EDMONTON - Rewind!
Back in the summer, Copper Jackets members Fred Foord and Lorne Newton continued a 16-year tradition of hosting the First Truck Centre Season Ticket Draft. But since the NHL went on a four-month-long, CBA-induced sabbatical, the 2012-13 Oilers schedule was wiped clean.
Tuesday night in the river valley, the tickets were re-drafted.
The event began in the mid-90's when the Oilers desperately needed corporate support to survive. Doing their part, Foord and Newton purchased eight sets of season seats, set them aside and allocated them to those that couldn't commit the time or money a full, 45-game slate required.
Held annually at TELUS Field's Home Plate Club, the draft sees sets of Oilers season tickets divided into six, 12 and 18-game mini-packs, allowing the nearly 100 participants to choose their own season-long schedule. Over the course of a normal 82-game season, members would have the opportunity to draft 11, 22, and 33-game packs.
This season's bounty was originally divvied up in the summer, but the NHL/NHLPA's labour dispute disrupted the season and put Plan B into action. Fuelled by Boston Pizza and Molson Canadian courtesy of the Oilers, the dozens of loyal fans reconvened at the ballpark to distribute the 48-game, 2012-13 campaign.
"I talked to Fred before the event. He had 86 people at the last draft in the summer. In what's transpired over the last four months, he's only lost one member," said Oilers Senior Director of Ticketing and Customer Relationships, Billy Makris. "There are a lot of people waiting that still want to get involved and get their hands on some Oilers tickets.
"The crowd speaks for itself. Look at all the colours. Everyone's wearing a jersey and is excited to be back."
Just like the NHL Entry Draft or the fantasy hockey pool you play at the office, picks are made in hurry-up fashion. With only moments to decide, code names and game numbers are shouted out so the commissioner, Foord, can record the selection: "Echo Foxtrot! Game 1!" As you can imagine, opening night (Tuesday, Jan. 22 vs. San Jose) was a popular choice.
"I'm looking for certain nights because there are restaurants and things we go to before the games," said longtime participant Rob Sutcliffe, who was drafting alongside his buddies Keith Foster and Richard Kayler. "It's a social event. All the games are great to go to. I usually see these guys at three or four games a year. It's a fun night out"
Keith and Richard have been ticket holders since the group's inception. As Rob alluded to, brought back by the end of the League's 119-day lockout, the social element has been reborn.
"It's really good to get back," Keith said. "Just as much about going to see Oilers hockey, I get to visit with all the various people I've gotten to know since 1993. It's been very disappointing not to engage with these people at these social events, but I'm really excited that we're getting back together again so we can get down to the rink, go see some hockey and visit the people."
"It's going to be great. I'm excited for [the season] to get started," Rob added. "It's going to be a great year for the Oilers."
Regardless of what happened in the four months leading up to Tuesday's re-draft, the passion for the Oilers is alive and well in Oil Country.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick