SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Kevin Lowe stood rinkside at Raley Field. With shades on to guard against the sunlight, Lowe looked at ease, almost California cool, in this relaxed setting in advance of the Bakersfield Condors' outdoor game against the Stockton Heat.
“It’s nice to come to California and get out of the snow in the wintertime in Canada, there’s no question,” Lowe said. “My role now gives me more opportunity, no question.”
In the past year, Lowe’s role has changed from helping make decisions on players to helping out with the business of the Oilers. While he still pays attention to wins and losses, he’s no longer as responsible for them. Lowe is now the vice chair of Oilers Entertainment Group. For the previous seven seasons he was the team’s president of hockey operations, and from 2000 through 2008 he was Edmonton's general manager.
The Oilers missed the playoffs every year following their 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Final.
"We had some interesting players but we just couldn’t get over the hump and that part was really difficult,” Lowe said.
Lowe’s day starts a bit earlier than it did when he was involved with hockey operations.
“The business world gets up much earlier than the hockey world,” he jokes.
Lowe said his boss, Bob Nicholson, is a fan of 7 a.m. meetings. Even in days where he says there’s not a lot to do, he’ll find a way to bang out eight or nine hours of non-stop work. This is how a lot of current and former managers are wired. The work day starts when you wake up and doesn’t end until you go to sleep.
“I sit in all the planning meetings. We’ve reorganized our entire company and we’re growing by 300 in terms of head count – sitting in all those meetings – planning structure, working when Bob and I sat in a lot of sponsorship opportunities with Bob. There’s a lot of growth going on in the company. When he can’t be there, I’ll be there.”
There’s still some time for hockey with Lowe. He says he’s helped new general manager Peter Chiarelli get up to speed with some aspects of being a general manager in the Western Conference. But it's clear this is Chiarelli's team and a new regime.
If there’s any anger that he’s no longer involved in the hockey side of things he doesn’t show it. In fact, Lowe’s business mind was at work in Sacramento, trying to think of opportunities for the Condors in the future.
“If things go well here we’d like to host (an outdoor game) in Bakersfield in the coming years,” Lowe said. “We have all our Bakersfield staff down and we’re watching closely to see how this goes. Any time you can celebrate the game it brings in that many more hockey fans.”
Lowe was much-maligned for many of the decisions he helped make during his tenure and Chiarelli was seen as someone who was supposed to come in and clean up some of the choices that were made during that time.
But with the Oilers trending upwards on the ice and the team getting ready to move into a new downtown arena for the 2016-17 season, Lowe thinks that there are indeed some positives to take from his time working in hockey operations. Even if they took longer for it to come to fruition than even he expected.
“The team is winning hockey games,” Lowe said. “They’ve been in just about every game they’ve played this year. There’s a lot of steps to take. The good thing is (owner) Daryl Katz and I (believed) the team needed to be trending upwards or getting good by the time we go into the new building, and it looks like the master plan is unfolding as we hoped.”
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