As I mentioned in last week's Journal entry, Labour Day unofficially concludes the off-season and flips the Oilers' switch to “on-“ season. While the WHL beacon has been shining brightly for Oil Kings players, staff, and fans since mid-August, the big club benefits from a few extra weeks of summer strategizing before scrapping the sunglasses and firing up the floodlights.
Now, floodlights aren't exactly flattering but they do serve an important purpose. Though blinding at the beginning and harsh from every angle, they even-out the playing surface and reveal imperfections, improving visibility for skaters and observers alike.
Sure, floodlights can strain energy supplies – especially if you're keeping them running until mid-June – but it doesn't take long for your eyes (and the sport) to adjust. As romantic as it was, gone are the days when a moonlit game of shinny or two nets and a streetlamp could finalize a franchise's starting line-up. (Unless you pay your players in bubblegum, which is a tasty little tactic favoured by junior GMs across the country.)SUPER TUESDAY
At the Oilers office – and around the NHL – the floodlights have been buzzing and blinding since Tuesday. The dark days of summer are over and there is no escaping the lure of the rink and the glow of our Outlook Calendars, especially the days marked “Rookie Camp opens,” “Training Camp starts,” and “SEASON OPENER!!!! OMG!”
And yes, I'll admit it: I have mixed feelings about September. Having dedicated much of my summer to packing and purging and unpacking and purchasing, I feel as though my off-season was downright dim.FEELING ALL AUTUMNY
Now that Fall is in full effect, I have to brace myself for the busiest month of the year. Starting next weekend, young players from across the world will invade Camrose for the Oil Country Rookie Tournament, and where the players go, front office staff will follow. Dozens of sales, marketing, event management, and hockey operations staff – along with Marc, Steve, and I – will converge on the Edgeworth Centre to help execute and cover all the Rookie Camp activities and games. Flames and Canucks players and staff will be there too, further increasing the NHL contingent.
Less than a week later, the Oilers embark on a four-games-in-four-nights stretch September 22-25. Pre-season games are vital to both on- and off-ice success, and the four-game gauntlet will test game-day routines and processes for everyone in the Oilers organization.
Following three more exhibition games, the season officially gets underway on October 12th. It's more than a month away, but everyone in the Oilers organization knows that the floodlights are on and we're well into warm-up.
* Speaking of warming up, I experienced seriously chilly weather for the first time this past weekend. It had been 12 years since I'd visited the Rockies, and the town of Jasper
surpassed all expectations, despite the freezing temperatures. Good friends, delicious food, and crisp mountain air combined for a memorable long weekend. It's no Manitoba, but . . . maybe that's the point. Can't wait to go back!