Way back in June when the Oilers' 2015/16 was released I assume that most fans did exactly what I did, went right to the end to see who the team would be hosting for the final game at Rexall Place. Connor McDavid's first game was a big deal as well but that last home game of the year was the must have ticket of the season, for me it was anyway. And seeing Vancouver there instead of Calgary surprised me a little. That the game on a Wednesday night caught me off guard as well, I would have expected it to be a Saturday night game. Really though, neither was a big deal, just a bit of a head scratcher more than anything else.
Then there is today's announcement from the Oilers that the start time of the game has been changed from 8:00PM local time to 5:00PM local time.
The Edmonton Oilers announced today for the special occasion of the Farewell Night at Rexall Place on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, the game start time has been adjusted to 5:00 PM MDT.
The Farewell Night game and closing ceremony festivities will be broadcast nationally on Rogers Sportsnet allowing Oilers fans from across the country to tune into this historic evening.
The Oilers have done a lot of things over the last decade that have made me shake my head, things I just couldn't understand the motivation for, but this boggles the mind.
Even if I believed that a national audience is actually interested in what the Oilers have planned for a closing ceremony, and I don't, starting the game at 5:00PM on a Wednesday night is unbelievably stupid because it's going to be inconvenient for almost every person attending, you know, the people who paid money to watch the game. In many cases those people who will be season ticket holders who have stood by this team for the last decade when the on-ice product has been absolutely atrocious and they're the ones who get screwed over here in favour of a national audience.
If this is an event that really needed to be broadcast nationally (and again, I can't imagine why it would be) that is something that should have been decided a year ago when the schedule was being put together. Schedule the game on a Saturday night if puck drop has to happen at 5:00PM, you would hear zero complaints. But you don't change it now, two and half weeks away from the game. People have plans, people make commitments, changing things around might not be as easy for them as issuing a press release.
This isn't the first time that the Oilers have stiffed their paying fans this season either. On the night that Glen Sather was honoured, the ceremony was held prior to warm-ups so that it could be broadcast nationally. This meant that fans wanting to see what they had paid for had to be in their seats 45 minutes before puck drop for a ten minute ceremony. This might not seem like much, but having to be in your seat by 6:15PM and at the arena at 6:00PM because of the gong show that is the metal detectors isn't convenient for many fans. And inconveniencing the people who pay for you product typically isn't a smart business decision.
We have two types of fans: we have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about but certainly the people that go to the games and support we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message.
Kevin Lowe got roasted for the "we have two types of fans" quote. Lowe wasn't wrong, the Oilers (or any business) absolutely should differentiate between the fans that are paying big bucks every season and those that don't. At the same time Lowe should have been smart enough to know that even if the Oilers should do it, that he can never acknowledge it publicly. Three years later though, the Oilers don't seem to have two types of fans any more, they just have television rights holders, and they apparently matter a lot more than any one else.
In the end it won't matter on April 6th, the building will still be full, and it'll be a great night for those in attendance. But that doesn't make this a smart decision by the club, and this is becoming a trend with the club. Four years ago I would have told anyone who asked that the Oilers treat their season ticket holders very, very well. Today though my answer would be very different, and more and more I find myself thinking that there are better ways for me to spend my money. And I know I'm not the only season ticket holder thinking that.