Monday, March 09, 2015

Attending Oilers and Oil Kings Games

As you probably know I am a  huge Redwings fan and overall a pretty big hockey fan. I watch at least a part of an NHL game every game of the season. When I get home the first thing I do after changing out of my hated work clothes is turn on Sportsnet to see what game is on. It doesn't matter much who is playing, I usually end up listening/watching a game while making supper. The Redwings playing in the Eastern Division has been a boon not only in the standings but for myself as their games are now more often televised for my supper prep. This makes me happy.

What doesn't make me happy is the Oilers. In Edmonton it really is the Oilers and...nothing. I am not sure if there are NHL fans in this city as much as just Oilers fans. No one really talks about other teams in Edmonton. The local sports radio talks about nothing but Oilers and maybe who they are playing that night, the social media channels are all Oilers, the print journalist who aside from being horrible write about nothing but the Oilers. All of this may be tolerable it it wasn't the worst franchise in sports over the last decade. They are an embarrassment! Their complete ineptitude in drafting players, managing talent, coaching and arrogance with fans in every regard whether it be verbal abuse, price gauging, or bilking millions of public dollars for a billionaire owner is sickening. I legitimately hate them. And I don't want to, I love hockey, but I just can't support this team. Have I mentioned I hate them?

With this general disgust I now only find myself wanting to attend Oilers games to see the opposition. And so this January I was excited to finally have a reason to cheer in Rexall Place when the Redwings came to town.

Chrissy had gifted me tickets for Christmas and the whole day had a special feeling to it. I even broke out my special cufflinks for work.

All day I was giddy and before I even knew it the sun had gone down and we were ready to head to the rink.

Chrissy obliged me in heading to the rink early to watch the warm ups where I rambled on about the players to her and she feigned interest (Abdelkader is from Michigan, Miller's hair is hilariously grey, how fun is it to say Gustav?). I think she bought me my first beer of the night just so I would shut up.

The crowd welcomed the players from the gold medal World Junior Hockey championship and started the game in good spirits. It was downhill from there. Even with the Oilers scoring the first goal of the night they were totally sitting on their hands. It was the worst atmosphere I have experienced at an NHL game. Just no energy.

Of course this ended up helping my Redwings so I wasn't too disappointed.

The game was closer than it had any right to be as the Redwings played down to the Oilers level. The Wings ended up winning 4-2 with a couple of late Powerplay goals. I went home happy with a win and the cutest woman in the building on my arm. Even with the horrible atmosphere in the building I considered it a good night.

A couple weeks later I had the unique experience of being invited to serve as Honor Guard for the opening anthems of an Oil Kings game and I jumped at the chance.  It has been some time since I had attended a WHL game and I was eager to see the recently demoted Leon Draisaitl play for Kelowna against his adopted 'home' team. Little did I know that I would get so close to the young kid before the game even began and again on the ice with him.

I even ended up on the jumbotron.

Funny enough the crowd for the Oilkings were way more alive then the crowd for the Oilers. Even at about 1/3rd of the size the WHL crowd easily matched the NHL noise level. I was almost embarrassed for the Oilers.

It was a fun game to watch.  As an aside, I don't enjoy WHL hockey as much as I used to in my youth. I think the game overall is now over coached and a lot more about systems and defence than it used to be. Gone are the crazy free wheeling and somewhat overly violent games I so fondly remember. This isn't meant so much as a criticism as much as an observation - the game is still wildly entertaining and quality hockey.

Maybe I will just have to fully embrace the Oil Kings instead of the Oilers if I want to support the local team.

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