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PRINCIPE: Fan-tastic Fans

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
- Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

“We’re all frustrated. I’m pissed off. Nobody lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off.”

There may not have been a more direct quote to describe what Craig MacTavish is feeling and the fans are feeling. Yes, the fans of the Edmonton Oilers who come out game after game to support a franchise trying to find their legs and the strength to turn things around.

As the GM said, things aren't happening as fast as the 'timeline' he had set. That has an organization, from top to bottom, looking for answers. While that process continues in the board room, dressing room and on the ice, it's the fans of the Edmonton Oilers who may suffer the most.

Through thick and thin they have been there. Waiting patiently, frustratingly and sometimes agonizingly for all of it to come together. As someone who is around the team day-after-day and year-after-year (16 in all) I have been amazed at the level of commitment exhibited by an Edmonton Oilers fan. They are dedicated. Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs but that doesn't mean they don't love their team any less. They might be mad, they might be frustrated but never, ever think they don't care. If they didn't care there wouldn't be a whisper about them in the community, they would be back page and not front page news. You can't go anywhere without someone talking Oilers.

Photo by Getty Images

That includes my parents place. I was there for lunch this week and it turned into a question-and-answer period. I felt like I was at the Legislature or at Craig MacTavish's Friday morning press conference. I was being pelted with questions from my 78- and 83-year-old Italian-born parents. From how the coach and players were feeling, to the power play, to the hard luck of so many close losses and on and on it went. My dad normally only cares about his tomato plants and his wine. While I have an 'inside job' I didn't really have all the answers they wanted. I was busy trying to eat my pasta and take a break from the Oilers. However, I realized you can't really do that in Edmonton.

At my wife's soccer game last night, the referee came over to get the player cards and the first question he asked was "when are the Oilers going to win?". It's everywhere you go. Grocery stores, movie theatres, restaurants, bars the Edmonton Oilers dialogue never stops.

With social media there can be some very mean things written and said. To a certain extent, I get that because of the passion people have for their team. Over-the-top personal criticism of professional people trying their best, whether you think they are or not, is where my patience wears thin. However, just like family disagreements sometimes you say the meanest things about those you love the most.

You never stop loving them and I see that with Oilers fans. I see it on the road as well with so many supporters who grew up in Edmonton and moved away or their father was an Oilers fan.

The deep rooted feeling for a sports organization can sometimes be hard to explain or understand. The reason for your commitment can vary from fan to fan. It's a unique bond that can't be broken. If it can, the percentage would be minsicule.

Oilers fans are waiting for better times. Those in charge are trying to deliver better results. Until then, hang on and don't forget why you fell in love with the team in the first place.

For those that say they are done, finished and they have had enough, keep an open mind because you'll be welcomed back with open arms when times are good once again.

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