It's been a good long while since the battle of Alberta held much meaning to the average hockey fan. It's been years since the Oilers would walk into the Saddledome and it was anyone's game.
Slowly, that has started to change in the NHL last season, but when it comes to the WHL this season, the Hitmen seem to have the Oil Kings' number. For their final meeting of the regular season (yes that's right, not even Christmas but these two teams are not to meet again) the Oil Kings wanted to leave their mark. A 4-1 victory over the home team may have done just that.
It wasn’t snow or rain that fell from the heavens Sunday afternoon in the Calgary Saddledome. No, it was teddy bears, lots and lots of teddy bears; 21, 453 to be exact. While the toy total pales in comparison to the Hitmen’s 2007 North American record of 26, 919 bears collected, the joy felt by the thousands of children who benefit from this year’s event makes it all worthwhile.
This hockey season has been full of surprises, even if they are not all big ones. I know that many of you saw the current lockout coming, but many of us were optimistic enough to the think that the players and owners would be able to see that the fans drive and fuel their league and that shutting the fans out from the game they love would surve no purpose. But, there is more to hockey than the as of yet non-existant NHL season.
The CHLPA is still in it's infancy and the loudest cry is for a better scholarship program. To those involved with the CHLPA the amount of time a player has to choose to take the scholarship money is too short. In the WHL it is the September of the year after the player's final year of WHL eligibility. While I cannot say that I am for or against the idea of a players union for the CHL players, I can say that I want to know more. But, it is excellent news to hear that so many players are taking advantage of available scholarship money this year.
Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison announced today that a total of 301 WHL graduate players have been awarded WHL Scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year.
The WHL Scholarship recipients are enrolled as full-time students in 68 different post-secondary institutions throughout North America.
This season 183 of the 301 WHL Scholarship recipients are furthering their education while playing elite hockey in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Association. In Western Canada 125 of these student athletes are playing in the Canada West University Conference, including Mount Royal University which joined the Canada West Conference for the 2012-13 season, and have combined their WHL Scholarship with additional financial assistance from their University to receive Western Canada’s Premier Hockey Scholarship.
For some, hockey bloodlines run deep. And while those bloodlines may help a player get their foot in the door, that’s going to be as far as it can take you. At some point, talent has to take front and centre stage. With Edmonton Oilers' prospect defenceman David Musil, his bloodlines helped develop him into a WHL player, but it was his talent that got him drafted 31st overall at the 2010 NHL entry draft, and a position on the 2012 Czech Republic World Juniors Team.
This was not the start they had hoped for, but it is what the Edmonton Oil Kings got. Instead of picking up right where they had finished last season, the team has suffered through its share of ups and downs. Now however, the team may be turning things around.
The Edmonton Oilers may have finished dead last in the spring of 2010, but they could finish first in that year's draft class. While teams hope for one or two players to make the NHL, or a significant impact in the AHL, the Oilers may have struck gold with each and every pick.
While on his visit to Oklahoma City, Terry Jones of the Edmotnon Sun was able to catch up and on each of the 2010 draft picks, all of which find themselves on Edmonton Oilers affiliated professional teams.
With the exception of Bunz, last year’s WHL goaltender of the year who they want to play 60 games with Stockton in the ECHL, they’re all here this year, they’re all members of the Oklahoma City Barons.
In 2010 GM Steve Tambellini gave MacGregor the bullets. It was essentially the year Tambellini and staff put together the development model to take the Oilers to a place they’d never been before, one only the Detroit Red Wings had ever aspired to become, and realized, as an organization.
Georges Laraque has always been known as a talker. Even while playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Laraque was all over the Edmonton radio waves, and not just in sports interviews. No, Laraque was often featured on the various popular music stations sharing his opinions on a variety of topics. That was a trend that continued as Laraque ventured into veganism and helping those affected by natural disaster in Haiti.
Now, Laraque has a new topic and a new title; Executive Director of the CHLPA. As the director, Laraque has been speaking for the CHLPA and what they are looking to acheive including this interview given with Jason Gregor of the Team 1260:
Those players have a right to an education. They want to create a union to make sure that this (education) will be a main focus. We are talking about 1300 kids in which about 98% of them won’t play in the NHL; I think it’s reasonable for them to at least fight for their education.
Just for an example to throw, look for the Quebec Major League website they talk about how the 18 teams in the Quebec League have spent $400,000 (on education) which is less than the $25,000/team. If you look in the Western League all of the numbers are shown there, the Western Hockey League has spent over $600,000 between 22 teams which is less than $30,000/team.
In the Quebec League there are over 45 million tickets sold and in the Western League there are over 50 million tickets sold. Then if you look at the stick budget, which is more than $50,000/yr how does that make sense? We spend more money on sticks than education.
It happened without fanfare, it happened without a big public address, but it happened just the same. The NHL season is cancelled for the foreseeable future and the players are locked out. For some, that means nothing but more uncertainty. Do they pack up their families, pull kinds out of school and chase a paycheck in Europe, do they spend a year away from their families if they can find a team to play for? Not every player will be able to find a team, and certainly not every player will feel comfortable with the risks of taking less pay and the risk of getting injured and forfeiting their NHL salary if the season can be salvaged.
For the Oilers, several players on entry level contracts (ELC) have been assigned to play in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons, some have accepted that they will not be playing hockey unless the NHL starts up again, and of course a few are making their way to various leagues in Europe.
Saturday’s deadline looms, and there isn’t much hope on the horizon. The Edmonton Oilers are split down the middle; guys who can’t afford to miss a year’s salary because they are in the final half of their careers, and guys who just starting their career and who can’t get rusty. And so none of the players look forward to any kind of work stoppage.
Currently, only Nail Yakupov has come out and said that he will play in Europe, the KHL more specifically should the NHL season be cancelled. The rest, many are preparing to receive an assignment to the AHL and the Oklahoma City Barons.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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