CHARACTER

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.

ONCE AN OILER ALWAYS AN OILER

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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. 

  • Zarny

    @ David S

    So do you think it was Katz’ idea to burn the house down after 2009-10?

    Because by all accounts it was Lowe et al that sold Katz on the rebuild plan not the other way around.

    The product on the ice is the responsibility of the GM and POHO. Katz is at fault for not firing them for doing such a sh*t job; but he wasn’t the one signing Gagner to his contract.

    I think it’s dubious to suggest Katz is holding Lowe and MacT back from doing their job.

    • Rebuilds can happen in far shorter periods than we’ve seen (see: Calgary). Not saying cup contender or anything but playoff worthy at any rate. This could have been accomplished in 2-3 years and we all know it. That we haven’t and from the moves we’ve seen lead me to believe there is absolutely no intention of competing until we move into the new rink. That falls at the feet of Katz. Believe me. If he wanted to see playoff games we’d be seeing playoff games.

      As far as signing Gagner goes, he was coming off a career points season (although over 48 games) and paid the going rate for an equivalent 60 point, pre busted face center.

      As much as the online community loves to think underlying numbers hold alot of sway in negotiations, more often than not it comes down to production, character and comparisons, which Gagner had in spades at the time.

      • Rocket

        Oh please. If you are suggesting that Calgary’s rebuild has been successful you are blind. They are overachieving in every measurable way. They are last years colorado and the previous years toronto.

        Not a chance I would trade today’s Oilers roster for Calgary’s. Are you saying you would??

        • PutzStew

          How about Calgary’s attitude, management, buy in and work effort. They are not over achieving just by chance they are bought in and working for it. In the end they are giving their fans excitement, well into the the season. Most off they took the position that it was NOT OK TO LOSE, early in their rebuild, unlike the fall for Hall, something for Nuge and Fail for Nail. Good for them, good for their fans and just proves what idiots are running 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.

  • 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.

  • Rocket

    I’ve lived in Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, Boston, San Jose, and now San Francisco.
    My fondest memories might be from Edmonton. I speeknglowingly of it. Amazing friends, amazing time in my life just after university having fun as a bachelor. But thinking about it, the city itself really does suck. Especially compared to these others.
    Unfortunately, these “post university” aged kids playing for the oilers have been tainted with pretty much the exact opposite experience as I was – bad management, losing etc. Gretzky et co were having the times of their lives in a city they probably felt like they had the keys to
    So its not surprising.

  • RE JANNE NIINIMAA

    Niinimaa and Anson Carter were both traded on deadline day in 2003. Janne was traded to NYI and Carter was traded to NYR. There were cameras in the dressing room after practice. Niinimaa was literally in tears. Carter was all smiles.

    PS: Not so long ago NYI was a perennial on these “I don’t want to go there” lists. Now the team is turned around and they are moving to a new arena in Brooklyn. I don’t they will have any difficulty attracting good UFA’s in the near future.

  • Why does weather have to be a bad thing? I haven’t seen a “winter” in 11 years since I left the E-Town.

    I think the snow and cold is a great thing. It is small things but nothing like having icicles on your eyelashes and then closing your eyes and having them melt and open and refreeze.

    Northern Light 1 out of every 3 nights… yes it is true – the University of Alaska does a forecast on them. I used to stay up to 1 AM then drive just out of Millwoods and watch them.

    Cross country skiing in the river valley is out of this world good.

    Embrace what you have.

    I live in one of the top 10 cities in the world, and people still complain about the winter. Climate here couldn’t be more stable. Seriously never hot never cold. Edmonton isn’t this, but it is still awesome.

    Proud to be from Edmonton.

  • dw

    I grew up in Edmonton during the 80’s dynasty. I loved growing up there. I have lived in a number of places since then and would have no issue with going back. But I think if we all put out hometown pride aside, it is pretty easy to see if you were a young millionaire with the option to live and make more millions in any major city in North America why Edmonton would be near the bottom of the list. With that said, if we were winning cups or contending from year to year it would be a different story. Would anybody look at Pittsburgh as a destination if Crosby and Malkin weren’t punching their ticket to the playoffs each year?

  • Jaxon

    This is why the Oilers should be mining Northern Alberta for their free agents every summer or trying to entice players with some other incentive. Go after the players who are likely to have a natural pride in putting on the Oilers gear. I think this summer they should pick up 3 UFAs from Northern Alberta and 3 German UFAs ans still chase the 2 College kids that have been on their radar, one of which is a Northern Alberta kid.

    UFAs:
    LW: Blake Comeau – C: Marcel Goc – RW: Scottie Upshall
    LD: Christian Ehrhoff – RD: Johnny Boychuk
    G: Thomas Greiss

    I bet Ehrhoff, Greiss and Goc (pre-trade) loved playing together in Pittsburgh and being the team to cheer for back in Germany. They could continue that in Edmonton. I seem to recall Boychuk has a home in Edmonton that he was renting out to one of the young Oilers at one point. I bet you could get Comeau, Goc and Upshall all for under 5.25 total (1.75 ea).

    College:
    RD: Kenney Morrison
    G: Matt O’Connor

  • JSR

    Where do I start…unfortunately, salaries have got way out of control, to the point the teens coming up through the CHL have a sense of entitlement, instead of feeling fortunate to play at the highest level possible. Those of you who have read the book, “Showtime”, by longtime Peterborogh Petes writer Ed Arnold, can attest to this. Jody Hull, who was on the coaching staff of the Petes, and played in the NHL,, brought this fact up in the book…
    This feeling of entitlement looks like it continues well into some players thirties, as there are players who would rather play on a losing team in the sunbelt, than Northern Alberta.
    That is the reality of it, what can you do? Nothing…hypothetically, if Boyd Gordon could have signed for the same money somewhere in the Southern U.S, would he have signed here? Not a chance…

    • JSR

      Yes, attracting players will be easier in time with a winning culture. But don’t be naive thinking we’ll have the best of the best knocking down our door. We are going to be overpaying for people as many still want beaches and anonymity. That and happy wives.