Monday Musings: The Library

The Edmonton Oilers are tied for first place in the Pacific Division. Connor McDavid leads the NHL in scoring with 34 points in 27 games, and he has a five-point lead on Nikita Kucherov.

There are many reasons for Oilers fans to be excited, especially after years of futility. However, Rogers Place might be the quietest rink in the NHL. Some have looked to give it a nickname and through 13 home games the most accurate one might be ‘The Library’.

Why is it so quiet?

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This is not a new phenomenon at Oilers games. Edmonton has always been a quieter barn in the regular season, but during the playoffs it becomes a madhouse.

Of course, the atmosphere will be better in the playoffs, but why such a drastic change between October and March compared to April, May and June?

I’ve heard many theories over the years, but having been to many rinks around the league I believe there are a combination of factors, and a few small tweaks could make it a much livelier arena on game nights.

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THEORIES

Homer Thinking

  • The tickets are expensive so “real” fans can’t go.

    I don’t agree. Yes, they are expensive, but Edmonton still has a very high percentage of season ticket holders who are not corporations. Many average Joes/Jills have tickets and go to games.

  • The lower bowl is all corporate and they don’t cheer.

    I’ve always wondered why people think if you wear a suit it means you are too good to cheer. I don’t believe your job or salary determines you ability or willingness to cheer. Last night the wave was started in the lower bowl in the section right behind the Oilers bench. It took three of four tries to get going, but they kept at it, because there was nothing to miss on the ice. The game was horrifically boring.

  • The Oilers have been terrible and there hasn’t been much to cheer about.

    It is true they have been brutal. The Decade of Darkness almost broke the spirit of even the most diehard fan. But the Oilers aren’t in the basement this year, plus they have an exciting team. They are seventh in goals scored, 14th in goals against and they have McDavid. He’s a human highlight reel every night.

    After so many years of losing you’d think the first sign of winning would have people exploding, because they haven’t had much to cheer for in ten years.

I’m not sure any of those theories are the reason the rink has been woefully quiet this year. Here are the issues I see and some small recommendations to fix the problem.

CHANGES NEEDED


Edmonton has been historically a reserved crowd in the regular season. This goes back to the 1980s when the Oilers were winning regularly. Once the playoffs arrived the decibel level increased dramatically, but many nights in the regular season it was very quiet.

Edmonton is a blue collar city. People work hard and rarely toot their own horn. We are a quiet, confident bunch and I wonder if the polite, reserved nature of people in their everyday life impacts how they are as fans. I don’t have a psychology degree, but it seems like many fans don’t feel the need to get excited until the postseason.

The other main issue is how the the Oilers’ in-house entertainment doesn’t help much. Their majority of in-game experience consists of panning to people in the crowd at every break. I’m sorry, but an endless run of fans smiling and waving while on the big screen doesn’t do much other than have them smiling and waving.

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While the music has improved, it still doesn’t have a vast array of tunes that get the blood flowing.

It also doesn’t help that certain ushers scowl at any fan who stands up and cheers or starts a chant. God forbid they add some emotion in the building. It’s almost as though the Oilers don’t want any organic chants. They want fans to sit quietly, smile when the camera pans to them during breaks and, whatever you do, don’t be too loud, because you supposedly could distract someone beside you from watching the game.

There has to be a middle ground where fans can cheer without being chastised for it, because as it stands Edmonton is one of the quietest rinks in the NHL. Every visiting media person I speak with notices it.

SOME IDEAS

Questions

  • Oilers get a PP and the in-game production crew does nothing. Have better production. One of best things I’ve seen was in Colorado for an NLL game. When the opposing team got a penalty the announcer would say, “Number five, two minutes for roughing,” and the crowd would stand and yell, “Get in the box!” and point to the penalty box. It adds excitement for the upcoming power play. The place was electric and it was a very simple thing, but every time the opposition got a penalty the crowd stood up and the anticipation for the ensuing powerplay was better than other rinks I called games in.
  • There are other things the Oilers can do. They have the best big screen in the NHL — use it for more than showing fans sitting down and staring at camera hoping to get on the big screen. It is overdone and to be honest adds zero intensity.

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  • Last night the game went to OT and they played a lame montage of fans in their seats, some taking selfies of themselves and not even looking at the camera. This does not generate excitement. Play some highlights, like Draisaitl’s OT winner from the Saturday night. It isn’t that hard — just put in some effort rather than resort to crowd shots. Show some previous OT winning goals. Get fans excited about the OT.
  • Or come up with some chants other than “Let’s Go Oilers”. That can be fine at times, but simple ones like “Con-ner, Con-ner!” before a PP would work. Anything to add some noise and energy. Last season Patrick Maroon was gushing last when during the final game at Rexall fans chanted “Maroooooooonn”. He was overwhelmed by it post game. He loved it and I was floored when the Oilers didn’t have a quick little video reminding fans about the chant on opening night when he scored the first goal ever at Rogers. It was a perfect opportunity, completely missed.
  • Pick a few of the Oilers players or some of the musicians who play at Rogers place and have them in a pre-packaged video starting a chant or “Let’s get loud!”. Package it so it grabs people’s attention, because just showing pan shots of the crowd every stoppage in play adds zero excitement in the building.
  • Fans get creative. Start a chant or something. Jets fans in Winnipeg are great. Things like chanting “Crosby’s better” when they play Ovechkin are simple and add some energy.
  • I believe it has to be a collaboration between the in-house scoreboard and fans who need to be willing to cheer. Don’t be a fun sponge and scowl at someone who is standing and cheering. It’s sports. It is supposed to be a release from every day life, and right now the atmosphere at Rogers Place is severely lacking. They should at the very least show more replays of goals and penalties, rather than just pan the crowd at every stoppage.

I don’t want this to turn into a blame game, but there are factors that can be improved. Many other rinks are louder and have a much more enjoyable in-game experience. I like the Oilers’ new video intro. It’s great, and looks fantastic on the big screen.

The Oilers need to use that screen to their advantage. A well placed highlight reel goal or big hit, when produced properly, can boost the energy in the building. 

Right now I think they are wasting a great tool, the big screen, by using it mainly to pan the crowd. Smiling fans, or ones finding different ways to drink their beer while on screen, while funny from time-to-time, add little and get old fast. They are not maximizing one of their best assets. Maybe they are treating it like a young kid and letting him develop slowly, but I think the big screen can handle more than simply panning the crowd.

What have you seen in other rinks, arenas, stadiums or ball parks that excite you? Share them in the comments sections. What would you like to see on a game night?

MONTH OF GIVING DAY THREE

Thank you Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for donating the dinner and to Chris for his generous bid of $7,250. Awesome.

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To bid you can call 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. Thanks in advance for your bid. All proceeds will go to Operation Friendship Seniors Society.

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    • Arod

      Wow Jason, thank you so much for writing this article. The in-game production value for the Oilers is so terrible it hurts. It has been that way for a long long time.
      This is the way things go when a company (the oilers franchise) doesn’t have to work hard to get fans in the seats. They get paid without having to put on a good show, which has been true of both on the ice and off the ice for a long time. Fans still come, sell-outs are still the norm.
      I was shocked to see how many of the old in-game productions made it to the new building. Its as if they’re not aware of what happens around the league or in other sports and venues. The oilers as a company have 42 opportunities a year to see what does and doesn’t work in other arenas around the league. Insane that they insist on flying potato chips down from the rafters, or having the gawd-aweful spin the bottle to the predetermined… I mean random seat that gets a $25 gift certificate to some stupid thing noone cares about. Its actually offensive at times.
      AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ABOUT THE BEER SELECTION. HUUUUGE SLAP IN THE FACE O.E.G. WTFWTFWTF!

    • freelancer

      The most fun I used to have at an Edmonton sporting event was the Edmonton Rush games. Announcers were great and even got in some of their own chirps.

      My favorite was after a fight the announcer said Edmonton Rush player #3 gets 5 minutes for throwing haymakers other guy gets 5 minutes FOR TAKING THEM.

      Let them have some fun.

    • Billy Charlebois

      My own theory is that there are a lot of very knowledgeable fans in the building and we are intently watching the game. Personally, when I go, I will jump up and cheer when the Oilers score or when a good play occurs, but I’m pretty quiet otherwise.

      Sometimes I feel that the making noise is kind of contrived. My enjoyment at the arena has zero to do with in-house entertainment, and everything to do with the brand of hockey the home team is playing.

      Things do change in the playoffs, with everybody jacked up a bit more.

      Plus we Canadians are generally a pretty reserved bunch.

      • tileguy

        ^^^ this x 1000 ^^^. Why do we need to make noise? Noise is annoying. Are you here to watch a hockey game or make some noise? Nothing makes me chuckle more than to see those americans banging on the glass from their $800 seats.
        I stand up and cheer when a goal is scored, yell out when I see a good play made, hell I even sing the national anthem, but why do I want to see obnoxious behaviour associated with noise?

        • OnlyOil

          WHY???? It’s called having a good fricken time, let your damn hair down, it’s OK to cheer your team on, it might actually inject a little excitement into the home team and get them playing just 2% better just because they hear the fans are into it. Instead of sitting their with a stick up their @$$

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Disagree about ticket prices. I’m a single fortyish engineer working in the oil industry and ticket prices are just on the edge of my limit. I honestly can’t imagine what folks that have been hit hard by this year’s downturn would be able to do if they want to go to more than one or two games.

      At Rexall I saw folks escorted away for trying to start the wave. When I asked security about it they claimed it was just because they wanted to make sure the fellow was ‘all right’.

      More needs to change than what’s on the jumbotron… s’all I’m saying.

      • @Hallsy4

        I’m with ya on ticket prices, I won’t go anymore unless I can get a free ticket or someones unloading them for cheap last minute. Can’t justify it, and the experience isn’t worth it, to me. Also, security policies seem way too tight, I’ve been escorted out of Rexall for less believe it or not. Rediculous.

    • Pizzy

      I was at the game on Saturday (3rd game of the year) and couldn’t believe how quiet the place was. At first I thought maybe it was the layout of the building as even when they score it doesn’t seem to get as loud. Not to mention, the music in between whistles is not the greatest and they seem to blast it so loud that you cant even talk.

      Also, I tried to get a drink during a TV time out and had to wait much longer than normal. When I finally went to pay, the worker said they have reduced the number of employees. I guess the margins on the drinks don’t cut it. I sure hope they figure it out soon.