Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is the NHL staring another labour stoppage in the face?

Will there be an NHL season starting in the fall of 2012? Or will there not be an NHL season starting in the fall of 2012?

While there have been no official, for-the-record contacts between the league and its players’ association (NHLPA) yet, this is bound to change by the time the All-Star Game rolls by, Sunday, January 29, in Ottawa.

Between now and then, there have been unmistakable signs that the path to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is going to be wet from all that blood, sweat and tears both sides are going to pour.

It remains to be seen whether the fans will have a reason to cry or rejoice. The former seems more likely.

The first sign: the NHLPA is of the view the time has come to change the competition committee, one of the babies conceived during the last lockout. How precisely would you imagine it? came a polite enquiry from the league. If there was an answer, it must have been lost in the mail.

But there are issues that will be terribly difficult to overcome, and it’s tough to predict now whether there could be any compromise on any of them.

The NHLPA keenly watches what their basketball brethren, a.k.a. NBAPA, are doing. Having refused a 50-50 split in basketball-related revenue as the basis to calculate salary caps, the NBAPA is seriously looking to disband so its members are free to sue the league for breaking the anti-trust legislation. They may have a point there, except, if they do this, it would be a perfectly stinking hypocrisy: if a player wants to join the NBA, he’s got to be a member of the NBAPA in good standing. Is that monopolist or is that monopolist?

Do the NBA players actually care for their fans?

Still, the NHLPA is in permanent contact with the basketball unionists, keeping close tabs on developments there. Are they doing it just out of sheer pleasure of learning?

The NHL can make a very good case for itself by saying that, while, overall, league hockey-related revenues having been going up, the number of teams in dire straights has been increasing, too. Atlanta’s gone, Phoenix is close to going, Columbus is bleeding not only on the ice, both Florida teams are giving tickets away for free and counting days until Canadian retirees drop by for their regular winter holidays so they can at least sell some of the tickets, Minnesota isn’t too healthy, Dallas is hoping its new owner will be willing to invest, expecting at least some return, and the three California teams aren’t prime examples of economic health, either.

Of course, the logical reply would be: well then, why did you put those teams in such inhospitable areas in the first place? That it helped increase NHLPA’s membership? So what? It also brought cash in admittance fees to the existing owners.

The players are perfectly livid about the so-called escrow account into which they have to contribute a certain percentage of their salaries, just in case the NHL (or one of its teams) is sinking. Sure, they get some of the money back a season later, but they can’t help it: they just can’t understand why players’ contributions should be keeping alive clubs that shouldn’t have been born at all. That’s their view, and there’s something to it. So far as players are concerned, if the league has expanded the way it has, it should be the league who improves upon the system of revenue sharing, not the players.

The league, on the other hand, is of the view that the players have got it made, and that they’ve got it made on the backs of their poor employers. The players’ salaries are eating more than 54 per cent of the league’s hockey-related revenue, and that’s really altogether too much to swallow, quite a few of the owners say. To open the negotiations, they would be willing to offer a split that would see 47 per cent going to the players, the rest to them. Fat chance, of course, but that’s what you’ve got negotiations for: at the end, they would agree on a 50-50 split, giving everyone a chance to feel the pain of compromising, and share it.

Here’s a theory of games and economic behaviour element that comes into play. There is a recognized dictum amongst professional police officers that once a person murders somebody, that murderer finds it much easier to pull the trigger again, next time. This kind of behavioural pattern has a Latin name in which precedent plays a major role. We had a lockout just a few years ago, and the NHL survived. A precedent if there ever was one.

Another sore point: NHL owners just hate the fact their players have got guaranteed contracts. The NFL model (no guarantees, and if we don’t like you, tough sledding, Bubba) would make them feel much better. Who wants to wager on the players giving guaranteed contracts up? The owners can try to offer a sweetener: fine, your contracts, including no-trade or no-move clauses, will be guaranteed. To a degree. Once a player asks for a trade, though, the no-trade or no-move clause gets waived, and the player will go where the team finds a trade partner who suits the team, rather than the player. Can you see THIS happening?

Accepted wisdom has it that the forthcoming CBA negotiations will be tougher than what we had experienced in 2004. Why? Because NHLPA’s executive director Donald Fehr’s record says so.

It, of course, says no such thing. Yes, Donald Fehr was instrumental in several labour stoppages when a Major Baseball union Pooh-Bah, that’s true. But those were different times, a different game, different league issues, different owners. The fact it had been about a Collective Bargaining Agreement just as it is now is the only feature these situations have in common.

Donald Fehr must be aware, just as any major professional sports league should be, that the demographics of fandom have been changing rapidly in the last few years, and that the change has been resembling a downward spiral more than anything else. Reasons for this trend have been varied, and none of them, at least thus far, described as paramount. Randomly speaking, you can define those reasons as signs of general economic malaise worldwide and, consequently, lower disposable incomes amongst potential fans. Scientists have also observed that in the era of new media in general and social media in particular, younger generations’ interests have veered away from passive participation in professional sports. Some case studies also indicate that an increasing number of members of the general population are positively angry about top professional athletes’ remuneration demands. Descriptions of animals linked to words that describe greed have become norm rather than exceptions. Professional sports franchise owners who demand taxpayer participation in building new facilities for their clubs have been increasingly becoming objects for ridicule.

To sum up: times have changed. Professional sports might become (nobody says “will become,” not yet, anyhow) relics of the past before the first three decades of this century are gone.

So, if Donald Fehr plans to intimidate the NHL, and the owners let him, both sides will be stepping on an unmarked minefield.

Let’s hope they are smart enough NOT to do it. But let’s not mortgage our homes on it, either.

Advertisements

Who’s out when Ales Hemsky returns to the fold?

Now what?

With Ales Hemsky’s imminent return to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup, who should draw the short straw?

The original deal saw Hemsky playing alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth, an old-line revival that was expected to click forthwith and help the club along to new heights.

Then came the unfortunate shoulder strain, and a pretty wise decision to give it time to heal and rest: it was the same shoulder that underwent a bit of major surgery just a few months ago, after all.

So, in drew Ryan Jones, and guess what? The line hasn’t missed a beat. Yes, yes, yes, some fans might be saying the line would be scoring more with Hemsky on it. At the same time, there might be another school of thought that would say, no, Hemsky would only slow this line down, they wouldn’t have been as successful as they have been with him as they are without him.

And then, there’s the realistic school of thought: the Edmonton Oilers have been on a pretty good winning streak with Hemsky on the sidelines. How can you start fixing something that ain’t broken? Trade the guy? Are you kidding? Well, if, say, Pittsburgh offered James Neal and Jordan Staal, perhaps? Or if Tampa sent Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier Edmonton’s way? Nonsense on both counts.

But seriously, look at Edmonton’s forwards: do you find ANY who deserve to be sent up to the press box (or down to Oklahoma City) so Hemsky finds his way back?

Say you demote Ryan Jones by a line to accommodate Nr. 83. Ooops, can’t be done: why mess with the kid trio of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle? One more line down? For crying out loud, there’s not enough space to accommodate Linus Omark, if only to play him alongside his countryman Magnus Paajarvi, and how about Sam Gagner? How about Anton Lander? A defensive forward gem. Ben Eager? The Oilers need the grit, especially with Darcy Hordichuk still injured. How about Lennart Petrell? Another forward who knows how to defend. The Oilers need him, a very useful guy.

See the dilemma?

And that’s not all. Once Hemsky returns and Tom Renney will have to decide at whose expense he does so, will it not upset the applecart known as emotional and psychological relationships, ties, likes and dislikes within the group a.k.a. the Edmonton Oilers? Nobody knows, not even Tom Renney.

And yet, decide he will have to, and soon.

Many coaches around the NHL might be looking at this situation with envy: what kind of riches, eh? Yet, as we know, it’s a very fine line between riches and the poorhouse in the world of professional sports. Yes, the Oilers have put together an impressive series. But now that the rodeo is in town, and the Oilers are out of town, we’ll see how they handle their newly found swagger.

Besides, remember, everybody will be gunning for them: how dare the upstarts, 30th in the league for two years running, sit on top of their division, thumbing their noses at the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, making them look as also-runs? And, too, we all know that the Oilers’ record against their own division is far from perfect.

And into all this, Ales Hemsky is chomping at the bit.

It’s going to be a tough call, no doubt about that. Aaah, another few gray hairs on Tom Renney’s head. And a nose or two out of joint on the roster.

Who knew? The price of land for new arena more than double of what was predicted!

As highway robberies go, this one surpasses the original deal our city parents agreed to in an attempt to square the circle and revitalize the downtown area. No, the land our city parents purchased won’t cost anywhere in the neighbourhood of $20 to $30 million, as originally mentioned. And please note: even that $10 million discrepancy is money most of us have never seen before (and wont see anytime soon, either).

Now, we find out, the land will cost in the neighbourhood of $75 million, give or take a few million either way once the dust settles.

Not only that: where the amended deal called for a $30 million commitment by the Oilers’ owner to the area development, it turns out that if he decides to buy some of the land back, that amount would count as part of his commitment.

Robert Moylers, the city’s spokesthingie, suggests the additional land purchase will allow the city to control the development that goes in the area in terms of the time, the type, and the form. Gee, one would have thought that’s what development permits were for: tell me what you’re going to build, and if we like it, you’ll get the permit. If we don’t, you won’t.

And even if the Katz group DOES buy back the land it said it was going to buy back (no guarantees there, either), it would still cost you and me a pretty penny to keep the rest: $41 million, give or take a million or two either way, again.

Is THAT the cup of tea even the most ardent supporters of the publicly-funded downtown arena bargained for?

Either our city council is a bunch of rank amateurs whose basic knowledge of economics ranks them close to the primates, or – as some whispers seem to float – not all is well with the entire scenario. Let’s remain optimistic and hope it’s the former rather than the latter. If it is the former, this would call for an immediate recall of the entire council, extraordinary elections, and those should be linked to a referendum with the questions spelt out clearly.

Do you still want to use taxpayers’ money to build an arena, with the cost to the city, and be ready for this, NOT $100 ($125) million, but that amount PLUS interest, and PLUS the cost of the land PLUS interest (and the amounts of interest should be spelt out, too)?

Lest anybody objects to including the interest, here’s a reminder: it’s an amount the city will have to pay as part of its spending, so, might as well include it. Please note: it’s spending, not an investment. Somebody else, not the city, will be reaping the benefits.

As mentioned so many times earlier, this entire plan reeks to high heaven. And, as mentioned so many times earlier, there’s no proof the arena, if and when built, would do squat to stop the bleeding from downtown, turning the trend around and revitalizing the area in the process. What does happen here is that the taxpayers are supposed to carry most of the risks while the Oilers’ owner, even if the downtown revitalization plan flops, will be laughing all the way to the bank: his will be the revenues from everything that takes place under his roof.

On top of all that, we are now the landlords for the Baccarat Casino, an outfit owned by the Burnaby-based company, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. If that is so, where are the numbers we all have the right to know? Can we see the lease deal so we know exactly how much we are going to pay if we demolish the money-making eyesore and replace it with another money-making machine?

This is irresponsibility at its best.

There are some who maintain that even if the arena deal does NOT go through, it’s fine and dandy for the city to own the land: there will be other developments, and the city will be holding all of the real estate cards.

Perfect rubbish, of course. Civic administration is not, and shouldn’t be, a real estate developer.

Generally speaking, any government’s priorities differ from the priorities dear to entrepreneurs’ hearts. This is not to say which of the two sets of priorities is better. This is to say they are different. Governments have no business making such entrepreneurial decisions as imposing a ticket tax on Northlands patrons just to make the deal fair for another private entrepreneur in whose pockets they are sitting right now. To put it as simply as possible, so that even our city parents understand it: fairness in government has nothing to do with fairness in business. Why not? Simply because business is all about competition. Government isn’t.

Also: Mayor Stephen Mandel intimated not so long ago that if no money for the downtown arena project is forthcoming from the provincial government, he’s got a plan B, presumably to line up private investors. (Let’s hope it’s not to raise our taxes to pay for the shortfall.)

Guess what: if he were to show this unfinished piece of what is supposed to be a business plan to any shrewd entrepreneurs, they would do their due diligence, and once they’re done, they would chase him down their corridors with a whip cracking.

This is not to suggest we should apply such corporal punishment to the guy. This is to suggest we should demand, as mentioned, an immediate recall of the entire council, a new election, and a binding referendum.

If the majority of voters still say they want to proceed, highway robbery notwithstanding, let’s rename this place a City of Masochists.

And remember: this is NOT about shining visions. This is all about a perfect crime. Why fleece us one by one when you can fleece the entire city in one fell swoop?

As robberies go, this one takes the cake

Taking a leap of faith, that’s what our city parents have done. They acknowledged that part of it as they had approved the deal with the Oilers’ owner, warts and all, as if there was a lot of competitors who could beat them to the punch, and as if they had no concern over whose money they’re playing with.

They are playing with money that is NOT theirs. The previous municipal election was NOT about the arena deal, even if some informal and unofficial polls asked individual candidates where they stood on the issue. The results – if published at all – were published so unobtrusively only political junkies could have noticed. So, to say, without blushing, that council has and had a mandate to commit the city to this highway robbery is demagoguery as shameless as Sir Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “Peace in our time.”

If the city politicians were willing to pool their own money to finance the project, there would have been no need to waste time debating the issue. As it was, it was a charade, plain and simple.

And here’s why. Mayor Stephen Mandel was quoted, on several occasions, and not that long ago, either, that if the provincial share of $100 million was not forthcoming, he himself would help raise it using private sources. Asked to elaborate, he dodged and said he would announce it only if and when needed.

Well, here’s the question: why did the city not go this same route, instead of committing money that doesn’t belong to it to a private corporation’s project?

It’s a separate issue, to a degree, but claiming that a new arena, even with an entertainment complex attached to it, would in and of itself revitalize our downtown, now, that is perfectly ridiculous. Economic case studies performed on a number of similar projects all over North America have shown that such projects, no matter how they are financed, do nothing to save downtown cores. Period. Learn to live with it. Some economists suggest there might be ways to turn the downtown deterioration around, but they all see it as a longterm goal, and none of their solutions include sports arenas and entertainment complexes.

The deal, as negotiated by the city (or, more precisely, as dictated by the NHL), is definitely NOT a deal. It is a surrender. And it is a surrender to an enemy that doesn’t exist.

We have observed quite a few not-so-subtle hints that if the deal that would be to Mr. Katz’s liking were not forthcoming, then, why, he would move the team elsewhere. Sure, sure, nobody has stated this to be so for the record, but veiled threats are threats, too. To this, our council’s answer should have been: oh yeah? Not a word more, not a word less.

Why? Well, can you imagine the NHL moving the Oilers somewhere else? Where, pray tell? There’s not one spot in Canada that could accommodate an NHL team on the move. And the U.S.? With the Phoenix club still in the ashes (and the league owing, for example, Wayne Gretzky a cool $8 million), with Columbus unable to attract more fans than their players’ immediate families and former schoolmates, with both Florida clubs fighting potential fans’ indifference, with the Dallas Stars fighting valiantly to spend at least enough money to touch the salary cap’s prescribed minimum? If you look at most of the other U.S.-based NHL teams, you would see that there’s not much of a market there, either.

Besides, the overall economy being where it is, in the U.S. in particular, Mr. Katz (and the NHL) would be hard pressed to find a community stupid enough to invest in a hockey team’s arena. Whoever thinks Canadian overall economy is in better shape should give their heads a thorough collective shake.

One anticipates Oilers’ fans in Edmonton will consider this protest an act of treason.

Not that I would try to provoke anger, that wouldn’t be me, as anybody who knows my peaceful demeanour would attest, but here comes. I heard from a guy who questioned the city’s investment in public libraries. The new arena, he said (wrote) for the record, was much more important. These public libraries, he said (wrote) for the record, were places where he has never set foot, and didn’t plan to, either.

That particular reader sounded quite proud of himself.

Another reader, questioning the wisdom of private financing for a sports arena, said (wrote) for the record that all those privately financed arenas built recently in Canada flopped. He was exaggerating a bit. The original owners walked away, that’s what one considers he wanted to say. Of course, these original owners walked away for a number of reasons, such as other commitments, or sudden realization (triggered by their bankers) that they had spread themselves too thin.

Now, so far as this reader is concerned, if the arena flops (or starts bleeding, whatever you wish to call it), why should its private owner suffer? The city is a bottomless pit, isn’t it? To those coming back to tell me the city would own the arena and Mr. Katz will be only renting it, the answer is simple: have you really lost your mind? So, the Oilers rent the place for a token amount, they and their parent corporation stage all kinds of events there, and they get to keep whatever they make there. Whom are you trying to kid here (except yourselves)?

Remember the names of those who voted for this deal. And never return them to council chambers (or any elected position) ever again.

Kevin Lowe preaches calm: easy for him to say

There’s no need to be ashamed, depressed, even, when your coach calls you into his office and gently informs you that you will be joining the NHL club’s minor league affiliate or, Heavens forbid, return to your junior club.

Thus said Kevin Lowe, Rexall Sports’ president of hockey operations, in the most recent installment of TV documentary Oil Change, a.k.a. Overdrive.

This segment, by the way, airs Sunday, at 11 p.m. on Sportsnet West.

A player who is told to go to the farm team (or return to his junior club) should accept this as a challenge. Basically, the NHL team tells him, we like you, love you, even, otherwise, we wouldn’t have kept you. But we think you need to learn this and master that, to make yourself really indispensible for the top club.

That’s the gist of the train of thought behind Lowe’s statement.

Of course, this is playing with words.

Imagine you’re at school. Your teacher tells you you’ve had unsatisfactory marks in, say, math and you will have to repeat the year. What the teacher is telling you is simple: you’ve failed in math. If you have any ambition left in your mind and/or body, you will be livid. The teacher will be the first culprit. She or he doesn’t know how to teach math in the first place, how was I supposed to understand? The fact that the rest of the class understood with admirable ease doesn’t become part of the equation. Not yet.

Your next step would be that the teacher doesn’t like you. Never liked you, anyway. Why? Because of your strong personality? Whatever, your failure is a sign of the teacher’s personal animosity towards your wonderfully bright and talented persona. And, besides, Albert Einstein failed his high school math, too. So there.

If you’re lucky, but only if you’re lucky, you’ll figure out you’ve failed because you didn’t work hard enough, or you were not talented enough, or both. Now, you’ll have two options: sulk or start working. Hard work, by the way, is more often than you imagine more important than talent. In any case, if you do apply yourself, and if you do succeed eventually, you’ll be looking at that year of repetition as the best thing that could have happened to you: you’ve learned how to work. That should count for something special.

This is exactly what Kevin Lowe would like his players to understand.

Of course, it’s easy for him to say. One of the original NHL Oilers, the guy who scored their first NHL goal (shocking indeed: no, it wasn’t Wayne Gretzky, it had to be Kevin Lowe, of all people, to perform the feat for the new NHL franchise!), former player, captain, coach and general manager, he’s got it made. Never ever sent to the minors, now he can dispense advice as an elder … ooops, more mature statesman, right?

The question is not whether Kevin Lowe is right. The question is whether Oilers’ players think he’s right.

Based on conversations with many who had the misfortune befell them throughout the years, the consensus opinion would be: Oh, yeah?

Here’s the issue: hockey players (just as players in all team sports) have been trained to know that there’s no I in team. Except, to be able to make the team, especially in the rarefied top-notch leagues’ air, athletes have to concentrate on themselves. Without individual skills, nobody will bother to give them a look, or a second look, even. What does it mean? It means there is a certain level of egocentrism and egotism involved. You’ve got to push yourself. No need to push the others.

After all, there is a certain level of egocentrism and egoism in all of us. We all think of ourselves as the standard by which we measure the rest of the world. It has nothing to do with whether we’re right or not. It’s just the way it is, that’s all, and nobody can blame you (or me, or her, or him, or anybody else).

A hockey player who’s trying to become an NHL club’s member knows perfectly well that there are four vacancies on right wing, four at centre, four at left wing, there are so many spots on the blue line, and there can be only one goalie in the net at a time, with another to back him up, and having three goalies on an active rosters more often than not spells trouble.

Will a particular, say, centre, sigh and say, aaaaaaah, this is perfectly rotten, there are four better centres than I am on the team already, and now what’s a guy to do? I can either ask for a trade to a team that is short on good centres, and God knows I am one, or I can accept a demotion and work hard to become better than those four centres ahead of me. I’ll compete with them, and I’ll win.

You see, it’s not always about money. Much more often, it’s about pride. And you cannot become the top dog in anything without at least a certain amount of pride.

After all, it’s even the dictionary that defines it. You’re cut. You’re demoted. You’re sent down. You’re returned. Does any of these words have any positive connotations?

Kevin Lowe meant well, obviously. What Kevin Lowe meant was there’s no need to succumb to negative thinking because THAT gets you nowhere. Positive thinking has become a cliché, but it still exists. It may help get you closer to your goal. Then again, it mightn’t.

But even if you lose at the proverbial numbers game and it’s Oklahoma City or bust for you, at least, you’ll fly there with a smile on your face.

Oil Change sets a new standard, and it’s pretty high

As the Oil Change series goes, this one takes the cake.

Broadcast Friday night on CityTV, to be repeated Sunday at 11 p.m. on Sportsnet West, this season’s first installment, titled Overdrive, begins where the last season’s Oil Change ended: at the end of last season.

A lot has happened between then and now, and this season’s opener takes us on an incredible journey, looking at the twists and turns and turning points we, mere mortals, wouldn’t have seen and known without this show.

Aquila Productions’ people, creators of Oil Change, have obviously won a lot of confidence from the Oilers. The club now knows they have never abused this confidence, shown in unprecedented access to what is going on behind the scenes.

Just a few examples: we witness a serious between-you-and-me-and-the-lamppost conversation between general manager Steve Tambellini and his chief scout, Stu MacGregor. The topic: why the chief scout is of the view that the club’s Number 1 draft selection has got to be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and nobody else. The train of thought in and of itself is interesting, but the fact Oil Change people were privy to the conversation to the extent they could record it and broadcast it, now, this is perfectly surprising.

A conversation between Steve Tambellini and last year’s No. 1, Taylor Hall, during the draft, in which the top pooh-bah explains his strategy to his rising star, is an eyeopener, too.

This season, there was an unusual twist of fortune for Oil Change creators: three of former Oilers’ kids got drafted that day, too. Frank Musil’s son David went to the Oilers as No. 21, Kevin Lowe’s son Keegan went to Carolina as No. 73, and Craig Simpson’s son Dillon stays home in Edmonton at No. 92. To see these former greats as happy dads rather than as hockey professionals made for pretty good television.

We saw team brass negotiating about potential free agency deals last year, too, but that was from a bit of a distance. This time, we get as close as possible to seeing (and hearing) how the team managed to land Eric Belanger and Darcy Hordichuk.

And we saw that Steve Tambellini is about much more than just finding players and signing them, or trading them, or trading for them, or sending them down to the minors, or calling them up. Remember the incident in an exhibition game in Minnesota where Taylor Fedun broke his leg trying to chase the puck for an icing call? An Oil Change camera caught Tambellini standing alone in a corridor, talking to someone on his cell phone, confirming that young Fedun would be staying in the Minnesota hospital a few days before being allowed to fly back to Edmonton, and then telling whoever was on the other end of the call to please make sure the Oilers bring Fedun’s parents down so they can be with their son at this difficult time. Now, that was a touch of humanity if there ever was one. And, unlike such would-be reality shows like Survivor, this wasn’t staged or rehearsed. This happened. In real life.

There are more such moments in this version of Oil Change.

From a professional point of view, one of the things that catch the eye is the ability of the show’s creators to adjust the pace of the story they’re showing on the screen to the story they are telling. Face-paced where the story calls for it, they don’t hesitate to go for longer takes and slower cuts in spots where viewers deserve (and need) to get enough time to be able to absorb what they see on the screen.

And, as is usual for great television, they let the pictures do the talking, rather than overwhelming their viewers with too much commentary. So far as the sound is concerned, reality and great (but not overwhelming) music selections should suffice. They do.

What comes across loud and clear is the Oilers’ coaching staff’s basic philosophy. Head coach Tom Renney sounds like a teacher, one of those types who insist they’re strict but fair. Players might agree with the strictness part but, some of them, at least, might be (privately) inclined to raise an eyebrow or two about the fairness part. Especially those who think they deserve more ice time, or they don’t deserve to be healthy scratches, never mind being demoted.

In his first speech to the troops as the main training camp opens, Renney tells the assembled 70-plus hopefuls to remember that if they think that good enough is good enough, they’re terribly wrong.

And, during a drill in practice, Renney tells a player he mustn’t be surprised by anything at all. He must be ready for anything and everything.

That says it all, doesn’t it?

This season’s opener for Oil Change has set the bar pretty high. It’s a great documentary, unbelievably good television, and the Oilers should be counting their lucky stars to have this talented Aquila Productions group on their side.

Oil Change about to hit the airwaves

Popular documentary’s second-season opener to appear Friday on CityTV, Sunday on Sportsnet West

Oiler fans, this is a reminder: at 8 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 21, turn your television sets on, click all the way to CityTV, and watch. This season’s Oil Change is about to begin. If you can’t make it on Friday, turn to Sportsnet West on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 11 p.m. This is the lone occasion for such a late start: major league baseball’s World Series airs right before Oil Change.

Ah, baseball. The best non-toxic replacement for sleeping pills. Especially when compared to hockey, the fastest team game on earth.

The documentary series caused a splash last season, taking hockey fans behind the scenes to show how a professional hockey club goes about re-building a once famous franchise back to its glory. The fast-paced series showed us almost everything. From the internal debates regarding whom the Oilers should select with their first overall draft pick (remember the arguments? Taylor or Tyler?) through their occasional ups and more frequent downs, with everything in between.

It didn’t waste too many words, relying on the power of pictures, instead. It was unbelievably creative in its music selections, something the show’s executive producer (and the boss of Aquila Productions, and the Oilers’ director of broadcast) Don Metz is very particular about.

Oil Change has found an almost cult-like following, seen as it was both in Canada (on TSN) and in the U.S., through the NHL Network.

Why the change of venue?

Simple. TSN is going all out to help the renewed Winnipeg Jets by broadcasting 60 of their games, while Sportsnet has committed to broadcasting 60 of the Oilers’ games. The switch, then, was perfectly logical.

Still, it’s going to be the same crew that’s going to give us this season’s series, meaning that the quality will remain as high as last season’s – if not even higher. After all, experience counts for something. And, considering this Aquila crew has been around for quite a while, no need to fear the proverbial sophomore jinx.

So, remember, Oil Change is back on. Its backstage access will give you ammunition for reasoning why your beloved club has done this and not that. It will make you better-informed fans. It will entertain you, too.

Now, what can be better?

Happy viewing!