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.
Yesterday, the NHL brought the hammer down. A quote from Detroit Red Wings VP Jim Devellano apparently drew the ire of the higher-ups in the NHL office, and now his team will have to pay the price. And it’s a steep price, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger: rumor has it the fine is $250,000.
Here’s the quote in it’s entirety:
“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That’s the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”
The quote seems a little too grounded a metaphor to be used as a platitude for the entire lockout, but it’s upsetting because nothing in the statement can be regarded as all that false. From Devellano’s perspective, this is the owner’s world: they own it, they see that it runs smoothly, and they attempt to make profit from it. His opinions seems grounded in a thought process that makes some sort of sense. Which is why it’s so confusing that the NHL’s slap on the wrist was so harsh.
Stanley C. Panther will have plenty of time for vacation these days.
Yesterday, it was announced by both the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald that the Panthers’ mascot had been laid off earlier in the day by the organization. Or probably more accurately, the man inside the suit was laid off. He was among twelve other employees of the team that were shown the door that day. According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, most of the people let go were from the arena operations and sales departments.
The lockout, of course, is affecting more than just the players and owners. These recent layoffs are exactly what happens when income stops rolling in from the team. These scenarios are being faced around the league, especially for the smaller-market teams like the Panthers. Yesterday the Ottawa Senators also were forced to get rid of employees, while some other teams have cut back salaries as a response to the lockout. It’s expected that other teams will face the same dilemma involving their employees, and not all teams will be able to pay for salaries without any other income.
The hour has come, and there is nothing that the fans can do about it. The threat of a lockout is no longer a threat: it has become a reality. And all that time that both the players and owners said we had has run out. We have reached doomsday for the NHL.
Regardless of who you choose to blame for this 4th work stoppage in 20 years, the fact of the matter is that we the fans need to cope. Whether you root for the Panthers or, of all teams, the Penguins, there is some solidarity to be found in the situation. Despite our rivalries on the ice, our love of the game away from it will stick with us. So while the owners and players continue to grind out details and increase the growing rift between them for years to come, the fans need something to occupy themselves. I have a few modest suggestions:
Yesterday at the Saveology.com Iceplex, a metaphorical wrench was thrown in the Panthers’ plan for the upcoming year. Erik Gudbranson, in an informal workout session, apparently badly injured his shoulder. Even though he received treatment right away and the Panthers have yet to announce his injury, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel was tipped off that Gudbranson could be out of action for up to four months.
Gudbranson could still be considered the Panthers’ sixth defenseman, even after his ice time increased late in the season and during the playoffs last year. His NHL stats, though they aren’t spectacular (2 goals, 6 assists, -19 plus/minus, 78 penalty minutes), were decent enough to hold off his competition and keep his spot on the blue line. As the year progressed, you could really see coach Kevin Dineen‘s confidence in Gudbranson grow. His ice time grew, he took more chances in the offensive zone, and he took more faceoffs in his own zone - I detailed his progress as a player about a month ago. Most people were looking forward to see if Gudbranson’s second NHL season would push him up to star status.