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?

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.

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.

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.

  • 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

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Recently by Jason Gregor:    

  • Who Are You with Oscar Klefbom
  • GDB 25.0: Avoid self destructing
  • Oilers need to be better
  • GDB 24.0: A budding rivalry
  • Monday Musings: This is who the Oilers are 
  • GDB 22.0: Desert Storm 
  • Oilers Report Card


    • Shredder

      I believe the skepticism persists, and fans are still nervous that the end of the night will be a disappointment…but they might start coming around.

      Frankly I don’t think we’re that bad…try going to an Arizona/Florida/Vancouver game where only half the seats are filled. That is a lame duck environment to have any fun…

    • 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.

    • Axiv

      Not that it applies to every home game where Rogers Place has been very quiet, but last night’s game had minimal entertainment. Saturday’s game against Anaheim was also very dull until overtime. I’m happy I wasn’t one who spent hundreds on a seat to that.

    • D

      In the 1980s, the team was so mesmerizing on-ice that the focus for fans in the regular season was watching the magic rather than being loud at Northlands.

      Maybe the Oilers with McDavid are returning to that form.

    • 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.

    • oilerjed

      I had wondered if the building was as quiet as it seems in TV. No personality at all…..

      TV Timeouts and incessant board play makes for zero atmosphere. Its hard to get excited when every time the pace picks up after mind numbing minutes of cycling and board play and then off they go to commercial for two minutes. NHL needs to decide which is more important, Fan experience or advertising revenue. Empty seats throughout the regular season right across the NHL should be an strong indicator that if the league get serious about it they are going to have a serious attendance problem.

    • 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!

    • Young Oil

      The main problem for me is that they don’t do enough to unite the crowd.

      Agreed that shots to people in the crowd actively take away from the excitement in the arena. Many people would rather be shot than put on the big screen, so they go out of their way not to look excited. People go to watch the Oilers play hockey, not stare at random people in the crowd sitting doing nothing.

      Bringing in more personal touches is a great idea to unite the crowd. Chants for each player like they do in soccer gets everyone involved (though it will never happen in hockey), or personalized goal songs would go a long way. Building in traditions and habits that are easy and fun to participate in is the best solution.

      I’d also argue that making Rogers place a total dead spot for cell phone coverage would make the atmosphere better. Way too many people with their noses buried in their phones.

    • rusty

      As the fans become more accustomed to anticipating exciting things the energy in the building will improve, it will happen organically with time but i agree with gregor the production team can take some cues around the league and improve their production/music build up some energy.

      I dont agree with gregors take on the new opening…its terrible. and the game i went to people were golf clapping at the end of it when the oilers skated out. But i guess i shouldnt expect media to criticize the work of their peers.

    • testyesty44

      Bang On Gregor- My days of going to the game as a GMAC student and having some of the best times of my life unfold by heckling the other teams goalie, other players, other fans at the game, making up cheers gets the people around you into it. all in good fun of course, no lines were crossed, unless it was Calgary

      Now? You step out of line you are outta there. you may cheer and clap but ONLY at the appropriate times…. otherwise you get an eyeroll from the person close by who hasn’t sat off the stick up her you know what or completely disregarded by captain selfie sticks all game…

      I miss the good old days

    • YakCity1039

      To me, Oilers management and ownership knows that regardless, fans are going to show up so they don’t put much effort or stock in to the in-game promotions, music, etc.

    • Makaveli

      As an Oiler fan living in Calgary, I go to many Flames games with clients to my companies box sweet. Compared to Rexall or Rogers, the PA announcer and production team is much better than Edmonton’s and as a result, its a louder, more energetic atmosphere. Plus they have the fire that goes off when the Flames score, which adds to it.

      My Theory is that the Flames production team is better because they have to take away from the fact that you are watching the Flames (had to add my Flames cheep shot in there).

    • @Hallsy4

      They should play specific songs for specific players in some circumstances, kinda like Baseball walk out songs. When Pisani played, did they play “Fernando” by Abba every time he scored? If not, they should have.For today’s team, it shouldn’t be hard to figure something out, maybe “Still Dre” everytime Drai scores? I dunno If I like that specific song but it’s an idea. If there were more fights, Lucic or Kassian could have a song for everytime they fight/score. Also, I like what you said about not just showing the crowd all the time. The one game I’ve been to it’s all I remember basically for entertainment, most people don’t want to be on the screen, or don’t know what to do if they get selected, myself included. Only show fans who deserve to be up there! For the restof the time, figure something better out. Lastly, I’ve only ever seen an NHL game in Edmonton, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. But IMO the games are less exciting now in general than in the past. No Hits, No chance of fights, just floating around system play it seems. The crowd would go wild seeing Ebs and NUge in a good old fashioned Line BRawl

    • @Hallsy4

      Select one contributor from ON and put them on the Big Screen to be booed/cheered accordingly by the masses. From this past week, Henderson will work perfectly.

    • Jay (not J)

      I wonder how much the natural acoustics of the new building vs Rexall play into the experience. It will be a good test in the spring to take the old decibel reader out during our first playoff game and compare to the noise we were making in ’06 when Edmonton and SJ kind of had a home ice noise rivalry going on. It will be interesting to see the difference and interesting to see what it gets attributed too. I’ve always found that I’m at my drunken loudest in a suit -especially if the boss copped the tickets so I don’t buy the corporate seat theory too much myself.

    • Petrolero

      My personal experience has seen the King Kong gates like you’re entering a super max prison; most of the building painted in a sad grey color with no accents anywhere; hunter the soul eating lynx and; the ushers, young and old, who roll their eyes at you about everything like you’re an uninvited guest who’s inconveniencing them rather than treating you like a paying customer.

      Then the concourse is dead no interactive screen or anything to pass the time between periods when you don’t feel like standing in a line. It feels like a giant mausoleum.

      And yes the screen is useless. I went to watch team north America and I had more fun than at the 2 games I’ve been.

    • 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 @$$

    • @Hallsy4

      I think a lot might have to do with the game staff policies. I once was kicked out of an Edmonton Rush game because I was sitting with a friend who banged on the glass when the play was right in front of us. There were lots of empty seats so no one was around us, there was no swearing or anything like that, and I don’t see how it would have disturbed anyone else in the arena. Kicked like 8 of us out for one or two guys banging on the glass. Still sour about it, better kick out the only group who’s cheering or having any fun, because they are a youngerish crowd. Rediculous. Got escorted up the stairs where the police were waiting…. for someone daring to be acquainted with someone who would bang on the glass. Just paid $20 for two beers? Dump them and get out…. No fun will be had in this arena. Sorry about the novel, very sour.

    • 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.

    • Sean17

      I would cheer more from the 200’s but, if I clap I knock the beer out of the hand of the guy beside me and Justin Trudeau the girl’s boob on the other side…. I’m so excited when they score so I can stand up and stretch my legs….

    • A-Mc

      The video game community is really good at taking Shadowplay / Fraps videos and compiling them into action sequences sync’d with music. The Oilers need someone to do this for them but with game footage.

      I could imagine Lucic recording a very short 1-3s intro screaming “CRUSH IT”, then Pump It (by BEP) plays with sycn’d clips of the oilers crushing people. The video would have text overlay to entice the crowd to scream “CRUSH IT” every time the song says PUMP IT.

      You could use this video in any number of different situations.

      They need like 5 or more of these videos on standby.

        • A-Mc

          Why make videos?

          To inject energy into the crowd. To create atmosphere that is something other than a snooze fest. To provide some form of entertainment when the game isn’t.

          You can use videos to remind the crowd of when things went well. Crowds cheer with anticipation of what might happen; so show them the good things that MIGHT happen.

    • All good points. I really think the lack of a chanting direction has hampered the noise. But again, anyone trying to incite excitement gets asked to quietly sit down. I know I shout at the players and the refs (no blue streaks) but never get into chants because our team has none. This should be priority 1 – 7 of the in house entertainment staff. I also agree showing people looking at the big screen is really boring. I never realized how boring that is until just now.

      Also, they give away old dutch chips. It’s an embarrassment that paying hundreds of bucks for tickets equates to them giving away bags of chips that cost them 5 cents. It all needs to be better.

      Also I hated that car racing thing they did. Stuuuuupid.

    • Kal Tire

      I had no idea, but apparently there are awards for “best in game experience” throughout all of the major sports leagues in North America.

      A close family friend of mine is the in game manager for the Flames. As much as I hate Calgary, they had consistently won awards for their in game experience, to the point where he was head hunted by the Leafs. They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he took it. He ended up lasting one season with them cause he hated living in Toronto and returned to the Flames this year. Flames gladly took him back, by the way.

      The point is, this is a “thing”, it is a position that is important to a franchise, and just like in hockey, there are guys who are good and guys who aren’t. The Leafs thought it was important to go out and get one of the best in the business because their fans wanted it. Perhaps OEG should do the same. Nicest looking building in the league, but with no soul…Fix it boys.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      I think the biggest problem is the machine that detects which row is cheering the loudest to get gas coupons, pizza or chips might be a little off. I think there have been some pretty quiet rows that have been unjustly rewarded at the games I’ve been to.

      For a group that has so “unabashedly” borrowed every great idea from every stadium/arena they could cull inspiration from for Rogers Place it would be nice if they paid attention to the in-game presentations that liven a place up.

      I was at a Seahawks game 3 years ago and they did a couple of videos where it really got the crowd into it. The game was against the Vikings so they did one video where they did an “us” versus “them” – things that they love about living in Seattle (local burger joints, landmarks, etc) versus those in Minneapolis. Brought the usual cheers and jeers from the crowd. But it was fun.

      There was another video with cheer versus boo. Showed things you love (brace yourself, it’s an American game and they flashed the old Red-white and blue on the screen) versus things you hate. Again, it was fun.

      And they should do some of these things on a 4 game loop. Love the opening intro but they should have at least two of those if not three or four. This way you have something different to see every time you go. Change up the in-game entertainment so if you went to 4 straight games just in-game entertainment stuff would be different each time.

      • Arod

        I’m sorry to break it to you man, but there is no machine. Notice how the squad that has to give out the coupons is already right beside the row that cheers loudest?? Yeah, they picked it ahead of time. Honestly if they actually picked the weirdest dance moves to switch seats down to the lower bowl and honestly tried to find the craziest SOB dancing, that would be funny. But they don’t. And it sucks..

    • @Hallsy4

      You’re supposed to enjoy yourself as a paying fan, as long as it’s in a manner that’s acceptable to the Katz hired goons. Make noise, but not too much noise. Buy refreshments, but not too many refreshments. Bring signs, as long as they are approved by the king himself. There’s not much to do in Edmonton winters anyways, so King Katz doesn’t care….. They can offend a thousand season ticket holders, I’d guess there’s ten times that number who’d gladly take their tickets.