I've written on this site before about my wife, Emily, and I, and how we made the commitment to become Oilers season ticket holders in March 2006, less than two months before the team began its remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Finals. That decision allowed us to secure tickets to every playoff game that year (and all the ones since) and it's why we have tickets today. I won't deny that there was some luck involved but I deserve partial credit as well because I figured out that the team's minipack holders, which we were at the time, would no longer get playoff ticket priority since the number of minipack holders exceeded available seats, and so if I wanted to be guaranteed playoff tickets this was the only option.
The spring of 2006 feels like forever ago now, but it's been just seven and a half years. It feels longer because the team has been downright terrible since the run ended. But for 24 games, spread out over a couple of months, an awful lot of things went right for the Oilers and it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Not everything went right of course, the Oilers ended up losing to the Hurricanes in seven games, and there was this, but the good certainly outweighed the bad. Since then the good has been buried under 100 feet of bad.
There are people out there who will try to convince you that the Oilers run to the finals that spring was more the result of an amazing run of good luck than anything else. Noted calculator enthusiast, Derek Zona, thinks the game is 38% luck, for example. But I've felt for a long time, even though I couldn't prove it, that the real key to the Oilers' success that spring wasn't lucky play but instead was the result of something else entirely: my wife's broken foot.
Sounds crazy you say? Allow me to explain.
After the Oilers loss to the Red Wings in the opening game of Round 1, my wife and I took a taxi home from the bar. For whatever reason I can't remember the specifics of the ride back to our place but upon arrival Emily managed to break her foot getting out of the taxi. How does a person break their foot getting out of a taxi? I honestly don't know, I suspect that the hockey gods had something to do with it though. (Related: If you tell someone with a broken foot that it's not broken, and to "just walk it off" you will hear about it for the rest of you life.)
Following the game one loss the Oilers would win two straight before dropping Game 4 at home, a game Emily did not attend. Wins in the next two games would send the Oilers to the second round for the first time since 1998. So if you're keeping track, the Oilers went 4-0 in games that Emily had a broken foot and paid attention. I think we're onto something here. You know the rest, the Oilers run through the Sharks in six, then the Ducks in five, before losing in seven to the Hurricanes. The key to the whole run, as I see it, was opening night when Emily broke her foot, and if she'd healed just a little slower the Oilers would probably have six Stanley Cup victories instead of five.
The problem is that I've been unable to prove my theory because Emily is selfish and won't intentionally break her foot in order to prove me right. What kind of fan won't take a hit like that for the team their favourite team? After only a year or two of losing, maybe I could get behind it, but after seven years? Unacceptable. At this point I'd take an ax to my foot if I thought it would help the team win.
This morning though I bring you good news, Emily had foot surgery on Friday and is going to be on the mend for the next six weeks. As I expected, the results were immediate as the Oilers ended a five game losing streak the very next day. Sure the Oilers are going to be without Hall for four weeks. And Gagner is still out. And Eberle isn't 100%. And the bottom six forwards remind me more of a tire fire than NHL players. But Emily is on crutches. History tells me that this is a good thing (for fans of the Oilers, probably less so for Emily), and that wins are just around the corner. I can feel it.