It's worth mentioning that calling the group of people who are employed to write about the Oilers for the Edmonton Journal "journalists", or "sportswriters", or "writers", is a stretch. They should be titled "Official Stenographers of the Edmonton Oilers", but I digress.
The story, filed by Stenographer John MacKinnon, starts at the custom URL, optimized for SEO purposes, specifically for people who REALLY want this downtown arena:
John, clearly in his Howard Beale mode, says the "downtown Edmonton arena deal should be made, enough is enough" - and that's just the headline! The story itself reflects the headline. In a column that would make everyone except Stenographer David Staples blush, John notes that the Oilers' lease at Rexall expires in 2014 and hints that the Oilers have no ties to Edmonton after that. The obvious takeaway is that the Oilers would leave Edmonton for better environs after that.
After the official Oilers' Twitter account RT'ed it, (sadly) a large number of fans/tweeters RT'ed in support of the article. And then fellows like Colby Cosh, Tyler Dellow, and Jeff from Oil on Whyte got involved. Once they RT'ed the threat, the hockey-viewing public at large responded. Keep in mind that this wasn't a mistake. The Oilers officially support the threat through Twitter. Last night, I reached out to J.J. Hebert, the Oilers' Director of Communications & Media Relations for a confirmation that this is an official position of the Oilers' franchise, but I've yet to hear back at this hour.
Cam Charron, a writer for the Nations Network, asked the question:
Is @nhl_oilers the first team Twitter account that threatened its own re-location?— Cam Charron (@camcharron) September 23, 2012
The answer is obviously yes. Some Oilers' fans defended the threat by mentioning that Mario Lemieux went as far as visiting both Kansas City & Las Vegas and having dinner with arena people and politicians in both cities. Lemieux later said the dinners were nothing more than a negotiating tactic, so Katz has carte blanche to do the same. Set aside the fact that Oilers' owner Daryl Katz has already used this tactic in Quebec, Lemieux used the tactic when there was little movement in Pittsburgh about arena funding. Katz already has guarantees of over $400 million in public money to build his arena and entertainment district - the inflation-adjusted cost of Lemieux's Consol Center was $350 million TOTAL.
But the threat itself is hollow. Even if Katz could convince the NHL's Board of Governors that he was in dire straits as the 8th-most profitable franchise in the NHL and that relocation was the only way to save the 8th most profitable franchise in the NHL, the Board of Governors would immediately approve relocation of one their loss leaders to Edmonton. It's unlikely that Edmonton would go even one season without a team. The moment the Oilers received approval to leave, one of the Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Devils, Islanders, Panthers, or Predators would receive approval to relocate to Edmonton.
Edmonton fans should recognize this and give up the craven, dire views the preponderance of them have on this process. Just make sure to follow Cleveland's lead and sue Katz for the Oilers' name, colors and history before he leaves town.
Think about how far Katz has fallen. In just over 4 years, the billionaire has gone from the Oilers' savior to openly blackmailing the city and fans after receiving $400 million guaranteed public dollars. At this point, maybe the city's best bet is to go the way Chris Bataluk suggests:
At least a city-owned team and arena wouldn't try to hold itself hostage and shoot the fans in the heart when it didn't get what it wanted.