I have had the opportunity to interview so many athletes over the years after a championship win, after being honoured for a trophy or maybe it's after they have recovered from a career or life threatening injury or illness and have continued to play. The obvious question has been "How do you feel or how does it feel?". The response was often "I am speechless."
Well yesterday, I was speechless regarding Rogers landmark agreement with the NHL. An all-encompassing 5.2 billion dollar 12-year deal with the Devil(s) and every other NHL team including the Edmonton Oilers.
I really didn't know what to say so I did what so many of us do these days would do and I turned to twitter. I was amazed at how people tweeted thoughts on what it meant to watch 'their team'. The opportunity is now wide open for Oiler fans to view 'their team' and Canadian geography is no longer a stumbling block on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. A national audience will get a chance to tune in where before it was, as they say in the TV business, subject to 'regional restrictions apply.' I always understood saying that when we're doing the broadcasts but I always felt bad saying "HEY WE'VE GOT THIS GREAT EVENT but (in small letters) you can't watch it if you don't live in the right area. One of the great parts of my job is meeting Oilers fans everywhere we travel and now from almost everywhere you can see Edmonton play.
Rogers has put a stamp on its commitment to hockey and the relationship it is developing with the Oilers. It was when the network hit the airwaves in 1998 that the initial stages of the regional network relationships were built across the country. In Edmonton 20 Oilers games would be shown on Sportsnet. For three years that was the broadcast schedule until the 2001 season came along and Sportsnet upped its game commitment to 48. It stayed that way until 2010 when the next bump in broadcasts took place. The number jumping into the 58-60 range for Oiler games, per season, on Sportsnet. More Oilers, more often but on less stations.
We should also mention the 12-year hockey deal is one year short of the 13-year deal between the team and the company I work for to be the telecommunications provider in partnership with the Oilers. I'm getting the feeling these two really like each other. The thing fans should like, along with the increased viewing opportunities, is the money this puts into play for the team to stay on course with its plan to win. Money is not an object unless you don't have it. The Oilers haven't had that problem and don't have to worry about that being an issue after the monstrous TV deal with Rogers.
I do understand that other teams will have the same stash of cash to use just like Edmonton. The Oilers haven't been afraid to spend and while they await their eventual return the fan base can't feel like Edmonton isn't going to spend to the cap whatever it may be in the future. The pay off in points is sure to come in the seasons ahead and when it does from coast to coast fans of all ages and locations will be able to watch it happen thanks to Rogers dialing up their NHL coverage.
Gene Principe is the host of Oilers games on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Oilers.