On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers notified the public that their ownership group was in Seattle. It was through a statement released on the team's website by Katz Group EVP Bob Black, and working under the guise that ownership was 'just taking in a Seahawks game' (the Seahawks played the Packers last night on Monday Night Football).
"I can confirm that Daryl Katz, Patrick LaForge, Kevin Lowe and others from the Oilers leadership group are in Seattle for meetings and to attend the Seahawks game.Last week, Seattle City Council reached an agreement with investor Chris Hansen on a new downtown arena that could house both NBA and NHL teams. Boy, the Oilers sure do move quickly.
"We remain committed to working with City Administration to achieve a deal commensurate with what Winnipeg and Pittsburgh have done to sustain the NHL in those small markets. If we can achieve such a deal, the Oilers will remain in Edmonton and we can get on with the important work of developing the new arena and investing in the continued revitalization of Edmonton's downtown core.
"Nonetheless, and as the City of Edmonton is aware, the Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time. After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers' lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise."
This move is -- pardon my French -- dickish, and comes almost simultaneously with Edmonton's mayor expressing his frustration with the arena situation. The Oilers and the City have been trying to come to an agreement on who will be footing the $450 million bill for a new arena and, wouldn't you know it, each wants the other to take on more of the cost.
Now, during a lockout no less, the Oilers ownership decides to pull a little stunt by flat out announcing that they're in Seattle discussing that city's plans for a shiny new arena. It's a completely obvious negotiating tactic that hasn't fooled the media or folks on Twitter and comes at possibly the most aggravating time for Oiler fans. Not only is there a lockout but couple that with this trip to Seattle, and Oiler ownership has to be the most insensitive, out of touch ownership group in hockey. Or they really, really want to anger their fanbase. My guess is their thinking was to get the fans riled up, thus putting pressure on the City. Sure, this will put pressure on the city by riling up the fans but it also makes a spectacle of the entire situation and creates a firestorm in the national press. It only makes the situation more hostile for everyone involved.
There's a stark contrast here between the Oilers and the Islanders, although both are involved in their own arena struggles. While the Islanders are buddy-buddy with Barclays owner Bruce Ratner, and the team has held an exhibition in Kansas City, somehow things have never quite devolved into what we have here today with the Oilers (although Nassau politics has certainly been a three ring circus). The Islanders have always shied away from making any kind of specific statement, always letting others come to the conclusions and make statements, regardless of how obvious the conclusions may be. Yesterday, the Oilers blatantly posted their demands on their website, the first of what should be a messy arena squabble.
One other difference between the two teams; the Oilers can put a hell of a lot more pressure on their local municipality than the Islanders could ever dream of. The Oilers are not only an Alberta institution but they're also the biggest game in town, so it's easy to make demands if you know they'll likely be met.