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

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Recently by Jason Gregor:    

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  • GDB 22.0: Desert Storm 
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    • Spydyr

      Of course it gets louder for the playoffs the intensity levels rises exponentially.

      People in Edmonton are for the most part knowledgeable hockey fans and go to watch and enjoy the gameplay. Not scream and yell for no reason other than to make noise.I know when I’m at the game I like to watch what happens behind the play and away from the puck. Stuff that is not shown on TV.

      Attempting to change the way people are such as trying to make them louder with some phony “make some noise crap” will not work. People will see right through it.

    • @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.

    • XL Lebowski

      I was at the game last night and I looked at Minnesota and thought, well they’re boring. (Except for Charlie Coyle — that guy can fly). I think with no real rivalry with the Wild and their boring Jack Lemaire approach, its hard to get fired up in the stands.

      If the Oilers are going to put the camera on people then make it fun, like scan the crowd for people who look like celebrities. I mean there’s always somebody that looks like George Costanza in any crowd isn’t there?

      I would also reexamine the music. Sorry but there’s some great new music from bands like Rival Sons, Muse, Jack White that would sound better than Kiss and Trooper. The Oilers should run a contest where a lucky fan gets to choose their playlist. Some of you young bucks could liven the place up.

      I appreciate Gregor bringing up the issue. The more discussion, the more potential good ideas that could inject some energy into the place.

      Just my two cents.

      P.S.: Is it really true that the Calgary Flames have only won one Cup? Their Trolls have somehow made me believe that they’ve surpassed the Montreal Canadiens for overall Stanley Cup supremacy.

    • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      To play the contrarian, I was at the Carolina games the ’06 finals in Raleigh and found the crowd to be incredibly loud. Dumber than a sinking sack of Flames defensemen but louder than hell–with cheerleaders to boot. Christ on a Cracker was that painful.

      But the fans were complete morons when it came to hockey and particularly playoff hockey, as loud as they were.

      I could care less about the decibel level, particularly in the regular season.
      I like that Oiler fans pick their battles and saving their outdoor voices for the playoffs, when da sheet gits real. I think that Oiler fans get it that regular season games aren’t worth getting too worked up over. And that’s a good thing.

      As important as the game may be, I’m never going to get as excited about beating MN in early December as I am about beating Calgary in late April.

      The first game is necessity, the second game is war.

      Prepare for war.

      Reminds me of the joke about young bull and the old bull walking towards the pasture, when the young bull notices that the gate to the pasture’s been left open and he says to the old bull, “hey let’s race down to the pasture and get one of them cows.” And the old bull just shakes his head and says to the young bull, “how about we walk down there and get ’em all.”

    • camdog

      Northlands/Rexal was fun in the cheap seats (where the crowd was young), but everywhere else was quiet. I was at the Chicago game, I really tried to make noise after the play, but I got drowned out by the PA system after the whistle. Tough too cheer the team on when they blast the music so loud you can’t hear anything.

      Best fan experience I’ve had watching a hockey game the past few years was a Men’s league final in small town Alberta. You didn’t have to worry about offending anybody, the atmosphere was great, music wasn’t too loud and it was the right music.

      Eskimo games are quiet as well, college section used to be bumping, don’t know what it’s like now.

      General theme above is the past 10 plus years of sporting events in Edmonton area, most fun I’ve had in the buildings was when I was furthest away from seniors and surrounded by the younger crowd without kids…

    • There are two types of fans:

      1) Those that seek to be entertained

      2) Those that seek to cheer their team on

      The second group doesn’t care what the circumstances are, whether it’s a tight and boring game, whether the team is down by 3 goals, etc. they’ll keep cheering.

      As a guy who fits into the second bucket, who’s apologized to the people around me (when I’m in the lower bowl, I’ve never had to in the upper bowl), I think Edmonton simply has more of #1 than #2.

      I have a ton of ideas (many of them out-of-the-box) on how to make the fan experience better, and I may post them later, but at the end of the day most fans won’t care. I think we’re focusing far too much on “fan experience” and not of the fact that most of the fans won’t care for that.

      And for bucket #1, it can pose to be a chicken and egg problem. When the game is tied 1-1 and a player like Kassian tries to get the crowd into it and they don’t respond, it’s like he wants to see the crowd help the team get a bit more passionate, but they won’t until the score is 5-1 Oilers, past the point of need. It was pretty sad to see, actually.

      On a related note…

      Over the years I’ve read various studies on the correlation between team performance and cheering (or jeering) and it looks like the results vary per sport and there is nothing definitive on the topic. Some studies were inherently flawed: one recent one attempted to correlate decibel levels with team success, which is a flawed premise when you factor in that the intended effect is on team psychology and that this can be distracting in sports like football or golf.

      I look at post game comments from the young Oilers over the past 5 years and note that they get easily excited when the crowd gets behind them. It seems like age is also a factor as well, one that hasn’t been looked at in these studies.

    • camdog

      Pretty simple solution have a section devoted to retirees and young families.In most restaurants you have the restaurant for the families and retirees and the lounge for everybody else, it works…Aka the lounge is generaly louder and has a better atmosphere than the restaurant.

    • 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.

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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….

    • Seriously Bored

      I know batman and spider are trying to get that Eberle chant going but it just doesnt seem to be catching on right now.

      Only game i had the joy of seeing so far was the buffalo one 🙁

      Best part was the drunk guy yelling “get em grizzly bear” everytime someone went near lucic and “classic oilers” when we were down. That and the young couple on the smooch cam who ended up clearly not being a couple when they looked at each other in disgust and shook their heads in a no fashion vigorously.

    • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      XL Lebowski wrote:

      Is it really true that the Calgary Flames have only won one Cup?

      Yup. That’s Calgary: 1 Cup. No balls. It’s the oddest thing in sports.

    • 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.

    • @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

    • 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.

    • @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.

    • @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.

    • @Hallsy4

      The peasants pay for the arena, and (some, not all) Katz hired goons act like you’re a nuisance to them for being there. If you live in Edmonton, you do not have freedom of speech if your speech speaks negatively about the Oilers (Lowe must Go Sign by Kingsway, lol, I heard Cops came instantly!?). You’re supposed to make it a loud building in theory, but not in practice. Gregor, I’m glad you were critical of a lot of the in game entertainment in this article, often it feels like fans are expected to be grateful for Katz and his team, no matter how poor they are (last 10 years), rather than the other way around.

    • jamboy

      FINALLY!!!!! Thank you Gregor for doing this article. The games from places like San Jose, Nashville, and Chicago make Rogers Place look like a state funeral!!! For starters…..the Music! Whoever picks the popish bubble crap at rogers place needs to be FIRED!!! Let a different player pick the song every time they skate onto the ice….their favorite song that pumps them up before a game. Maybe have each player do an intro video explaining how the song gets them going. Them team would certainly benefit from this…to come out to a pumped up loud crowd. Make it a little darker, edgier….more metal less pop! It’s a bloody hockey game not Kurt Browning and friends! LOSE the stupid fan cam! Nobody cares! The entertainment crew should make up some loud “soccer stadium-ish” chants and have them on the big screem to get the crowd into chanting along. The fan experience is sooooo boring there. I think our goal horn is bad too. Make it deeper…more like an Air raid siren or tugboat less like a really loud Camry! Engage the crowd don’t bore them to death!!!!!

      P.S. The Anthem singer sucks too. the constable from Ottawa is Awesome. The Boston guy gets the crowd into too…with an ANTHEM! I feel like I should say amen after our guy is done.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

    • 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.