As those of you who pay intimate attention to my personal life for some reason know, I am a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia. And as those who pay attention to the map know, that means I live in Vancouver Canucks country. Please, save your pity. Actually, don't, because I need all the pity I can get.
You see, at risk of stating the obvious for two paragraphs in a row, living in Canucks country means living surrounded by Canucks fans. I moved to Victoria years ago for school, and the Canucks love was pretty bad there, but that's nothing compared to actually living in the den of the dragon. "Oh, those Sedins, they should make two Hart trophies so they can both win, and by the way did I mention I saw Steve Moore running over a kitten that Todd Bertuzzi had helped out of a tree?" It's enough to make me go insane, tear off all my clothes and run down Robson with the other gibbering loons, or worse, start writing like Derek Zona.
Only one thing helps me keep the precious shreds of my sanity intact, and that is embracing my nature as an Edmonton Oilers fan. Sure, the Canucks fans might mock me because I cheer for a losing team, but I can smugly reply, "I can't hear you, I have a Stanley Cup ring in each of my ears, plus one in each eye so I don't have to look at your ugly mug, and one spare to go on my middle finger so you can feel it when I punch you in the face." This always runs into the minor obstacle that I wasn't actually a part of any of those Stanley Cup-winning teams, but I've come up with an alternate plan. I will blind the Vancouver faithful with the two most powerful colours in hockey: the copper and blue.
Unfortunately, I don't currently own an Edmonton Oilers sweater. Something about their being a team one would be ashamed to be publicly associated with. The time has clearly come to change that, though, and I need your help. People of the Copper & Blue, I ask for your assistance in determining what name and number I shall get on my Edmonton Oilers jersey, thus that I may lord the superiority of my hockey team, a time whose best years were gone before I could read, over the Canucks fans who torment me.
Edmonton Oilers, Jordan Eberle #14: The present isn't too bright, so let's look to the future. I pick Jordan Eberle over Taylor Hall or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson because of sheer, naked personal bias. Hall might be better, and Paajarvi more fun to say, but Eberle is more likable. He's a leader who plays the game the right way, scores big goals, and do all the things that may not matter on the scoreboard but are critically important when I want to wear a guy's name on my back. Plus, Eberle actually is an excellent player: an important consideration unless you want the fate of an enthusiastic Oilers fan in the mid-1990s grabbing a Zdeno Ciger jersey. Eberle is a shooter and a playmaker, not a passenger, and if I wear his jersey I will by implication become a shooter myself. Or something.
My only concern about wearing an Eberle jersey is that it is buying into the hype. Not as badly as grabbing first overall pick Taylor Hall's number, but it's a factor all the same. Should I stick with the rookie concept and get a Ryan O`Marra? No. No I should definitely not do that. All the same, there's nothing worse than showing up to the rink in your brand new Eberle jersey and wading into a crowd full of guys in brand new Eberle jerseys. Still, if I'm going to be a conformist, best to be a conformist with a jersey namesake who is both talented and charismatic. I can't imagine somebody wearing a Mark Messier sweater in the late 1980s felt too bad about blending in.
Edmonton Oilers, Fernando Pisani #34: Is it necessary for me to repeat at this point that Pisani is my favourite Oiler in the history of the copper and blue? Suffice to say that, even after he has left for greener pastures, Fernando Pisani remains my boy regardless of his current affiliation. My feelings towards Pisani could get me banned from the state of Illinois if Fernando's attorney learned about them. He was a magnificent two-way forward, he always gave the proverbial hundred and ten percent, he was a local boy, he played for my beloved and now-defunct St. Albert Saints in junior, and he was clutch as balls. That's pretty much a perfect game as far as "I'm going to love this player" goes. The only thing he could do to knock himself off this pedestal would be to superkick Ales Hemsky through a plate glass window. And even then...
More importantly, perhaps, is that this jersey would also serve as a meta-comment on the recent management of the Oilers. "Steve Tambellini, I am wearing the number of a valuable player you cast to the curb, because you are too much of an idiot to build a team worth cheering for today." It would honour the past, but not the dynasty years over which Oiler fans sometimes wax too maudlin. And it would stand as a beacon in a dark place: a constant message that, no matter how much Tambellini tries to sell us on rebuilding and the owner blackmails us to buy him a new hockey arena, there are those of us who have not forgotten the team we used to have. And we miss it.
Also, come on, it's Fernando Pisani. How could that not be awesome?
Edmonton Oilers, Nikolai Khabibulin #35: That would just be funny. Also, it would give me something to wear to the bar. The downside is that it would cost nearly $4 million and fall apart as soon as I put it on.
Edmonton Oilers, Ales Hemsky #83: Forget the rebuild. Make tomorrow today. Take the best veteran player on today's Edmonton Oilers (sorry, Dustin Penner and Ryan Whitney). Hemsky is an alternate captain, a popular pillar of the Edmonton Oilers community, and a two-time Hot Off champion (there's that transitive property making me look good again). Hemsky is a quiet leader who can pick up points by the pound when he isn't laying his body on the line and suffering horrible injuries to try and lift a struggling team that doesn't deserve his talents to two points that won't do them any good. Forget a jersey crest, that's a premise good enough for a sports movie.
A world-class, likable long-time Oiler of whom I am personally quite fond and who has a couple years left on his contract. He seems like an easy pick. Hemsky, unfortunately, suffers from the Eberle Curse of being a popular choice. He's also the basis of an awful lot of trade speculation and is hurt disconcertingly often for somebody whose number I want on my body. Even if he's traded, I'd be rooting Ales Hemsky on: he's a part of the Fernando Pisani Society in that respect. But taking Pisani's jersey is acknowledging that I prefer the past to the present, while taking Hemsky's might be covering my eyes and hoping the present doesn't exist.
Quebec Nordiques, Taylor Hall #4: Hey, may as well get ahead of the curve, right? I mean, the Oilers are moving to Quebec if we don't build them a new rink. Nords jerseys are going to get more expensive when the team actually exists again, and I'll sure look prescient strutting around town in my Quebec duds. On the other hand, until Katz actually does move the team it's a horrible jersey, and when Katz moves the team I'll be too busy crying and lighting the cursed thing on fire to appreciate how clever I was.