We’ll keep calling it the McDavid factor until someone else
comes up with something catchy. He’s been the catalyst for sweeping changes in
Oil Country. Even before being drafted he was responsible for the end of the Glory Days Oilers in management and the turnaround in respectability that the
Oilers experienced. He’s unquestionably the reason why the Oilers have
36 nationally televised games scheduled. He’s also the reason why the team is
going to play its annual rookie match against the University of Alberta Golden
Bears in Rexall Place for the very first (and last) time.
The Oilers and the Golden Bears announced a change in
venue on Monday. On September 16th, the Oiler rookies will square off
against the two time defending national champion Golden Bears away from Clare Drake arena for the first
time ever. It’s a break from tradition that some
people are not overly happy with, but at the same time it’s understandable.
Reports from many who have attended previously say that the venue was uncomfortably
cramped the last several years, and that’s without the added impact of Connor
The Oilers have seen first-hand the draw that McDavid can have when they opened their doors so the public could freely watch McDavid
compete in a Rookie Orientation camp and scrimmage. The results were
extraordinary. Considering the rookie/Bears games were already selling out,
this was a no-brainer. At just $30 a ticket, the game is reasonably priced and
the hockey should be very high quality.
Not only will this game include McDavid, but it will presumably
include Nurse and Draisaitl as well. It’s going to be one of the most dynamic
rookie teams the Oilers have ever iced. As for the competition, the U of A Golden
Bears hockey program is second to none in Canada and the roster is largely
comprised of former Western Hockey League players.
WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?
For the cynical who immediately assume that the Oilers are
pocketing all the added money the club will generate by selling 12,000+ seats
(maybe even sell out) at Rexall, the money goes towards a combination of the
Golden Bears and the Oilers Community Foundation. It’s going to fund charity
and collegiate sport. I doubt the game will be this in demand in the future,
given that it should be the last time McDavid, Nurse, and Draisaitl will
compete in it, and it’s a nice way to kick off what will be the last ever season
played in Rexall Place.
The Golden Bear game, in recent years, has capped off the
Young Stars tournament, which has also sold out all of the Oiler games from my
understanding. This year the Oilers are going to feel a lot like a travelling
circus (but for different reasons than it normally does) in the sense that
everybody wants to see the show. Everybody wants to see McDavid in NHL silks.
The Oilers didn’t need help selling tickets, but I can’t help but think they
are going to see a big boost in their road attendance numbers all across the
As for breaking the tradition of the game, the Oilers have
broken tradition previously during the Tambellini era when the Golden Bears
game was cancelled for three consecutive years. The version of breaking tradition where
the game is played in front of double the people is considerably better than
the alternative. It was shocking when Tambellini decided to stop the
U of A games, not because it was a needless action born of a mistrust for the
local university and collegiate sport in general that made the Oilers look
petty and afraid, but because Tambellini actually made a decision at all. He
must have laboured over that one for months with no interruptions, which wasn’t difficult
since he wasn’t busy talking to other GMs ever.