Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Look Now...

...but the Edmonton Oil Kings are making a little noise and sit atop the WHL's Central Division.

Now before anyone starts planning the parade route, it's only a couple of weeks into the schedule and they have played more games than all the other teams in their division except for Kootenay. Still, give them credit for what they have done; They just earned 5 of 8 points after playing 4 games in 5 days and now they can boast about having the league's top scorer too.

After losing to Calgary last Wednesday, the Oil Kings came home and snuck out an exciting shootout win over the Red Deer Rebels on Friday night in front of several hundred puking kids (more on that in a minute).

They dropped the second half of the home-at-home with the Rebels on Saturday but stole a point in the O.T. loss. Then on Sunday night, their third game in as many days, they snatched a 2-1 victory from the Ice in Cranbrook.

Brenden Dowd, an undrafted 20-year-old center, now leads the WHL in scoring with 9 points in 6 games - one point ahead of 2009 draft eligible Landon Ferraro of the Rebels.

Winger Brett Breitkreuz is tied in third place (with 11 other players) with 7 points.

Three Oil Kings are tied for third in the league with 5 assists including Dowd, Breitkreuz and defenceman Adrian Van de Mosselear who had a 4-point night earlier this year.

Special teams continue to give the Oil Kings trouble; they rank 19th on the power play with just a 7.4% effective rate while the PK is dead last in the WHL (69.7%).

One thing you know you'll see at an Oil Kings game is a pile of goals - they've score 16 and have allowed 21 both of which are near the tops in each category.

Sunday night saw the debut of 16-year-old netminder Cam Lanigan who both Dean Millard and I agree, will be a solid starter one day in the 'Dub, perhaps sooner rather than later depending on how Dalyn Flette perorms this year.

Czech product Tomas Vincour (right) has 4 point thus far but in the games that I saw, has been fairly average. Robin Soudek, Edmonton's newest import, has been held off of the scoresheet to this point but has an ugly minus-6 on his stats line.

Fan turnout at Rexall Place has been pretty disappointing in my personal opinion. To date the team has announced crowds of 7662 (opening night), 5317 for Calgary the next night and just 3734 for Red Deer's first visit of the year.

That last home game, against the Rebels who are currently in first place, saw the organization get creative and hold an All-You-Can-Eat night for fans aged 12 and under. Basically the premise was that parents, or in my case just dad, would bring their kids to the game and be able to let their off spring pig out on as much as they wanted. Of course parents, or in this case ME, got the risidule left overs so we all got to eat on the house.

The fun promotion was for the first 1000 kids through the door. Unfortunately, the crowd was so sparse that night that I seriously doubt if they hit the 1000 kid mark - they may have but if they did it was probably pretty close.

My biggest complaint about my experiences at Oil Kings games since their inaugural match lasdt year hasn't changed. I still believe that the team is aiming their demographic cannon too low. These days it's teenagers that have all the money - they live at home, have jobs yet pay little if any rent or bills... they should be targeting an age more similar to that of the players on the ice, the 15-20 year olds.

Parents will still come and bring their kids but as of now... that's about all that are coming.

I sat in the seats at the last game as opposed to the press box. To my surprise, my 9 and nearly 4 year old found the music too loud. I was surprised because I felt their music at home was louder but still, something I didn't consider before.

Until the third period when the Oil Kings decided to show up, the most intersting thing to my kids was the bloopers played on the screen during intermissions. Of course once the home team started to play well, they were watching the game.

Now it might seem a bit confusing that my complaint is that there are too many children and yet I myself brought mine. Well I don't normally but I felt the promotion that night was a great opportunity to bring them and not take the hit in the wallet that many parents feel on most nights.

I still think that on a nightly basis they should be quicker on the draw for the in-rink games and annoucements, the 'get ready for another EnMax Power Play' stuff and overall just do more things to get the crowd into it. Someone once told me that they purposely dulled down the music at Oil Kings games so as not to compete with the atmosphere at Oilers games. I find that ironic because I believe it's pretty easy to get the crowd going for the Oilers and so more effort should be put into picking the right music selection for the WHL team.

Less Mini-Pops and Disney soundtracks... more rock!

Anyhow, this has been a long winded venting but overall I think fans should be aware that on the ice, the Oil Kings are doing some good things. Off of it they still need some work but getting more butts into the bulding would be a big help.

Don't get me started on ticket prices; I don't know how many of the $10 game day tickets there actually are but apparently they were all sold out when I took my kids on Friday. The building was two thirds empty so somewhere there is a scalper with about 4000 unused tickets I guess.

Friday night the team is giving mullet wigs to the first 2500 people through the gate. At least they're trying to do something creative and fun... I hope it turns out better than last Friday, especially for the kid that puked a rainbow of yuck all over the main concourse.


Doogie2K said...

And here I was about to say that the Hitmen also have small crowds some nights, but then I saw crowds of 9,000, 6,000, and 6,400, so maybe things are worse in Edmonton than I'd guessed.

Guy Flaming said...

Well to be fair, I'm told (don't know this first hand) that attendance in Calgary during the Hitmen's firt few years was pretty much the same as it is here in Edmonton.

Hopefully in time the crowds up here will grow as well.

It's not ticket prices because I believe that the duckets in Cowtown and here are pretty similar.

I suspect it's just an extra decade or so of existence as well as some successful seasons in there that got people out there.

The NHL lockout didn't hurt either.