That's right, panic. In a matter of days we have gone from realizing that the upcoming hockey season is a write off and that Edmonton will at least start the construction of their new arena in the spring to the exact opposite. But then of course back again to no hockey season.
The NHL has made a reasonable offer to the players, and the players had the opportunity to counter the offer Thursday, but at the same time Daryl Katz issued a letter to the city of Edmonton stating that the two sides were too far apart and although his door was always open to suggestions, he would not be attending the city council session where budget was to be discussed. If you wanted to see a new arena in Edmonton, or had any concerns about the viability and sustainment of the Oilers in Edmonton you have to wonder, now what. Well, unless of course you have jumped off the deep end and are already in complete panic mode.
The arena project not only affects the Oilers and their future in the city, but it was also supposed to be the focal point for key upgrades to Edmonton's downtown. This project would have created construction jobs, as well as providing work for those already here. Plumbers, electricians, concrete workers, all would have benefited from this project and all of those that resulted from it. There is still hope that a new arena will happen, but it's not going to break ground in the spring. It's not going to be the world class building we have envisioned and seen mock ups of. At least that's not how it seems right now.
At least for other workers in Edmonton and in every NHL city a return to work for the players means a return to work in other industries. The lockout of course most publicly affected the players who were not drawing a salary, and the NHL owners who have said that they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars with every lost week. But what of the journalists, arena employees and even the bar and restaurant owners because they have also felt the pinch?
The NHLPA of course countered the leagues offer, which appeared fair and which of course several owners still opposed, but what was most shocking is that the player's union came back with three proposals of their own, all of which are according to Bettman not even close.
When you really look at what the players are doing and saying now, you have to wonder how they can be get behind their union when 70% of its members make the league minimum to 2 or $3 million, and will only have short careers. With this season lost, many of the players will simply never get to play another NHL season. Not only that, but how can a union support its players going out to other leagues and taking jobs away from others, which is exactly what is happening with players who are going to play in Europe.
The Oklahoma City Barons have seen the addition of Taylor Hall to their hallways this week. Hall is in OKC on a conditioning stint as a means for him to participate in contact for the first time since his season ending shoulder surgery (well, if you forget about that concussion) from last season. Hall surely looked forward to spending time with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead of practising with the Oil Kings, as much as he looked forward to being in a competitive hockey environment again. After all, even days of our life day after day can become tiring.
The Barons split their opening weekend, and Justin Schultz was the name mentioned the most. Schultz will no doubt challenge for a spot on the Oilers' roster should this season happen. But we already knew that.
The Stockton Thunder has also gotten their season off and running. Tyler Bunz is enjoying his first professional games, especially his first shutout Saturday night against the Ontario Reign, earning his the second star for the night. But alas that was his second ECHL game, in his first the 23 stops he made were not enough as the team fell 2-1 to the Reign.
The Thunder are in Las Vegas this weekend and will play back to back games Friday and Saturday night.
The Edmonton Oil Kings just can't seem to find their wins. After every win seemed to come so easily to the team last season, the start to this year has been less than stellar. The team is still chock full of talented, fast and youthful players, but there seems to be something missing. Cory Graham, the voice of the Oil Kings suggested on the Jason Gregor show Wednesday afternoon that it might be due in part to Kristians Pelss' speed. With Pelss in Oklahoma City, he is not moving the puck down the ice using his NHL speed. But even beyond Pelss' absence, something seems to be missing. Perhaps the offseason was too short, perhaps the quality of competition has increased, but the team will need to find a way to turn things around.
At the very least, the games are still very close for the most part, and as always are highly entertaining. The Oil Kings play Friday and Saturday nights this weekend against the Moose Jaw Warriors Friday and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday.