April 20, 2009

Testosterone Makes the World Go 'Round: Chapter 7A - Jock O Rama, Part 2 - My Dear Edmonton Oilers

Haha, what a title. but fuck it - it's MY blog, I'll do what i want with it. Including making this ridiculously long, and a little less focused than I wanted it to be.

Now that the unnecessary swearing is out of the way, here goes...

There were a lot of problems with the Oilers this year. So much so, that they finally decided to fire the coach. We needed a scapegoat after all!

As I have made it known, the salaries for these "heroes" are unfathomable --- HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. And that's for the shitty players like Gilbert. Get Real. The ultimate reason of Edmonton not making it into the playoffs for the 3rd straight year is the lack of motivation of the players. Having million dollar careers isn't motive enough apparently. The team lacks the leadership, spirit, urgency, guts, determination and commitment to build confidence to get better. The last remaining shreds of these qualities left on my 24th birthday when Ryan Smyth got sent to New York for Nilsson. Yeah, who? (Sure, Nilsson is a pretty good Oiler - but certainly not a leader like Smyth). The Oiler's needed a Ryan Smyth player - a player with grit, emotion...even Michael Peca didn't have Smyth's intensity when he was here... But he's gone, and we're left with Souray, Hemsky, Horcoff, Staios, and Moreau to pick up the slack. Moreau was great as a non-captain: he represented the hardest working oiler that struggled for every inch. But because of his lack of natural ability (Think Weight vs. Marchant in the 90s), he should never have become anything more than an alternate captain. Jason Smith was a defencemen, so that's a little different, since he had a more solid support network of players around him (like Smyth) with the required passion and skill to make them an exciting hockey club, at the very least.

The problems surrounding Oilers hockey, though, aren't embedded in the coaching or the management or even the young unmotivated, leaderless players. I think it's actually entrenched into the Edmonton culture. The city actually shapes itself on having NHL hockey as its #1 focal point, with everything else less important. Way up here on latitude 53, we convince ourselves that we have a culture & class that is simply incommensurable in relation to our Calgarian neighbors. After all, the socioeconomic base in Edmonton is made up of hard-working roughnecks - as opposed to those lazy good for nothing rednecks that live 300km south of us. We don't even attempt comparing ourselves to other major North American or World cities because we are just already so far removed any of them! We are about as significant of a city to some random Russian city, as that same random Russian city is to us!

But despite our best efforts, we still can't retain (or build) our hockey talent. UFAs sell out for the beachtowns or the big cities and the "talent" that we do get will have "difficult" seasons (Lupul, Peca, Stoll...). Edmonton is a stepping-stone, a boot camp, a place for players to get better so that they could peak by the time they can actually get out. A league conspiracy, perhaps? Maybe.

As mentioned, Edmonton goes nuts on trying to promote itself as a city that is absolutely crazy for hockey above anything else, where the players are loved and admired more than Bono or Madonna or Elisha Cuthbert, depending on who you are. But despite all the "oil money" allowing near-sell-outs for 17 thousand seats for 41 games a season, there are some other absolutely ridiculous things associated with our game that the Oilers of the Eighties wouldn't even begin to recognize (i mean, if they weren't all still involved with the organization). Perhaps this new NHL has just made it that much more difficult for players to focus on just loving the game with incredible passion and desire - to just go out there - night after night - and win games.

This blog is called Testosterone Makes the World Go 'Round. And hockey is a very macho, very testosterone-driven game. We cheer when men smash fists into eachother faces (Oh, women's boxing was @ Shaw Convention Center tonight - there's another re-enforcement of some of Edmonton's culture). When we get scored on, we curse and throw things and shake our fists in the air, and when we score, we drink $7.75 Molson Canadian as the foghorn blares and that horrible Kid Rock song gets blared through the PA system (good thing the oilers dont score that much, hey?) When an ex-oiler comes to town, we BOO and heckle mercilessly, regardless of how much that player invested into the city when he was here.

The beer is kind of a big deal. Despite the insane cost of it, it is uncommon to see a fan without 2 glasses in their hands. That's $15.50 of liquid-idiot maker. Per period. True, they stop selling beer after the 2nd, but more often than not, this rule gets flexxed to accommodate the fans - and more sales get made. By the end of it, you will be walking by stacks upon stacks of empty plastic glasses that will make their way into hundreds of plastic bags and eventually into our landfills. You will be walking amongst the most densely packed room of half-intoxicated "people who call themselves fans". The social problems might even outweigh the environmental problems when it comes to alcohol consumption at hockey games. Over the years, I have seen people be thrown out for drunken belligerence - fighting, throwing, screaming - just being plain disruptive. These young males are always incredibly incapacitated at games that I can't help but think what else they could be doing with their money outside of the public arena. I mean, have you no shame??? With a little bit of temperance and maybe a tad bit of reason, this kind of beer money could go a long ways to tackling any of the world's more pressing matters. We're talking serious money here after all!
SO yes, hockey's expensive. That greasy german sausage that will give you a heart attack, the keychains and jerseys that are all made in China, the 5th and 6th glasses of Canadian, The tickets... They charge the prices they do because of the propaganda about how wonderful it is to be able to go & watch hockey games. They say to get your tickets now because later, it will be too late and they'll be sold out. Yet nearly all games will have some 1/2 price singles available, at the very least. Usually you can track a pair of at-cost tickets down if you look hard enough. But when I was @ the San Jose game in March, I was especially frustrated when I found an empty pair of seats to help myself to at the top of the lower bowl (~$100 tickets), and the kids in the row behind me were playing their PSPs!!! Hell, these kids should be in my standing room square! In front of me were two women who were more "into" eachother than anything remotely related to hockey. Hair twirling, shoulder rubbing, and thigh touching continued for half the 1st and all of the 3rd periods. (They were downstairs in the club area, purportedly drinking, through the entire 2nd.) So frivolous spending and drunken ignorance and utter lack of appreciation for where you are. This is Oilerfan culture. It is driven by the monetary system of having the cash available to oneself that will get you the attention or admiration of the people around you. The exorbitant prices are paid by companies and handed out to the spoiled "fans" that go to these games probably won't even know anything about hockey. When this happens, the "team support" is nothing more than ignorant drunken loud retardedness of the people that spent just as much on alcohol as they could since they didn't have to buy the ticket. It really all amounts to a class thing, where those of you snobby or rich enough to drink ridiculous amounts and make asses of yourselves, and getting awkwardly laughed at by the few relatively sober people there about how inappropriate you are. But at least you are getting that attention.

Oh but there's more. Thanks to CISN Country 103.9fm, getting that attention is made into even a bigger deal! "Smooch-cams" have been in place for many years now, where the camera man scans the fans during stoppages of play and puts only cute-looking couples on the jumbotron screen. A sex-craving coliseum of seventeen thousand will CHEER!!!! when the couple finally kisses, since they are after all totally smashed on all the overpriced beer. The wetter the kiss, the louder the cheers. Testosterone makes the world go 'round.

One Last Curious Thing About The NHL that I Wanted to Bring to Your Attention

With a pressing emergence of global warming and ghg emissions, I wonder why pro-hockey is never criticized for its immense carbon footprint. I have never seen a game delayed on account of a late flight either. They always make gametime. They always get paid. I don't know if it was The Amazing Race that made me first think about how hockey teams charter flights to cruise around North America, or if it was all of the flying that is involved with hockey that made me think how ridiculous the Amazing Race really is. Either way, I feel confident that I could still lead a comfortable life knowing that the Oilers would have only 60 regular season games and The Amazing Race was cancelled forever.

I love hockey though. Go Ducks Go!

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