole Katz family front and centre on the draft stage.

      The dignity this team once upon a time had is gone. And I blame Katz.

  • Zarny

    I agree with the gist of the article; but a bit over the top. Too sensitive.

    Did anyone even ask the players to comment about the Custance article? Or should the players have demanded a media scrum to comment?

    I’ve heard many of the players comment that Edmonton is one of the best cities to play in when you win. The flip side is it’s one of the 6 worst cities to play in when you lose and the streak is currently 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th, 28th and 29th(?). Or are we going to pretend players around the league were impressed by fans tossing jerseys?

    Detroit has worse weather than Edm? No lol. At best, Detroit’s winters are just as bad. 24 straight years in the playoffs though and now an easier travel schedule go a long way.

    It doesn’t matter that Edmonton is one of the best places in the world. Azerbaijan and Syria don’t have NHL franchises.

    What matters is that Edm is not one of the best cities in the NHL – it’s just not. They aren’t winning which leaves taxes as the only real pro.

    And there is no need to pretend this is new. I remember reading articles in the early ’90s about Edm, Buf and Wpg being the least desirable cities to play in.

    Yes, we’re talking about first world problems. Welcome to life as a pro athlete.

  • Rocket

    I don’t really see why Hall or Nuge or Ebs or anyone else who has been part of this for the last 5 years would say Edmonton is a great city to play in. They get booed on a nightly basis. They get chirped at whenever they go out at night. They lose far more than they win. They get pounded by the media.

    I would be willing to wager that if any Oiler, any one of them, was traded they would be truly happy it happened.

    The Oilers not speaking up does not make them bad guys, it just means they aren’t liars.

    • I think if any team iced this mess for the past 9 years they would be greeted with the same boos in every city. Or worse yet a half full building which sadly is on its way if it hasn’t arrived in Edmonton.

      Overall Oilers fans around the world have been VERY patient and willing to wait for the rebuild to bring us back to glory. Some fans are jerks but they are the vocal exception to the rule. Just look at the representation of attitudes of our fellow citizens here. 99% of people are awesome and just want to trade hard earned money for wins on the ice.

      • I agree fully, fans have a right to be pissed off. But that doesn’t change the fact that presently Edmonton might not be a nice place for the Oilers players to live and play. I can understand if they aren’t completely happy here and aren’t screaming in defense of the city, even if its the players performance that’s causing all the negativity.

  • Rocket

    You hit it right on the head there Wanye, I think the head office might have a lot to do with this article though. Kevin Lowe to me sounds like a pariah in the NHL. His constant arrogance towards free agents and his handling of players would leave any organization with big ugly stains. If his ego wasn’t the size of Jordan Eberles gap in his teeth then maybe things would be smoother. Kevin Lowe burned his bridges the night he asked local golden boy Comrie to pay back $3 million dollars. It gets worse from there, everyone from Smytty to Souray all know exactly why the Oilers are a cancer. It starts at the top and Kevin Lowes ego and arrogance are what creates the stench surrounding this team.