Last week marked the one year anniversary of the debut of the Oilers Octane. In October of last year when the cheer team was originally announced, Oilers President and CEO Patrick LaForge said "This is another example of the Oilers responding to the wishes of our valued customers. The Oilers Cheer Team will elevate the level of entertainment and further enhance the in-game experience."
At the time I thought it unlikely that this was really in response to customer demand as LaForge had indicated, I know I never once went to a game and thought the only thing missing were cheerleaders, but if cheerleaders could up the entertainment value for fans then it couldn’t be all bad. The Oilers are, at the end of the day, nothing more than entertainment and the team is doing the right thing in improving, or at least trying to improve, the entertainment value for those who pay to watch the games, something they have at other times lost sight of.
It was a fine idea at the time, in fact we were breaking new ground as the first Canadian NHL team with a cheer team, but with a year of the Octane now in the rear view mirror I’d be happy if the cheer team just quietly went away.
The problem with the Octane, as I see it, is that the performances are boring, amounting to little more than arm waving. I am quite possibly the worst dancer in Edmonton, which would place me high in the running for worst worldwide and I think I would be able to master their dances in a couple of hours. And I’m not blaming them, the women of the Oilers Octane could all be very talented dancers but you’d never know it because nobody can dance on stairs. At an Eskimos game the cheer team does flips and they’re throwing people in the air, it’s impressive to watch and completely unrepeatable at an Oilers game.
As a result and this might be a little blunt, the fans simply don’t care for the Octane performances. Admittedly I sit in the 200 level so I don’t have the performances in the aisle right in front of me but watching the fan reaction on the big screen night after night I don’t see any fans attentively watching the performances and I hear no crowd noise related to them either during or after. Fan reaction to the Octane compared to the t-shirt cannon is night and day different and even though t-shirt cannons can be deadly the fans seem to love it.
Sadly when I do hear a fan comment on the Octane it’s usually a gentleman who might have had a beer or two too many and what’s said is typically leaning towards the very inappropriate and not something you’d want kids to hear. In terms of entertainment value comments like these do more to take away from the fan experience than the Octane could ever hope to provide. Drunk idiots won’t be easy to get rid of but removing the trigger for that stupidity would be simple.
I applaud the Oilers for trying something new, something that would excite the fans, and I hope that they continue to look for way to make the game experience better (winning would be a great place to start) but the Octane experiment hasn’t worked out. Acknowledge that, disband them, and move onto the next idea.