Archive for Edmonton Oilers

Woohoo, Hockey’s back! But the Feeling in my Extremities isn’t . . .

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , on January 13, 2013 by JonH



With the new NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement recently ratified teams could finally get to down to the business of playing hockey; for the Edmonton Oilers, business started with a bit of community outreach, which was just as much a public relations move as it was a team building exercise.

Minus 13? Whatever.

Minus 13? Whatever.

Hundreds came out to see Captains Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall lead their teams in a game that featured prominent Oiler prospects Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, grizzled vets Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, and Sam Gagner (yup, you heard it right, grizzled) and a host of others like RNH, Magnus Paajarvi, Jeff Petry and Ryan Whitney.

Hall and Eberle face off

Hall and Eberle face off

While there weren’t any highlight reel goals or awe-inspiring moves, seeing Devan Dubnyk score a goal and celebrate by running his hand along the ice before raising it into the air, and Darcy Hordichuk rubbing Laddy Smid out along the hay bale boards were pretty good.

Hordichuk following through on his check

Hordichuk following through on his check

Overall minus 13 isn’t too cold, but when you’re standing around for an hour in the snow it certainly starts to feel a little crisp. Thankfully the Edmonton Oilers put on a good show and entertained everyone who took the time to come out and see them play.

Happy Fans

Happy Fans

While the lockout certainly did a lot to frustrate fans, it would seem the Edmonton Oilers have come a long way to being forgiven in the city they represent.

Corey Potter

Corey Potter feeding the fans

Sam Gagner: a grizzled vet

Sam Gagner: a grizzled vet

The newest Oiler weapon: Nail Yakupov

The newest Oiler weapon: Nail Yakupov



Good job, Oilers!

Good job, Oilers!


Those Wacky Swedes . . .

Posted in Surveys and opinions with tags , on January 24, 2011 by JonH

When a hockey team is rebuilding it’s important for management to ensure that they bring in the right players. These players should embody the right blend of maturity and experience as well as youth and zeal. Each should offer a different skill set, but passion for the game, and the team, should be the unifying factor between them all. All of these pieces should complement one another, and help strengthen the bond between teammates.

For all of this to work ala “Boys on the Bus” it’s essential that these new Oilers build a sense of camaraderie, friendship, and that special bond that can only exist between true friends. Last year we saw it between Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano; earlier this year we saw it between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle; now we’re seeing it between Magnus Paajaarvi and Linus Omark.

Granted the team is struggling right now — that’s to be expected — but I think if management can keep these guys together for a few years as they mature they’re going to make Edmonton a force in the NHL again. They’re fast, skilled, and colourful. And on that note, I have to say the Swedes are quickly becoming my favourite of the Oilers. They have the right blend of skill, speed, and most importantly, a refreshing sense of humour. What does he mean, you ask? Click to the 4:05 point of this video of Magnus Paajaarvi showing some people around his condo in Edmonton, and watch the magic unfold . . .

It’s Time for Edmonton to Think Big

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2010 by JonH

As far as surroundings and amenities go, some might say that Edmonton isn’t a serious consideration for large numbers of people when it comes to being a relocation, or tourist destination. Our universities are top-notch, but loads of our graduates move onto other cities when they’re done. Sure we’re close to boreal forests, but topographically we’re basically flat. Of course, we have a beautiful winding river valley, but not much to draw people to its shores. With the exception of some seasonal anomalies, our winters are harsh; our summers mild. We don’t have the mountains in our backyard, and you can’t look out your window and see the ocean.

Roughguides, an online travel guide, describes Edmonton as follows: “in the teeth of its bitter winters – it can seem a little too far north for comfort […]. The city tries hard with its festivals, parks, restaurants and urban-renewal projects. Yet, given the somewhat unfinished feel of its downtown, it’s perhaps appropriate that the premier attraction for the vast majority of visitors is a shopping centre, the infamous West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton lacks the big set-piece museums of Calgary or Vancouver.”

It’s tough not to wince when reading the above paragraph; be that as it may I guess we have to accept our fate that Edmonton is too northerly, not quite urban enough, and certainly lacking the vision that a capital city should have.

Whoa. I hope you got the sarcasm in that. While we may be situated far north of the 49th the cold hasn’t impaired our ability to think big, and we certainly don’t lack vision. Sometimes, however, we just lack the fortitude to see that vision through.

Take 1968 for example. In October of that year a proposal to develop an all inclusive space replete with a hockey rink, elevated football field, conference centers, and theater space, among other things, was put before Edmontonians during a municipal election. The proposed project was to be called Omniplex, and its purpose, along with plans for the development of rapid transit, was to stimulate the revitalization of the downtown core. More than 70 percent of all of the voters were in favour.

For a variety of reasons, the plan to see this bold vision through to fruition failed. Omniplex never got off the ground. However, out of the ashes rose two well known Edmonton facilities: Northlands Coliseum and the conference center on Grierson Hill now sponsored by Shaw; the former is now considered seriously out of date, and only one of them could ever really be said to have had an impact on downtown.

Fast forward four decades, and we’re again being presented with a bold vision aimed at revitalizing the core: the Edmonton Arena District (EAD).

The brainchild of Edmonton businessman Daryl Katz, the EAD is being posited as not merely a new development with plans for hotels, retailers, residential housing, a significant public space, as well as a new home for the Edmonton Oilers, but a complete reinvention of Edmonton’s downtown. And if you’ve ever looked for a cup of coffee, a bookstore, a shop-anything other than a restaurant or bar downtown after 5:00 p.m., you’ll agree that reinvention isn’t too strong a word.

“From the beginning, we have pursued a vision that we believe will benefit all Edmontonians by creating jobs, by providing a significant investment into our urban core, by shrinking our environmental footprint and by developing a world-class entertainment and sports district in our downtown,” said Bob Black, Executive Vice President of Sports and Entertainment for the Katz Group.

“Edmonton is the gateway to Northern Alberta, a region that has become a global energy leader. There is currently $120 billion of committed investment in Northern Alberta with much more to come. A new downtown arena district can represent Edmonton’s potential, its capacity to be bold and think big and its future as a leading Northern city. Edmonton’s need for a new arena provides an opportunity to create a major catalyst in the ongoing revitalization of downtown which will contribute to a positive sense of momentum in our city that is worthy of our potential and our place in the world.”

Like most others in the Katz Group, Black has investments other than just business to consider when discussing the revitalization of downtown Edmonton.

“I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son playing minor hockey in Edmonton,” he said when asked how the EAD might affect the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association. “I coached in the Edmonton minor hockey system for almost 10 years. The district will include a community rink for minor hockey and public skating. I’m sure the amateur hockey community would welcome a new sheet of ice in a central location.”

Over the long term, Black is confident that the EAD will contribute to the city’s success. “We believe this project can bring economic growth and development, increased tourism, the ability to attract more corporate head offices, increased density to make our environmental footprint smaller and our streets safer, civic pride and the kind of cultural life that will make Edmonton an even greater northern city and help us attract capital investment and the best and brightest people.”

This thinking isn’t relegated merely to the Katz Group and the other locals that support the idea of the EAD. In a 47-page report written by Dr. Mark Rosentraub of Cleveland State University, it suggests that, in part, due to our city’s mundane natural environment, and sustained suburban sprawl, we must seriously consider redeveloping our downtown core with an arena district as its focal point if we want to reestablish Edmonton as a viable destination for tourism, relocation, and study.

“Sprawl [has] left many areas without a concentrated critical mass of activity that could establish a region’s image through central meeting areas with unique architecture that also offers unique social and cultural experiences at theatres, museums, and at facilities that host sporting events,” says Rosentraub’s report, which can be found on the City of Edmonton’s website.

Rosentraub, who was a contributor to Mayor Mandel’s leadership committee, argues that the development of malls outside the core have effectively neutralized city centers, but that it’s the downtown experience, not the suburban one that differentiates one urban center from another; in the end, to a large degree, it’s a vibrant core that makes one more city more desirable than another. This is further amplified when a city’s surroundings are fairly plain compared to a more topographically blessed neighbor.

“Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco each have suburban areas, but they insured that downtown areas remained vital through the provision of unique experiences that could not be replicated in suburban malls. After decades of growth, cities like San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, and Los Angeles began to wonder what their image was and how it could be sustained without a vibrant core. These areas, similar to slower-growth regions in America’s Midwest, began to focus on strategies to build or rebuild downtown areas to establish an identity and to advance the region’s overall development. This process was even more critical for cities reliant on traditional industries or lacking physical features that made them among the most desirable places to live and work.”

It can be seen that the significance of Edmonton as a whole is not found in one or another community, but in the destination areas where we congregate, celebrate, and partake in cultural experiences as part of a larger group, and with our city expanding outward at an ever increasing rate this becomes more difficult to do, especially in the middle of winter.

What holds us together as the community of Edmonton: The City of Champions; The Gateway to the North? Where do we go to come together?

The answer lies in the center of town with a rink at its heart.

“This game connects us. It’s woven into the fabric of our city and our country,” said Black. “I enjoy live theatre, art or music as much as anyone, but it seems like hockey is our most common of bonds. This all underscores to me that we are pursuing a worthy cause.”

The Katz Group has been both lauded and criticized when it comes to the proposed Edmonton Arena District. Opinions vary, but the crux of the matter is that talk of the need to revitalize our downtown has been ongoing for decades. Now we have a guy that’s willing to contribute millions of dollars of his own money to see it through. Only time will tell if we have the fortitude to see it through with him.

This article appears courtesy of Hockey Edmonton Magazine and originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue.

Additionally, the City of Edmonton is currently seeking the public’s opinion regarding the proposed development via an online questionnaire that can be found here.

HALLowed be thy Name

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , on June 27, 2010 by JonH

Word is people were torn whether or not the Edmonton Oilers should pick Windsor Spitfire winger Taylor Hall, or Plymouth Whaler centre Tyler Seguin with the first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Half said pick for potential. The other half said pick the best player available now. Each has his merits, and the media painted a picture of endless debate. The final consensus, however, is that either of them is a sure thing. Either will make a team better. Oiler brass only needed to decide whether or not to draft based on positional need or to draft based on performance.

They decided on the latter.

Good choice.

And honestly, I can’t figure out why there was ever any debate.

By drafting Taylor Hall the Oilers got the player they wanted, but some nevertheless asked whether or not they drafted the player they need, arguing that Seguin, a right-handed centre, would go a long way in filling a void, namely a capable first-line centre.

Of course he would have, but what the Edmonton Oilers need much more than a talented first-line centre is a talented player with heart, no matter the position. And with a spate of young players, lead by the likes of Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, coming up through the ranks the Oilers needed to redefine themselves with a poster boy of determination and competitiveness that will take charge and lead by example. They did so by drafting Hall.

They have some talented players, but it can be argued that they haven’t had heart since trading Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders a few years back. Now they will have it back in spades.

Sure Seguin started to come on this season, but Hall has been coming on for a while now. And when all else is equal it’s the intangibles that set champions apart from contenders.

Hall is a proven winner. He’s done it with the Spitfires, leading them to not just one but two OHL titles and two Memorial Cup Championships, along the way became the first player in CHL history to win Memorial Cup MVP honours both times as well.

While it’s unfair to put lofty expectations onto an 18-year-old who has yet to play a game in the NHL, something tells me that Taylor Hall will be putting lofty expectations onto himself.

That’s just what someone with heart does.

And with the inclusion of heart, rather than just skill, I’m beginning to feel hopeful about my team again.

Gene Principe: Having Pun . . . uh, Fun

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2010 by JonH

It was just before noon and Rexall Place was already busy. But I wasn’t there to interview players or coaches. I was there that morning to interview an interviewer, the man that has arguably become the face of Oiler telecasts on Rogers Sportsnet, Gene Principe.

“Gene will be here shortly,” says Louis DeBrusk, an affable bear of a man whose incisive commentary stands as a perfect foil to Principe’s more fun-loving ways. “He’s on Gene time,” he adds with a warmhearted laugh.

Moments later, Gene walks in. He looks like he’s on a mission, and I guess, considering it’s game day, he is. He greets me with a smile and a friendly handshake, and then invites me up to the stands to talk while the Oilers practice. Given the fact he’s on work time, at no point does he seem distracted. In fact, minus the puns (more on that later), he’s much like the guy on the broadcast: well-prepared, enthusiastic, entertaining, and spontaneous.

Principe got his start in the media business with a work placement in Kamloops B.C. in early ’87, and with stops in Lethbridge, Winnipeg, and Toronto before coming back home to Edmonton in 1998 to work for the A-Channel has been going strong ever since. He’s been with Rogers Sportsnet since 2001.

“I wanted to be a broadcaster since I was a kid,” he says. “Of course, I watched Ron MacLean growing up and always thought that was kind of neat.”

He describes how his game preparations go from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and consist mainly of player interviews, compiling notes, and sending production content back to head office in Toronto, but by no means is it a short work day.

“I’m normally out of the rink by 2:30 – 3:00,” he says. “I like to get home for my kids for an hour – hour and a half, and I try and shut off work for that time. Then at 5:00, or so, I’ll come back, and get ready for any last minute stuff: pre-game interviews that sort of thing. Show time’s normally 7:00 or 7:30, then I’m back home about 10:30-11:00.”

As far as production goes, he has mostly free reign in determining what he’ll do during the show, and he’s got the benefit of accommodating co-workers to boot.

“Kevin Quinn and Louie DeBrusk are great at allowing me to have fun – sometimes at their expense. With our producer Larry Isaac, who I work with mostly [although there are others], it’s almost carte blanche. Sometimes they’ll pull you back, and that’s good because I don’t want to go too far. But usually they’re good at saying what do you want to do? – Let’s do it. We do some preplanning in the morning, and then when we get to a commercial break, Larry will say, “What [piece] do you want to do?” and I’ll say [for example] let’s do the story on Marc Pouliot and how he has to warm up now because of sports hernia surgery, and then we’ll set it up during the break.”

Production-wise, it sounds almost like they’re flying by the seat of their pants, and yet everything always seems to look so smooth.

“Sometimes things come up just prior to the game,” he says. “But normally by the time I’m done the morning skates I have a pretty good idea of what can work, and what we can use visually to enhance the story.”

And for viewers, that’s key, while each specific hockey game is the focal point, it’s not the whole story. Another part of the story consists of the athletes and coaches that comprise the team. And sometimes when the team isn’t doing so well, it helps to be light-hearted.

“People bleed copper and blue, so they struggle with the losses as much as anyone else,” he says. “So I think if I can inject some humour without going over the line – and I’m sure sometimes I do – I’ll try it.”

Perhaps this is a perfect lead-in to Gene’s Principe trademark (oh, bad attempt at a pun . . .), puns:

“I just started doing it, and doing it, and doing it,” he says. “And then I couldn’t stop,” he adds with a laugh. “It used to be that you just put a hockey game on and people would watch it, but I think that hockey games have now become an entertainment package and not just simply a hockey game. So whether it’s using different props or wearing stuff like on St. Patrick’s Day or whether it’s puns, I just think that that adds to entertainment value.”

Gene just finished performing a similar job to the one he does day-to-day with the Oilers for the broadcast consortium at the Vancouver Olympics, and we wanted to ask him a question regarding his future and how it relates to something even more iconic in its Canadian context.

“If Ron MacLean retired or quit would you consider working on Hockey Night in Canada?”

“I’d say yeah, but I don’t want to leave Sportsnet. I want to still work for them. I love the interaction I get with this particular team on a game to game basis. It’s HNIC, and I’m like the players in that I grew up watching it, but Sportsnet has been A1 with me, for me, and to me.”

Now add loyal to the list of adjectives that describe Gene Principe.

This article was reprinted with permission from Hockey Edmonton Magazine. Photos courtesy of Stephen Kathnelson.

Probably not the way to Bring in the New Year: A Reader’s Opinion on The Oilers/Osteria de Medici Restaurant Affair

Posted in Surveys and opinions with tags , , on January 4, 2010 by JonH

This may or may not be the place to air my opinion on the matter of the Oilers/Osteria de Medici restaurant and owner Maurizio Terrigno fiasco but I’m going to do it anyway. Please note – I am not a professional writer by any sense of the imagination so beware – this is just my opinion.

Imagine this: It’s New Year’s Eve and the Oilers lose to the Calgary Flames 2-1. They’ve decided to book a restaurant in Calgary to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their wives and girlfriends rather than coming back to Edmonton and doing it here.

The restaurant must be one that was suggested to them or suggested to whomever did the planning for the outing, so I’m assuming it’s a good one and most likely an expensive one.

The owner must’ve been very excited to have an NHL team eating (and drinking) at his establishment on New Year’s Eve. I know I would’ve been! Not only for the notoriety but also the income.

Let me tell you a story about the absolute last thing that I would ever do as a restaurant business owner.

Imagine the scenario – An NHL team came to my restaurant and ate and drank the night away, probably sharing a lot of laughs and good times, good food and good company. They were probably treated with respect and gave respect in return and then their 5 digit bill arrives…

Now I don’t know the whole story (no one does except the Oilers and the restaurant owner Maurizio Terrigno) of exactly what happened but from what I’ve read, and I’ve only read one article in the Edmonton Journal written by a Calgary writer. Obviously, I don’t have all the facts so I’m going to make some assumptions.

From what I understand, when their bill arrived, someone realized that the drinks were a lot more costly than the team originally thought. Now I can’t imagine how this could’ve happened because as far as I understand, most restaurants have a menu with set prices. So my assumption would be that the arrangement with the team dinner planner and Terrigno was not very clear and was misunderstood by both parties. I’m guessing that Terrigno arranged with the team that, for that night, they could just pay for the bottles of booze rather than each shooter/drink individually because I believe that was the dispute. That the team thought they were going to be billed for bottles rather than individual drinks.

A spokesman from the Oilers is quoted as saying, ‘the restaurant’s claims are false, and the team simply paid an amended bill with tip. They were expecting to be charged for bottles of liquor, rather than for each shooter.’

If this is in fact the case, wow, how could this misunderstanding possibly have happened? (That’s a huge misunderstanding!)

Back to the original point of my ‘story’.

So I’m a restaurant owner who has an NHL team eating in my establishment on New Year’s Eve and they have a 5 digit tab and then they dispute some of the charges. Fair enough – we’ve all done this. Terrigno decides to adjust the bill for the team (I think that’s his way of admitting that he screwed up) and everyone goes on their merry way.

Either that night or the next day, Terrigno isn’t happy about something and decides to phone Sherri Zickefoose, writer for the Calgary Herald, to tell her about his idea for a front page story. And then he goes on to complain about everything that supposedly transpired on New Year’s Eve with the Edmonton Oilers. Everything from the tab dispute and how the Oilers handled that and even what kinds of drinks they were having.

This article showed up as front page news of the Edmonton Journal on Saturday, Jan. 2/10. Shame on you Edmonton Journal for first of all, entertaining the idea that this was a newsworthy story to begin with and then making it front page news!

If you’ve seen the article then you’ve no doubt seen the attached picture of Terrigno holding the tab. He looks a bit like a whiner and definitely not a business man to be taken too seriously. Perhaps he’s just looking for attention and this is the only way he could think of to let people know that the Edmonton Oilers went to his restaurant. (Secretly he knows they’ll never go back but he needed people to know that they were there.) He doesn’t strike me as an extremely intelligent person.

As a future restaurant owner, I would be delighted to have an NHL team come to my establishment and I would never, ever in a million years, air publicly any type of dispute, whether it be a regular average Joe or an NHL hockey team!

The article refers to Osteria de Medici as a ‘high profile Calgary restaurant’ and now I’m very curious to see if this advertising style works. Will people continue to frequent this establishment or will they choose some other place to spend their money because I’m positive there are better places to go eat in Calgary.
I for one, will never go there. If anyone mentions to me that they’re going there to eat, I will do my utmost to dissuade them. I’ll even search out other fine places as suggestions to them to ensure that they don’t visit Osteria de Medici!

Back to the article, Terrigno is quoted as saying, “They went ballistic. They wanted a discount because they are the Edmonton Oilers. Wherever they go, they get a discount. It was a disgusting display.”

First of all, I don’t believe that they said that. I’d have to hear them or one of them saying it out loud for me to believe it. And if this is in fact true, my guess is that the Flames and other teams as well, would have the same expectations. Secondly, what’s really disgusting (in the true sense of the word ‘disgusting’) is the Calgary Flames jumping the queue for the H1N1 shots. Now that’s disgusting.

Maurizio – what you’ve displayed here by your comments (besides the fact that you actually contacted a reporter) is your business acumen. This group of folks, who just happen to be a hockey team, just spent $12,000.00 in your restaurant and this is the way you treat them?

My guess is that none of them will ever go to your place again. Or their families. Or their friends. Or, hopefully, most Edmontonians.

To Sherri Zickefoose, the Calgary reporter who wrote the story – you talk about ‘the shooters bearing suggestive names’, what are you trying to tell us there? I think I may need it spelled out. Does that mean that not one Calgary Flame has ever had a ‘blowjob’ (shooter name) or ‘Sex on the Beach’ (another drink name)? Really? Or are you saying that it’s only the Edmonton Oilers who have those drinks?

Referring to another quote made by owner Maurizio Terrigno, “It’s uncalled for. Don’t let alcohol be an excuse. These guys were rude and belligerent and I want everybody to know it.”

Maurizio, you’re supposed to have a course called ‘ProServe’ under your belt as a restauranteur who serves liquor in his restaurant. If you do have it, didn’t you learn how to treat customers who’ve maybe had one too many? I think you may need a refresher course.

As far as ‘donating the money to a relief fund’, what money is that? The whole $12,000.00? I don’t believe that you’re that generous – sorry.

Maurizio, you should’ve shown more class.