SBD/Issue 198/Franchises

Oilers Fight Anti-Edmonton Sentiment; Katz Formally Introduced

Oilers Fighting Anti-Edmonton Sentiment
From Pronger's Departure From Team
The Oilers are “waging a campaign to dispel the anti-Edmonton backlash” that came out of Ducks D Chris Pronger’s “rejection of the city and its hockey team in June 2006,” according to David Staples of the EDMONTON JOURNAL as part of the paper's series looking into the team's ownership change. The Oilers in the past two years have made such moves as “sending out pro-Edmonton promotional videos to player agents, hiring a concierge to look after the wives and families of players” and “increasing the budget in the spring of 2007.” However, Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge said that Pronger's trade demand following the '05-06 season for family reasons "continues to have repercussions … both when it comes to the Oilers pursuing other major NHL free-agent players and also in terms of a new arena getting approved for downtown Edmonton.” LaForge: “That one decision by Chris, it will probably take us five years, maybe longer, to get out of that ditch. … We saw in him a Stanley Cup, a championship or two, at least five years of elite level play. On him is a new building. On him is new recruiting. People want to play with that guy. We talked it over as a strategy. He was a key part of a big vision.” LaForge said Pronger's demand "was a big blow. It was the kick in the shins, I tell you, maybe higher up. … Various people took that as an opportunity to take Edmonton off the list, agents and players.” Former EIG Chair Cal Nichols said, “It has sent way too many wrong signals about our community. … The publicity that we got was very hurtful.” LaForge added after Pronger left, “we got on the very, very darkest end of the cities list: Buffalo, Edmonton.”

FIGHTING MISPERCEPTIONS: Staples notes one of the first moves of the Oilers’ “counter-offensive” in the spring of ‘07 was to send NHL agents a hand-carved box made in Alberta. Inside was a video recorder, which “turned on to play a video" hosted by former Oilers player and coach Craig Simpson that "promoted Edmonton and the Oilers.” Current players C Shawn Horcoff, LW Ethan Moreau and D Steve Staios all “spoke glowingly about the city” on the video, which ended with GM Kevin Lowe “talking about the [Oilers'] commitment to winning another Stanley Cup.” The team's signing of restricted free agent RW Dustin Penner last year “got players, agents, managers, and the rest of the hockey world talking about Lowe’s aggressive tactics, rather than focusing on any perceived shortcomings of the city” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 7/2).

Oilers Formally Introduce
Katz As New Team Owner
NEW MAN IN CHARGE: New Oilers Owner Daryl Katz was officially introduced at a press conference Wednesday and announced that Nichols has been named the club’s Chair and Alternate Governor. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of Katz, “We’re confident we’re getting an owner who can take this franchise into the future.” The GLOBE & MAIL’s Allan Maki writes, “By many accounts, Katz is everything his predecessors in the now-disbanded [EIG] were not. He is single-minded, deep-pocketed, able to move quickly and personally capable of leading the charge for a new arena.” Katz also joins the league "with no serious baggage" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/3). In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes, “If first impressions are everything, [Katz] definitely made a good one.” Katz, who has committed $100M to a new downtown arena, said “the sooner we can move into a new arena, the better” (EDMONTON SUN, 7/3). Also in Edmonton, Graham Hicks writes Katz Wednesday “did all the right things.” Katz “lauded Oilers management, Kevin Lowe, Pat LaForge and [coach] Craig MacTavish, ending speculation about LaForge’s future.” Katz: “They are the team that will lead the Oilers” (EDMONTON SUN, 7/3). 

STAYING THE COURSE: The EDMONTON SUN’s Derek Van Diest writes the Oilers are “one of the healthiest franchises in the [NHL] operating under a strong business plan. It’s a plan that won’t change too drastically with Katz at the helm.” LaForge: “The business operates in the black and we already play to the cap. (Katz) is more strategic and more competitive in the sense that he’s always asking ‘What else could we do’? And I really enjoy that” (EDMONTON SUN, 7/3). Katz said, “More than anything, we will instill a vision of limited bureaucracy. We won’t have committee meetings or board meetings. Decisions will be made very quickly” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 7/3).

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