Edmonton Oilers

Glory days and the Edmonton Oilers

Oilers fans better prepare for even more reminders of the glory days, as the organization prepares for its last ever game at Rexall Place. (Photo: Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Glory days and the Edmonton Oilers
Steve Toms

“Glory days; well they’ll pass you by,
glory days; in the wink of a young girl’s eye
glory days, glory days…” Bruce Springsteen

The Boss first belted out “Glory Days” on 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. album, which just so happens to be the year Edmonton won its first Stanley Cup. The song is about adults looking back forlornly at their promising adolescent years and reminiscing about the good old days, which really reminds me of the present-day mentality of the Oilers organization.

Before we get into it, let’s run through a quick timeline of events, dating from October 2014 to October 2016 (yes, it goes into the future):

Calendar of events

– Oct. 10, 2014: The Oilers celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Cup win. The entire 1984-85 roster was invited to the extravaganza, which was attended by a sold out crowd at Rexall Place.

– Dec. 11, 2015: Before a home game against the New York Rangers, the Oilers hold a ceremony and banner raising in honor of former GM and chief architect of the ‘80s Oilers, Glen Sather. Many Oilers from the glory days appeared.

– Apr. 6, 2016: The Oilers play the final game at Rexall Place. The team has announced its plans for a post-game ceremony that bids farewell to the storied arena, and they’ve invited any player who has ever worn an Oilers jersey to the ceremony (WHA or NHL – almost 500 NHL players alone). Kevin Lowe stated last week that he expects over 200 former players to show up.

– Early October, 2016: The Oilers home opener of 2016-17 is the first game played at Rogers Centre (what a boring name). One can only guess if the Oilers from the 1980s will be in attendance, but I bet they’re invited and will factor in heavily.

– Oct. 22, 2016: The Jets host the Oilers in the 2016 Heritage Classic, an outdoor game to be played at Investors Group Field. The event will include an alumni game between–you guessed it—the 1980s versions of both teams (well, technically the 1980s Oilers vs. the 1980s Arizona Coyotes).

Glory days…

Now, I’m not saying each of these events weren’t/aren’t warranted. Individually, they all seem worthwhile. Also, not all of these events were planned by the Oilers—the Heritage Classic was obviously put forth by the NHL, although I can only guess that the Oilers were giddy to participate in yet another event that will remind the hockey world that the team was, at one point, a relevant NHL team.

How many times within two calendar years does the organization have to remind fans of the glory days?

The above events don’t even encompass the blatant complacency within this organization; they’re only the major events. Just last Wednesday, former ‘80s Oiler Marty McSorley took in the morning skate (for no apparent reason, really) and had a media availability in which he essentially stroked the collective ego of the 1980s Edmonton Oilers.

“I walked into a locker room with great, great players. But they were even better people.”

That’s the quote from McSorley the Oilers official Twitter account shared on the day of Marty’s drop-in.

I wonder if there was a follow up question: “What do you see when you walk into the locker room today, Marty?”

While all this goes on, the organization continues to ice a joke of a product while jacking up ticket prices for the hopelessly devoted fans. Owner Daryl Katz, being the shrewd businessman that he is, knows how important image is to a brand, and these reminders of the glory days serve as convenient distractions from the current state of the club.

Other Implications

This is of course from a fan’s perspective, but it’s not unreasonable to think that it has a negative effect on the current Oilers players’ psyches as well.

Just think about it. A team that’s mired in a losing culture is forced to sit through a ceremony or celebration at least once a season that reminds them of the gigantic size of the shoes they’re expected to fill. They’re often compared with the greatest players of all time, yet they haven’t even come close to participating in an NHL playoff game.

Some people might argue that there’s no precedent for this situation, because the Oilers had a dynasty in the ‘80s. Well, the Islanders won four straight Cups from 1980 to 1983, and added three more series wins in 1984 to set an NHL-record 19 straight playoff series wins. That’s a dynasty too, and I don’t remember any celebration in Long Island six years ago. A Google search for such a thing turns up nothing of the sort—in fact, the first hits are all about the Oilers 30th anniversary shindig. Nor is there evidence of any celebration of the Canadiens four-peat prior to the Islanders’ run.

It’s time to move on, Edmonton. Even The Boss knows it:

“Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture,
a little of the glory of, well time slips away,
and leaves you with nothing mister but,
boring stories of glory days.”

Oilers notes:

– No matter what happens the rest of the way, the chances the Oilers win the draft lottery for a fifth time in seven seasons is very real. Toronto seems to be on a hot streak, winning five of its last seven, and they sit two points back of Edmonton with three games in hand. Yes, the bottom team only has a 20 percent shot at the prize, but the Oilers have been quite lucky at the lottery table in recent years.

– If the Oilers do win the lottery this time around, you have to think the pick will be in play at the draft. The Oilers have center depth for the future in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, so the allure of Auston Matthews isn’t as sweet to the Oilers as it might be to other teams. Perhaps it could be packaged in a deal for that stud D-man the team’s needed for the past decade?

Edmonton Oilers
Steve Toms

Steve is a writer and professional pessimist living in Vancouver, B.C. He enjoys sports, movies and TV – essentially anything except for real life. His next project is a fantasy screenplay in which the Oilers make the playoffs, though he’s having trouble getting funding based on the implausibility of the story.

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