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Just The Game Please, No More Infomercials

When you peel back all the layers that have been constructed around the Edmonton Oilers, the NHL, and all other pro sports leagues, you see that each is entertainment and nothing more at their base level. The cable television channels, all the newspaper articles, and the websites that have been created with the sole purpose of following these sports help disguise what these leagues are but the fact remains its entertainment plain and simple, in many ways no different than a movie, concert, or play, and it serves as a diversion from our day-to-day lives.

With a last place club on the ice, the Oilers have to do a fantastic job away from the ice to provide the fans within Rexall Place with good entertainment value for their money. And I feel that they are successful to that end with contests and prize giveaways during the games (less so with the Oilers Octane) and Tim Hortons Tim Bits minor hockey, out of town scores, and sometimes more contests in between periods. Based on what I've seen at games it seems to me the Oilers understand the value of this off-ice entertainment. And this is why I was so disappointed to see the Oilers unveil their The Time Is Now... video at the game last Tuesday.

Although this post is not directly pro or anti arena my opinion on the issues isn't relevant but to avoid anyone accusing me of having a hidden agenda I'll get my stance on the issue out of the way up front. I love Rexall Place and they'll have to kick me out of the building the night the Oilers play their last game there. I don't understand how a team with 16,839 butts in the seats every night isn't making money and if they're not I'm concerned about the long term viability of the NHL. A Community Revitalization Levy is a tax. I think a new arena could be great for the City of Edmonton if done properly and built within the downtown. In general I feel that the Oilers and the Katz Group have put the cart before the horse in terms of working towards a new arena so at this point I can't say that I'm pro or anti new arena because I just don't have all the information to be able to make an informed decision, but I'm definitely against the process that has been going on to date.

That's how I see the arena debate right now. Your opinion could be very different than mine and that's fine. I'm not debating the merits of a new arena in this post; my complaint about the video and the corresponding interviews with Pittsburgh Penguins fans talking about the new  CONSOL Energy Center (which the Oilers haven't posted on their website) has nothing to do with how I feel about the potential new arena and everything to do with the content of the videos and the forum that the Oilers chose to show them in.

The first video, the one interviewing Penguins fans, features fans answering questions about how their game experience is improved now that the team no longer plays in Mellon Arena. It's ground breaking stuff really. I'm sure the interview team had to search high and low to finds fans at a Penguins game who thought the new arena was better than the old one. It's a loaded question, like asking Don Cherry what he thinks of players who wear visors; you know the answer before you ask the question. But as ridiculous as the question is what I find even more ridiculous is that the question is completely irrelevant to the issue Edmonton City Council will be addressing tomorrow. Of course a new arena would be nicer than Rexall Place, I think everyone can agree on that fact, how it's paid for is the issue at hand. The only reason for any of these hard hitting interview clips to be included is if the Oilers are intentionally misleading people as to what the issue is.

After the five plus minutes of useless interview clips the video switched gears to a more obvious pitch for the new arena in the The Time Is Now... video. The video opens with a shot of the seats in Section 231 which were unusable during the game on February 27 due to a leak in the roof. From there the video moves to shots of the city, backed by dramatic music, while words like world class and revitalizing flash up. I've lived far more years of my life in Edmonton than I have anywhere else and I love it here. I came from the suburbs - St. Albert actually - to live in downtown and I don't plan to ever move very far from where I am now. I think Edmonton is a fantastic city (albeit a little cold at times) with some tremendous opportunities available to be even better in the immediate term. But to think that a new downtown arena would elevate Edmonton to the status of cities I consider to be world class like New York or London is completely absurd. Am I really supposed to believe that Rexall Place is what's holding Edmonton back?

In the interests of full disclosure I will admit that I didn't hate everything about the video. I did enjoy the symmetry between the franchises plan for the rebuild - just a couple more lottery picks and boom we'll win a Stanley Cup - and the message of the video - build a new arena and boom, we're a world class city. Somehow I doubt the symmetry was intentional though.

As much as I disliked the content what I found most upsetting was that the Oilers chose to show this video during both the first and second intermissions of a game. The exact same sevenish minutes of pointless drivel twice during the same game in case somehow you'd missed the fact the Oilers would like a new downtown arena. The Ford commercials with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi I can accept because they at least provide some (very limited) entertainment in addition to the obvious commercial for Ford. But these two videos didn't provide any entertainment at all, misrepresented the issues before Council, included claims bordering on insane, and might as well included Vince selling me a Slap Chop or ShamWow. Had they only shown the video once I may have just gone home and let it be. That they chose to show it twice is ridiculous.

In the days after the game the Oilers posted the video on their website, tweeted about it through both the Oiler and Oil Kings twitter accounts, and sent an email to season ticket holders with links to the video and how to get in touch with the city to voice their opinion. Those avenues would have reached a lot of people. Was it really necessary to also take away from the game day experience of the people who paid their money to see the game with an infomercial? It might not seem like a big deal to you but if you only take your family to a game once or twice a year I think this would be very frustrating. The game is more than a game, its entertainment; I think the Oilers normally understand that but they did themselves a real disservice by forgetting it for one night.