Since the day-to-day news on the Oilers hasn't been that much fun lately, I've taken some time to reflect on what it means to be an Oiler fan and even what it means to be a hockey fan in general.
This will be a first part of a few recollections. Better to retreat into memory than sit through this.
Growing up in Edmonton it really is part of the landscape to cheer on the Oilers. My parents were also sports fans and active in sports (Dad played baseball - my mother played sports growing up and was even a baseball umpire for awhile) but not sports "fanatics". Hell, they even met for the first time at a work curling bonspiel - how much more Western Canadian can you get?
We had Grey Cup parties and would watch the odd game on TV and most playoff games.
Back then, you could see a few games on TV on HNIC or a handful of games on ITV or whatever local carrier would carry the games.
I liked hockey (played for about half a year, had a bad leg and had to quit) and cheered the Oilers. I remember Gretz's 50th goal in 39 games and wishing I joined the throngs downtown during the 80's dynasty Cup wins. I remember where I was when I heard on the radio that Gretzky was sold/traded (back shop of the warehouse I worked at on the west end) and got to break the story to the salesmen out front. I liked Linseman, Tikkanen and Grant Fuhr the best (two shit disturbers and a goalie from Spruce Grove - my hometown) and I think I had an Oilers shirt or two. I saw only about half a dozen games live in the 80s and was awed by the speed of the game and the crowds.
As fans go, I was about a five out of ten. A casual observer and impressed by what was obviously the best show on ice right here in our little town.
Then I went to college (Broadcasting - it seemed like fun) in Lethbridge in 1990. Suddenly, as one of few Northern Albertan/Edmontonian/Oiler fans in a hotbed of Flames fans, I had to re-discover the home team.
Because of my competitive nature, the casual observer became the die-hard Oilers fan. I had to keep up. Most of the guys in class were sports nerds and wanted to be the next Darren Dutchyshen (or whatever knucklehead Calgary had in his place). Because of competitiveness, I went from quietly listening to the stats and info fly across the bar tables to studying hard, subscribing to Hockey News and getting to the point that I could not only keep up with the banter, but lead it. Screw you, sports nerds.
The 1991 playoff series between Edmonton and Calgary was probably the best playoff series that I can recall. It should have been the Stanley Cup Final, not the first round of the playoffs. It had some of the hardest hitting, best scoring and highest intensity of hockey that I remember.
The series went to Game Seven and Overtime.
In a basement in Lethbridge surrounded by the dirty Flames die-hard fans it was hard to suppress my joy when Tikk scored in OT.
Then, shortly after, hardcore Flames fan Neil Fraser (we were at his folks' place) turned up with his autographed Esa Tikkanen hockey stick and threw it at my feet. He said he'd rather I had it as he couldn't keep it in his home without wanting to burn it. And he couldn't burn any piece of hockey memorabilia without feeling guilty.
Then I went home. About a half hour after I retired to bed, the phone rang. Neil called. He said he felt guilty. Not about giving me the autographed stick, but about egging and soaping my car.
It was getting cold and he offered to help clean my rusty old Celica off as he was worried about the eggs and soap freezing to the car overnight.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Posted by young d at 23:49
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I will try to avoid taking the easy way out and pointing the finger too squarely in a direction that I'm not entirely sure it should be pointed, but the more I think over this Lowe/Smyth deal, the more I look at Don Meehan and wonder if Ryan Smyth, the person, is really a priority for the super-agent.
Anyone who saw how torn up Smytty was at the airport yesterday knows that they saw a player truly sad to be leaving the town and team he loved.
Anyone who has seen Ryan Smyth conduct interviews or do public appearances over the years also knows he's a shitty actor.
There were real teardrops and he left a pretty classy list of people to thank on the way out.
Smytty was careful not to leave anyone out and capped his list of thank-yous with Joey Moss - THE REAL heart and soul of the Oilers - especially now.
"There is no crying in the white zone." Apparently not.
Those were not the tears of someone who feels he stood up for himself in negotiations and made a point by not agreeing to a deal. While Ryan Smyth is the client and uber-agent Don Meehan the employee, I'm sure that Meehan (who counselled Mike Peca to sit out a year of hockey once upon a time) was trusted to do the best for Smyth.
Did he? We'll see. We are just a year and a half or so into a brand new CBA and the first big batch of post-CBA contracts are going to be signed this summer. Rumours were out there that fellow NHLPA brethren were also a third party in this showcase deal urging Smyth not to settle too low. Another hometown discount for a 30-goal scorer, All-Star, Olympian and class act would be disastrous for the bevy of free agents also shilling for big contracts come July.
How many of those FA's are also Meehan players? I'll have to dig that one up. Anyone?
Smyth's contract would have been one of the contracts that other players, other agents and Don Meehan himself would use to set the bar for July's offer sheets. And arbitrators will also see that deal. Do you think that there wasn't some pressure from both the PA and other Meehan clients to avoid lowering the bar?
It seems that Meehan was looking to July as the time to really cash in and felt that negotiating with just Kevin Lowe wouldn't be good enough. The open market will likely help Meehan make Smytty more money. And it will help Meehan make even more money for the rest of his stable.
Come July, we'll see if Meehan's decision (on behalf of his client, I'm sure) to refuse Kevin Lowe's generous-but-not-outrageous offer pays off for Ryan Smyth. He could cash in come July. Hopefully the team that gains Ryan Smyth appreciates what they get.
Some so-called hockey markets out there may not have the city-wide appreciation for a guy who grew up cheering for the same team that the fans love. Charities in that city will find a great contributor as well. I hope they appreciate that too.
Then again, he may be back here once again. I wonder if a few months away will find Smytty revitalized or cynical?
Posted by young d at 20:13
Found a link to this article on the HF Board. Found it a refreshing insight into the goings-on of an NHL GM.
Part of the reason I've always found trade deadline time fascinating is trying to imagine the strategies and the conversations that go on between these 30 guys who are all trying to build, rebuild, reboot or fix their teams.
Brian Burke's trade diary is a refreshing peek into some deals that got done and some that stalled on the line.
I especially enjoyed "talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me "the guy we like is Perry." I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it's difficult to make a trade in the NHL."
Funny guy, Burke.
It was odd to see how forthcoming he was on discussing names of current players on his team that he either defended from being traded or considered letting go.
Quite a neat bit.
I'd be curious to know from readers if they've seen a more in-depth "anatomy of a trade" article that has ever been done where an NHL GM has gone through the steps involved in pulling the trigger on a deal and everything from the scouting to the brainstorming to how the idea is presented to other GMs.
Posted by young d at 18:53
One period into Ryan Smyth's first game of his post-Oiler career, he has already assisted on a Mike Sillinger goal for the Islanders.
Odd how Ryan Smyth, one of the few players to stay on the team that drafted him for 12 seasons, teams up with Mike Sillinger, who has played for 12 different teams in his career for his non-Oiler NHL point.
The Islanders traded for a player who was almost considered "an Oiler for life" (until this season) and kept perennial trade-day headline Sillinger.
Posted by young d at 18:34