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PRINCIPE: Making a Katz for Arena

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

Reasons to visit City Hall have varied for me over the years. I remember going there a few summers in a row when the kids were quite young to celebrate Canada Day. The kids would splash around in the wading pool in front of city hall. I've been there to pay my property taxes. Yes there was a time they actually were paid in person. I can remember also being at City Hall for sports related interviews involving track and field and soccer. Those are the two that come to mind. Yet there was maybe no better time to be at City Hall than Tuesday when a hockey team and a city combined to provide a victory on a new arena.

It was a city hall of smiles when the final stamp of approval was put on the arena and the district that is to be built around it. For all the soap opera moments that occurred in the build up to this day, there was a happy ending. Better put, a happy beginning to getting a world class facility built in the heart of a city looking to revitalize its downtown. This was a great day. A great moment made even more noteworthy with the presence of Daryl Katz. The Oilers owner making a rare public appearance.

Since Mr.Katz bought the team I have seen him about a dozen times. There was the night Glenn Anderson had his #9 retired by the Oilers. I have seen him once or twice in Vancouver on an Oilers game day. There have been a few sightings at the draft. A couple, as well, at training camp. A few of those times I have been close enough for a quick back and forth hello. Only once have I had a conversation, albeit a brief one, with Mr.Katz. It happened near the Oilers dressing room and it came after a win. It only lasted about a minute and what I remember most is I called him Mr.Katz. He said don't be so formal call me Daryl so I did.

It's always been a bit of a mystery to me why there has been such a thirst to see Mr., wait a minute, Daryl in front of the camera and making public appearances. When you spend 201 million dollars on something I leave it to you if, or when, you want to talk. I understand that when things don't go well you want to see the big boss a little more than when things are going right. Yet it's been clear since the first day he bought the team he is not a Eugene Melnyk in hockey, a Mark Cuban in basketball or a Daniel Snyder in football. He prefers to stay away from the spotlight. There have been public letters that he has used to express himself but other than that the Oilers owner has firmly planted himself in the background.

That is until yesterday when Daryl was front and centre. Out in the open available to be seen and heard at City Hall. Expressing his love for the team and the project that will make Edmonton a better place. He not only read his comments but also took questions from the media. It's hard to make a billionaire seem like your average, everyday person but Daryl took a step towards that. I would expect to see him again in a month's time for the official arena ground breaking ceremony. After that Daryl will most likely return to his out of the limelight ways but in the court of public opinion he will have recorded a big win with the people of Edmonton and fans of the Oilers.

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