If the National Hockey League had its marketing wits about them, Gary Bettman and his NHL geniuses would have made a bee-line to Edmonton by now to film the spectacle that the Oilers’ first-overall draft selection has created.
E-Town is jacked, baby!
Stand in a line-up anywhere across the Alberta capital and sooner or later the topic morphs into “Taylor vs. Tyler!” “Does either OHL draft pick stick with the Oilers if they show well in training camp! Should the Oilers and Boston (second overall selection) be workin’ a deal!
And let’s not forget the mainstay discussion from Oilers Nation that never seems to become stale …“Calgary still sucks!” The Battle of Alberta – that never gets old.
It’s not at a fever pitch yet, but the temperature is certainly rising in the Alberta capital. After years of mediocrity, there’s a sense of optimism in the air here, that their team is finally looking to the future and not simply the present.
Without question, there is plenty of criticism to be levelled at the Edmonton Oilers’ front office – players as well – for allowing this once-proud franchise to tumble into obscurity and into the NHL cellar. That said, you can never question the passion of this team’s fan base.
Since that magical Stanley Cup run of 2006 – the temporary glory of which placed a Band-Aid on a gaping wound for an organization that had drafted and negotiated player contracts poorly for the latter part of a decade – the loyalty of this team’s fan base has been tried and tested repeatedly. Yet there they are, year after year, setting records for sell-outs down at “The Drug Store”, and paying top dollar for tickets and foamy draft beer they used to only consume out of under-age desperation!
And make no mistake, for a Canadian, paying eight bucks for a plastic glass filled with helium-induced, warm swill is indubitably a true measurement of loyalty, if not a necessity for watching their once-proud team become the laughing stock of the NHL.
So, it is only fair, perhaps even rational of the hockey gods, that fans of the Edmonton Oilers are rewarded for displaying such fidelity to their beloved copper and blue in the face of such an unparalleled plummet from grace over the last several seasons.
With three weeks to go until the NHL’s 2010 Entry Draft, fans of this once-storied franchise across the province – around the world for that matter – have already marked their calendars, scoped out their favourite watering hole stools, updated their passports and purchased airfares to “LA-LA Land”, where they hope to witness the commencement of the resurrection of their beloved Oil Drop.
This is huge, not only for a hockey team, but for a hockey-rabid city and its 1.2 million citizens that breathe and eat Oilers hockey. Remember when a pimply-faced kid from Brantford, Ontario appeared and planted the seed of passion for NHL hockey in this community in the early 1980s….this too is one of those moments.
When Steve Tambellini steps to the microphone (perhaps presumptuous) on June 25 and announces who Edmonton will select with its first overall draft pick, the germination for the future success of the league’s most northern outpost will have occurred.
And it’s not just about the first round pick either. It’s about a front office and team embracing the maturation process, and understanding that catching lightning in a bottle once every 15 years does not define excellence, but rather shrewd business sense and leadership, both on and off the ice.
After June 25, the Edmonton Oilers’ front office will be on the clock with its fans. Here’s hoping they can finally tell time.
In the meantime, remember Oiler faithful, chins up, sticks down.
About the Author
Written by Scott Pattison
Scott is an award-winning sports writer whose career spans more than 20 years. He's proudly covered the Oilers since moving to the Alberta capital in 2000.