The Edmonton Oilers and I are the same age. I was born in March of 1979 and the Oilers began their incarnation as an NHL franchise just weeks later, in April 1979. When I was 5, I started attending the local elementary school near my house in the same year that the Oilers started their dynasty. As the team reeled off consecutive Stanley Cups, I maintained marks near the top of my class. My academic success mirrored the team’s on-ice success.
Even the team’s unexpected and heart-breaking loss to Calgary in 1986 mimicked aspects of my personal life as my parent’s marriage fell apart that same year. The Oilers traded Paul Coffey to Pittsburgh the same month that my Grandad died, and sold Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in the same month that my parents became officially divorced. My life and the life of the Oilers franchise continued to share similarities throughout my childhood.
Edmonton’s last Stanley Cup victory happened in my last year of elementary school. As the team traded off integral pieces crucial to its dynastic success, and the wonder and excitement of our young franchise evolved into just another NHL team, I myself had to face the difficulties of being a teenager. Despite this fact, the Oilers achieved new playoff success in the same spring of 1997 that I made provincial history as the youngest candidate to ever run for MLA (As I was 17 for the bulk of the pre-election cycle). The new young roster of upstarts was growing up and discovering themselves at the same time that I discovered myself.
That summer, I moved out on my own and started a job in sales. The Oilers started making regular appearances in the playoffs over the next several seasons, with back-to-back appearances in the second round. In a way their place in the league as a poor team that eked its way into the playoffs once more mirrored my home life. My work in sales, and in a variety of other workplaces gave way to my ambition to write but through it all I had to live off a meagre budget while peers of mine were leading exciting or glamorous lives-just like the Oilers. It wasn’t a terrible life but neither the Oilers nor I were at the top of the mountain.
Yet through it all, the Oilers kept trying to fight through adversity, and so did I. I took classes at university while the Oilers made trades for players like Bill Guerin, and former Oilers captain Jason Smith. For a couple of seasons I even had season tickets! I attended 28 games in 2002-2003 and another 27 games in 2003-2004. With a seat in section 337, I looked down directly over centre ice on an Oilers team that ultimately broke my heart at the end of both seasons. As hard as it is to see the Oilers lose on TV, it’s even more heart-wrenching to witness the team’s unfavourable fate in person.
When the NHL shut down in 2005 to get its finances in order, I temporarily put my academic career aside to save up for a European vacation. Determined to experience something unique and exciting, I set my eyes on making a trip to Italy in the summer of 2006. With like-minded determination to also have an exciting season, Oilers management made a series of trades for ultimately part-time Oilers Chris Pronger, Michael Peca and Sergei Samsanov, as well as for goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
These moves paid off and the Oilers made it all the way to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final. This was the most exciting thing to happen for the Oilers in years and it was an excellent way to kick off my trip to Italy, which was the highlight of my life! Only the team’s complete no-show for the seventh game marred the experience.
I returned to school at the same time that Oilers management decided to rebuild the team from within. For three years in a row, I obtained credits in a variety of courses while the Oilers moved ineffective players out of the line-up, and drafted new, young players in their place. I began work on a long-term writing project and published some of my poetry in one of my most productive years ever. At the same time, the Oilers moved away from being painful to watch to exciting to observe. The team even briefly topped the league’s standings last season!
Over the next few seasons, I hope that the Oilers continue to grow and contend for the playoffs, and eventually become a Cup-contending team. During that time span, I will post thoughts and opinions about all things Oilers- both good and bad. As I do, I hope that fellow Oilers fans will follow my work as an Edmonton Oilers Team Contributor.