With Apologies to Pat McLean

The holidays brought me my first Oilers jersey. Oh sure, I've had plenty of t-shirts and hats and what have you over my lifetime. Indeed, I've owned a variety of garments emblazoned with the crest, wearing them proudly to social gatherings and family functions and court dates. But never a jersey.

I was never of great means, but there came a day when Papa Fierce asked me if I wanted a hockey jersey. I was 5 going on 6 and the Oilers had just put away their fifth Cup run in seven seasons, so of course I said yes. Yet it wasn't the blue and orange sweater I wanted, oh no dear readers. I pulled on the teal and black of the newly founded San Jose Sharks with joy, maybe even glee. I look back on my choice with exasperation, but the logic was sound: they were new; they were sharks. The greatness of my hometown team was lost on my hyperactive little brain, but the sheer awesomeness of a shark? That was easily identifiable.

I wore it to school and was mocked. The children of a sleepy Edmonton suburb saw only an allegiance to a new, weak enemy: some expansion team in California. My father was never a sports man and it was up to me to figure it all out for myself. I knew that I loved the Oilers, but they had been around my whole life! What was wrong with me rooting for the New Awesome Sharks from Wherever?

So I continued to wear the treasonous teal, even as I grinned up at Esa Tikkanen during that year's Carnival of Champions. The huge Fin took one look at my jersey and laughed cruelly as he pummeled me with his ham-hock fists... Okay, well maybe he just made light of it causing me to retreat behind my dad's leg, fighting tears and the demons inside. Why wasn't I allowed to like the Oilers and wear a different jersey? If they were the Edmonton Sharks everything could have worked out, alas Oilers they remained. Ultimately, Tikkanen went teddy bear and coaxed me back out to snap a Polaroid and sign a card or two. Then I slipped on a Carnival of Champions t-shirt that slowly filled with Oilers (and Eskimos) signatures and by the time I sat arm-in-arm around Stanley with Craig MacTavish, all brown curly 'fro just like on the tee-vee, the Sharks jersey was but a rag in my eyes. The hint of teal under my collar had been burned into the emulsion and my maturing mind for years.

Then this Christmas, my significant other slid a certain blue and orange sweater under the tree. Passed over once already, it was worn proudly to my first Battle of Alberta (another gift) where I got nice and drunk and belligerent. I hollered until my throat was raw, invulnerable behind the shield affixed to my chest.


Seems these days a Sharks jersey might garner a bit more respect in pro hockey circles than the ol' Oildrop, but maybe that's the way I always wanted it. I donned my first jersey in what could prove to be the worst downswing in team history. When, not if, the Oilers fail to qualify for the coming playoffs, they will have missed the boat for the fourth year straight. The last time this happened has been widely considered the worst era of Oiler Hockey thus far. Let's just have a cursory glance at the numbers...

From their inaugural NHL season the Oilers went 13 straight years without missing the playoffs, winning the dynastic Five-In-Seven in the process. In April 1993, the team would spend its first postseason on the links, a slump that would last another three seasons.

Once this year's funeral procession pulls to the curb, the Oilers will have matched the 0-for-4 streak, completing a Bizarro Dynasty: Five Seasons Out of the Playoffs in Seven. And me no thought four seasons crooked was good.

Last night's game versus the Sharks marked the first game of the second half of the Oilers' season. We got steamrolled, looking every bit like the Worst in the West playing the Best in the West and setting a grim tone for the games left to play. I tried to be interested in the game, but my attention waned by the time Marleau scored. The radio was turned off, a joint was rolled, and the night was (better) spent with friends, laughing, bullshitting, and filling a new decade up with wild hopes and ambitious schemes.

I have a weird feeling that Oilers management may be doing the same.

With our last two first rounders going batshit in the WJC, Lowe & Co. must be simply salivating at the prospect of a high pick. To clarify, that's the prospect of a high pick, not the prospect from a high pick. This trade deadline should be a measured culling of under-preforming vets and overpriced contracts, but if K-Lo approaches March 3rd with a lottery pick in hand, lord knows what could go down. This year's misery should mean another high-calibre addition to our prospect pool, though we could see it turn into a middling NHLer and cap space for whatever snipe we'll be hunting this offseason.

Still that's an unfounded fear that we have plenty of time to be fret over later this year. For now, we Oilers fans can take pleasure in the poetry of Eberle on ice, the promise shown by former disappointments (DP & Creme Brule), and the possibility that Pat Quinn will storm into upper management and heave the dummies out with his old man strength.

Or are those just wild hopes?

Man Games Lost to Injury Watch: 237

1 comment:

  1. I have a feeling 2010 will have the luck of the Irish and you may get your wish. Maybe we will find a pot o' gold some where around 10128 104 Avenue.