There probably isn’t a thing as significant to the city of Edmonton than their hockey team, the Oilers. With the greats that have played in blue and orange, from Wayne Gretzky to Paul Coffey to Mark Messier, the Oilers are a team marked by history and tradition. Even though the city of Edmonton is not huge by any means, and the weather is not always hospitable, the Oilers still have had plenty of love from their home fans, from the good times to the bad.
But that semi-sacred bond between the Oilers and the city that they play for might have been tarnished recently. The hubbub started Sunday, when the Oilers’ official Twitter account posted a bizarre link. It was an article by John MacKinnon of the Edmonton Journal, speculating that if the city of Edmonton does not shell out cash for a new arena, the team might pack up and leave. That in itself was no big deal, but having the Oilers’ actual Twitter account post the article officially made it a threat: give us money for an arena or we’ll leave.
Needless to say, the Edmonton fan base got worried/incensed. More tweets came pouring in from the fans, the sports pundits put in their two cents, and various cities have started luring the Oilers into looking at their city as a possible moving point. The tweet was removed but the damage has been done. Now the Oilers official stance is known, and the hardball negotiations are now beginning.
Seattle is now the city that has the Oilers’ attention. In one day on Monday, the city passed a legislation that would create a new downtown arena in order to lure a NBA or NHL franchise, and the city also brought Oilers ownership into town to “evaluate the market”. Ownership insists that multiple markets want to pick up the team, so it won’t be one-stop shopping, but just one visit is enough to make Edmonton fans sick.
So will Edmonton move? Probably not. Most people looking at the situation think that this is more of a scare tactic than a serious threat to relocate. The fan base is solid, the arena is still at least usable, and the team has a great future, so why would the Oilers choose to move now? But if the best we can do is guess, expect the Oilers to be back at Edmonton whenever the season starts, and probably a many years after as well. And probably with a new arena to play in.
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