The rise and fall of the Oilers hockey team has been well documented by experts and rednecks alike. Gallons of ink have been spilled since the Wayne Gretzky-led Stanley Cup winners carved up the ice at Commonwealth Arena. Callers to talk radio and letter writers to newspapers are not short of criticism or advice. The patience of season ticket holders, fans, and sponsors has been stretched to the breaking point.
The turnover of coaches, executives, and players has fuelled a roller coaster of emotion. There were calls for heads to roll when, years later, the ’boys on the bus’ who transitioned into coaching and management roles could not re-create the magic they had once been part of. Think Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Glen Sather, etc.
The abysmal final team standing the last several seasons led to early round draft picks. Time after time, as the new young savior pulled on a team jersey and sang the praises of the storied history of the Oilers, fan’s hopes rose. Surely, now that Nugent-Hopkins / Eberle / Yakupov / Nurse / Hall / McDavid are on-board the team will return to its glory years. Or not.
’Oh, they’re still young men. The team is in the re-building phase. We’re looking for the right chemistry on our offensive line, on our D. We need everyone to give 110% on a more consistent basis. It’s a confidence thing. Injuries have some of our key contributors sidelined so our second and third line has to step up. We need everyone to show up. I’ve let my teammates down. We’ve got to find a way to win. When we shoot pucks go in. We didn’t get the bounce we needed. We came out strong in the first two periods but eased up in the third. We’ve got to give our goalie some help, we can’t expect him to save us night after night.’
We want to believe. We want to vicariously share in the win column in the exciting and pervasive world of professional sports. I suspect head coaches and players are as sick of saying these inane things as we or the media covering them are of hearing them. And yet?
When the chance to attend one of the last games in Rexall Place came up we jumped at it. We would use comp tickets from Greg’s workplace and take Grady to the March 20th game against the Colorado Avalanche. The company is a season ticket holder. I had to print the tickets at home. Stated value: $262 each.
How the times have changed. When Greg was a boy during the Gretzky years we occasionally got to buy very good tickets for $17 each; actual souvenir-worthy tickets. Would $17 buy a beer and pizza slice now?
Since puck drop happened to be Grady’s bedtime, we only made it through two periods. It was fan appreciation night with souvenir flags, free popcorn, giveaways, and a half-price sale on merchandise. Today I learned that not only did the Oilers lose another one but so did I. The 50/50 prize of $58,365 went to someone else. Some of us can’t win for trying, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.