Even the best laid plans can fail miserably, and that appears to be the case in regard to the new Katz arena. Months and months of months and months have left the city, Katz, the province and fans about equal to the cars and trucks on this bridge.
The Oilers are not promised to Edmonton and Edmonton is not promised to the Oilers. There’s a pile of money, a mountain of rhetoric and now a deadline (perfectly timed, btw).
The sports news cycle is a cruel thing. In the same 24 hour window that gave us Katz value as 2.8 billion (pinky finger to lips and draw out the “billion”) we also see poor old mayor Steve heading to NYC for a severe lashing. He and his expert will drop by Manhattan for shopping, a show and a friendly little “what we have here is a failure to communicate” chat.
I’ve been reading various opinions on the arena issue and can say that everyone seems to have a strong opinion. I like strong opinions, it’s a good thing to have the courage of your convictions. I believe some things to be certain:
- The Katz group has been a bully in the process, and have framed the issue in a way that makes the owner look like the victim. Incredible, and I suspect it has already created ill will that will last a long time.
- City council is overmatched and have fallen into their usual roles. The conciliators and the wing nuts are joined by those who genuinely want to do what’s best for the city.
- The province got lucky with the membership selling campaign, so there has been a gap in leadership these last months. The new leader has more important items to attend to, so there’s still a window of opportunity to stay on the sidelines.
- Edmonton is not promised to the Oilers and vice versa.
- Bettman is not going to tour mayor Mandel around Manhattan. This is going to be ugly, a terse verbal slap across the face followed by a kick in the ass.
- Those who believe the NHL would be back in a heartbeat because Edmonton is such a strong market misunderstand one thing: the NHL is a 30-man club of rich guys, and they often make baffling decisions. Including out Edmonton would be bizarre behaviour, but it would be easy to create a scenario (dollar going sideways, old building) where Edmonton doesn’t get a second NHL team in my lifetime.
For me, I don’t have a strong opinion. Wish I did. But you know, as I get older being a fan has changed for me. My kids are pursuing interests and getting ready to start their lives, my son is possibly less than one year away from flying the coop. I have the heartbreak of my beloved Expos to serve as a memory of just how painful this can be for a fan.
So, in all honesty, I’m already distancing myself from the Oilers. Hope they stay, understand if they move to Quebec City. Maybe the Oilers organization just outgrew this market, their vision too great for a city this size to visualize. Maybe it’s a case of an owner using the heart of a community as a hammer to get everything he asked for without compromise.
Either way, I’m not interested in pursuing it as a story for this blog. It will play out in other places and I’ll read it because there’s something wonderful about a passionate argument argued well. I don’t share that feeling, just a sense of loss.
I’ve had a lot of that in my life over the last several years, and have to devote energy to my family. Kids leaving the nest, wife worrying over kids leaving the nest, and maybe some form of plan for the two of us as we head toward retirement. Good luck to all sides. If I may linger just one more minute, I’d like to suggest that you can listen as well as you hear. I think there may be a distinct lack of it currently.