Edmonton Oilers fans have not had a lot to cheer about this year. The season started poorly, when the skaters couldn’t score and the goalies couldn’t stop the puck. The offseason moves of hiring Dallas Eakins, signing free agents like Andrew Ference, and trading for David Perron all seemed to be for nothing. The Oilers couldn’t win. The team has gone through multiple six-game losing streaks, but have only managed to string together, at best, three wins in a row. Fans and players were doomed to watch the playoffs from the outside again. The Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since their push to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. At the moment, no other team in the NHL has waited as long as the Oilers to make it back into the playoffs. After the Toronto Maple Leafs broke their playoff drought last season, the Oilers inherited that title.
The Silence of Rexall
Rexall Place, once known to be one of the loudest and toughest arenas in the NHL to play in, has gone all but silent. The Oilers haven’t done much to bring their fans into the game, with a terrible home record of 10-14-2. Not much to cheer about there. The players used to walk onto the ice to the sound of rousing cheers from the crowd. Now, there’s barely a sound in the stands as the players walk out under the oil rig. To cover the silence, the arena is now filled with the sound of the goal horn and loud music as the players step onto the ice.
The same underwhelming cheers are heard as the team announces the starting line up. Fan favourites like Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may elicit a strong response, but for the most part it is only half-hearted applause.
This crowd lethargy extends into the game. Most spectators barely look up from their phones as the game plays on below them. An Oilers goal is still a great highlight, but the arena lacks the energy of other buildings like the Bell Centre, where even a shot on net or a good save elicits a response from the fans.
The strong play before the Olympics may be enough to bring Edmonton Oilers fans back. The building certainly came to life to cheer for Ben Scrivens’ heroics, and the energy continued on into the last home games before Sochi. Hopefully the momentum of the last seven games, where the Oilers went 5-1-1, will continue when the Oilers play the Minnesota Wild at home on Thursday.
The Olympic Effect
Canadian hockey fans got to witness some fantastic hockey, and a thrilling repeat gold medal, from both the men’s and women’s teams in Sochi. This may have rejuvenated hockey love in Edmonton, but Oilers fans might be in for a letdown. Sochi brought incredible goaltending from Carey Price and impressive shut down defence from the Olympic squad. Even Dallas Eakins acknowledged the success of the Olympic defence, emphasizing its importance in the Oilers’ game.
If the Oilers can continue to play strong hockey, then the Olympics will only mean good things. Edmonton hockey fans got to cheer for a winning team in Sochi, and they will be happy to cheer for a winning team in Edmonton. Struggles, however, may be costly. Fans want something to cheer about, and the Oilers will need to be better if they want their fans’ s