Editor’s note: This is the third in a seven-part series here on Jet City Ice, providing you with a guide to the Pacific Division teams, those that our beloved Seattle franchise will see most frequently during the season.
The Edmonton Oilers hold one of two places in your hockey heart. Which one that is likely depends upon your age.
They are either:
1.) A bona fide super team, winners of many Stanley Cups with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Grant Fuhr to name a few.
Oh, and Mark Messier. Don’t forget him.
Or Paul Coffey and Glenn Anderson. Don’t forget either of them.
You get the general idea. The 1980’s version of the Edmonton Oilers won five Stanley Cups over the course of eight seasons, representing the last real NHL mega dynasty. That run, in large part, was cut short by their commitment of the real original hockey sin of trading The Great One (editorial note: watch the ESPN 30 For 30 on that trade, fascinating stuff).
If you were born any time before 1981, you likely view the Oilers through this lens of dominating play and a fervent fan base.
If you were born after 1981, however, you think of them as #2.
2.) An unrepentant dumpster fire on a par with the worst franchises, not just in the NHL, but all of professional sports.
Think of the Cleveland Browns’ luck melded with the Florida (er, Miami) Marlins ownership group and the Arizona Coyote’s finances and you’ll start to get the general idea of what’s going on up there.
Don’t have time to figure out which you are? Want that bottom line?
Part of the reason that jeering the Oilers is going to be tough is this: their fans are living in both of these worlds at once. Seriously, it’s like a Bruce Springsteen song.
If you try and give an old-timer a hard time about Steve Smith and the dubious own-goal from the 1986 Smythe Final against provincial rival and eventual Cup hoisters in the Calgary Flames they’ll likely toss their nose in the air. Whatever, American, we won the Cup two more times.
Talk about Wayne Gretzky and they’ll give the Cheshire grin. He never got another Cup in LA or NY (or St. Louis, gross).
Talk about Mark Messier and they’ll boast from ear to ear that one of their beloved sons of the prairie brought a championship to Broadway (a contradiction, I get it) allowing a whole generation of hyperbole spitting New York Rangers fans to claim they could “die in peace” (please do).
If you try and jab a new-timer about the buffoon move of trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson (or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or their run of luck in owners and goalies) they’ll point to the rafters.
Banners hang forever. Even if you are stuck with Milan Lucic’s cap hit.
The Edmonton Oilers are your lesson in this hockey truth: you can try and burn a hockey fan about Hart Trophy winner for third-line defensemen trades, but history plays a huge part in anyone’s fan experience. You may be the world’s best heckler (I doubt it, because I am) but you simply cannot navigate your jabs past the Oilers miraculous run of success. They’ve got that blocked like Grant Fuhr on some really nice China white.
If one happens to grant you a heckle mulligan there (understanding that Macklemore was born the year that they won their first Stanley Cup and that man is hella old) they’ll likely talk about 2005-06 and going to the Finals as an 8th Seed and how improbable that was (editorial note: that was a fun Cup run, I’ll give them that).
Running into the future, we can take a few jabs at them when they lose Connor MacDavid to a rust belt team with a good investment team, but that would be a real dick move. I’m serious. Think about it.
Canada is the Tigris and Euphrates of hockey. When one of their beloved teams lose a generational talent it’s like everyone in their whole nation has to pour out a little Labatt’s Blue. When an American team wins the Cup (which they have since 1993) a maple leaf dies, or a blue jay loses its wings. Fuck that. What are you a monster?
Think of the hell that is the Toronto Blue Jays winning twenty-six straight World Series crowns. Ugh. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
My advice when the Oilers come into town: enjoy the team and their fans. There is likely a lot to learn about hockey history from them.
Root for your Seattle team, of course, but don’t be a measly dick about it.