We're all going through a pretty tough time right now. Preseason games are already canceled league-wide, and even if you don't like preseason games — glorified AHL games featuring two players you've heard of — what the lack of those games portends is at least significant.
In another week, we'll probably have lost some actual regular-season games to match all the torched exhibitions, and that's generally pretty bad news.
But even if this affects you more deeply than other fans -- such as if you're a season-ticket holder or had one of your planned handful of trips to the rink slated for early October -- you can lean back in your chair right now and be thankful that your team isn't actively trying to wage a psychological war on you.
That is, if you're a fan of any team but the Edmonton Oilers.
In case you've not heard, the Oilers are going through a bit of a situation right now. The Edmonton City Council was all set to help owner Darryl Katz fund the construction of a new arena, which is probably needed because Rexall Place is a decrepit hellhole, as well as a business district designed to revitalize the city's downtown area. Now Katz wants more money because of… well, I'm pretty sure there's a good reason.
The problem is that when this drug store billionaire went to the City Council with his hand out a second time, the elected officials swatted it away and refused to pass the hat. They were already ponying up the hundreds of millions previously agreed to, and thus didn't feel as though any additional funds because construction costs are on the rise or because they don't want to pay for Katz to also build a casino or for any other reason he's acting like he needs more money.
And thus, acrimony. Lots of it in fact.
(Coming Up: The Devallano fine; lockout news from coast to coast; Coach Sidney Crosby; Nathan Horton stays home; Ovechkin in the KHL; Sergei Bobrovsky is not good; Carrie Underwood on the lockout; Vladimir Tarasenko update; Mike Gillis vs. Cap Geek; and another stupid Coyotes deadline.)
First Katz started making noise about how if the city doesn't give him the money, they might not be able to build the arena at all. That quickly devolved into his more or less threatening to move the team to who-knows-where and take with it all the promise that its current young roster plainly holds. Larry Brooks was right when he called it a shakedown.
Oilers fans are getting edgy. The prospect of the team moving out of a hockey-crazy market like Edmonton seems slim, especially with so few viable relocation options currently anywhere in the US or Canada. Plus, what with all the warring over revenues at the league level, it seems more likely that Gary Bettman would try to force Katz to sell the team rather than let him just move it to Kansas City or wherever.
Nonetheless, this hasn't stopped the Oilers themselves from trying to leverage that ill feeling among its fanbase into pressure on the city council itself. The situation may have come to a head on Saturday night, when the team's official Twitter feed retweeted a story from John MacKinnon, who seems to think the whole thing has gotten a bit silly if nothing else.
"Oilers not locked into [Edmonton]. [Arena] deal fail would mean loss of NHL club."
In it, MacKinnon said that for local residents, ponying up the extra money Katz wants is probably a preferable outcome to losing the team altogether.
That the Oilers' official feed retweeted the story says a lot: That this is the kind of depth to which the organization is willing to stoop to get what it wants, and perhaps that the Journal, which has been a hype man for Katz not unlike the Mouth of Sauron these past several months, is going to function as a propagandist for the duration of the war.
This is deplorable stuff from the Oilers and Katz, essentially telling the fans that if they don't start leaning on their city council members, and by extension fund the arena deal with money out of their own pockets, then they will lose their team. The move is cartoonish in its cynical villainy, holding a city's love of a bad hockey team hostage to bilk taxpayers out of $25 million more than they'd already committed to the project. The way things are going Katz is about a week away from building a giant machine to block out the sun.
The issue is this: The owners already have a PR problem. Rightly or wrongly, they're largely seen as greedy jerks who are stealing hockey from the fans. The rhetoric against them has, perhaps, reached a point where it's over the top. But with Katz doing this, well, sometimes people go too far, and this is one of them. Not only is he one of the 29 owners who voted to uphold Jeremy Jacobs' initial motion to lock out the players for the second time in eight years, but he's also now demanding a ransom for his team in a petulant attempt to get what he feels he's owed even though no one ever agreed to the terms he's now laying out.
He's within his rights to do it, I guess, but he doesn't have to be such a [expletive] about it.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks moved their annual golf tournament, which usually takes place prior to training camp, to being mid-season, which doesn't seem like a good sign. On the plus side, they at least aren't planning to lay off any full-time employees just yet.
Boston Bruins: Nathan Horton won't play overseas during the lockout, which his agent says "has nothing to do with his health," presumably while winking a lot and crossing his fingers.
Buffalo Sabres: The first All-American Prospects Game will take place in Buffalo next week, and tickets aren't selling very well, despite being available online for as little as $5. If you're in the Buffalo area, buy a ticket to this. It's going to be good and will probably be the only hockey at First Niagara Center for a while.
Calgary Flames: The Flames and Oilers are now waiting for a decision from the Alberta Labour Board about whether locking out teams in that province is legal. "The Oilers and the Flames are Alberta-based businesses and employ employees," said NHLPA lawyer Robert Blair. "When in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do." Which is why the Alberta Labour Board also hasn't made the playoffs the last three years.
Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask left for Charlotte Checkers training camp and, if he does well there, probably won't come back to the Calgary Hitmen. It should be noted, however, that Hitmen coach Mike Williamson believes there's "a decent chance" Rask will be sent back to juniors.
Chicago Blackhawks: Michael Frolik is off to the Czech Republic, and is the first Blackhawk to bolt overseas. No one tell Patrick Kane about all the vodka in Russia. We might never get him back.
Colorado Avalanche: While most hockey players are taking the lockout as a chance to keep playing elsewhere, not so much for Ryan O'Byrne. He's getting behind the bench for the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies as an assistant coach. That's thinking way ahead for his post-hockey career. Dude's only 28.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky signed with SKA St. Petersburg over the weekend because they identified a team need: a goalie who's not very good. Headline: "Bobrovsky Doesn't Expect Guaranteed Ice Time at SKA." No good.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Funny to me that the NHL fined Jimmy Devellano for saying the owners consider the players and team employees to be "cattle" but all that talk about how there's an unwritten rule that you don't sign other teams' RFAs has largely gone by the wayside.
Edmonton Oilers: Great point here: We have no idea whether Justin Schultz is actually ready for the NHL, and therefore a little bit of seasoning in the AHL during the lockout will likely do him a world of good.
Florida Panthers: Mike Weaver on the lockout -- "The players don't want this, and I'm pretty sure the Florida Panthers organization doesn't want this. We had a good season last year and were ready to build on that." Don't forget, though, that Panthers owner Cliff Viner was one of the 30 owners to have voted unanimously for the lockout, so there goes that theory.
Los Angeles Kings: Darryl Sutter has simply continued to farm during the lockout and that looks like the plan for a while. So at least someone is working.
Minnesota Wild: You're not going to believe this, but Niklas Backstrom can't go to Europe because……….. that's right, he's injured.
Montreal Canadiens: Former Habs first-rounder Louis Leblanc is gearing up for another AHL season, and he could be ready to tear that league apart. He spent 41 games last year with Montreal and had 22 points in 31 games in the AHL.
Nashville Predators: Carrie Underwood on the lockout: "Is it wrong for me to be a little happy (about the lockout)? I mean, 'I'm sorry for you, but it's great for me.'" God I hate her.
New Jersey Devils: Is Marty Brodeur thinking about going to Europe? "I know I'm closing doors in Europe now because I'm going to wait a little bit, but I'd like to go somewhere to play by November if I can get an opportunity somewhere." I hear European countries have great pension programs for seniors.
New York Islanders: When and if this season starts, is Matt Moulson due for a decline? I dunno, I feel like he can reasonably expect to keep shooting 16.4 percent forever.
New York Rangers: More on Henrik Lundqvist's potential decision to return to Sweden or stay home: He just had a baby girl with his wife, but also would like to play on the same team with his twin brother. So, no decision yet but he has good reasons to go with either option.
Ottawa Senators: A bunch of maniacs pulled Air Canada jets that weighed 130,000 pounds each 12 feet to raise $70,000 for the Sens Foundation. Yup, It's A Lockout.
Philadelphia Flyers: It's been a tough couple of months for Danny Briere. Seriously, read this whole thing, it's very good.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 45 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Meanwhile, here's another stupid deadline!
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby becoming the de facto player-coach in informal workouts with his teammates is about the least surprising thing I've read about the lockout in weeks.
San Jose Sharks: Dan Boyle finally has this whole lockout thing figured out: "I think they want us to miss some paychecks, is what I think. For them, I guess they figure they don't have to pay us right now, so they've got nothing to gain by settling this thing." Tune in for Elementary, starring Dan Boyle, CBS Thursdays!
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko was going to go to SKA St. Petersburg but instead he's not. Apparently his agent changed the terms of the deal at the last minute. Who knows, it's Russia.
Tampa Bay Lightning: If Rick Nash had a hat trick in the first period of his first game in the Swiss A League, then Steven Stamkos would score 60 in his.
Toronto Maple Leafs: This just in -- It sucks being the Maple Leafs' goalie, says newspaper in town where it sucks being the Canucks' goalie.
Vancouver Canucks: I really like the idea of Mike Gillis fooling around with CapGeek to figure out how to work his team's salary situation once hockey comes back. "We're working on our cap issues right now, carefully calculating a number of different scenarios that may occur after this is over and we're trying to be as ready as we possibly can be when play starts again," he told the Province.
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin had his team's only goal in Dynamo Moscow's loss to Ilya Kovalchuk's SKA. Best part of this gamer is that it reminded me that Maxim Afinogenov is still playing hockey.
Winnipeg Jets: Jets players were all set to get in a quick practice at MTS Iceplex, but they couldn't because, I swear, they were locked out. The only keys were in the locked dressing room, and in MTS Centre, where they're not allowed to go.
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