Unfortunately for me, 2008 went out with a fizzle. After a humbling 9-2 loss to Chicago on Dec. 16, I immediately accompanied the team on a one-day trip to Vancouver that culminated in a 4-2 loss to the Canucks. History repeated itself after the holidays: I covered the team's 3-2 loss to the Senators on Dec. 30 and then travelled to Calgary to witness a New Year's Eve loss to the Flames. Four losses in two whirlwind back-to-backs . . . Maybe it's a good thing Steve Taylor is covering travel duties for a while.
My recent voyages on the Oilers jet helped offset the fact that my flight to Winnipeg was cancelled two days before Christmas. I made it home okay (thanks to good road conditions and my trusty iPod) and was pretty happy to settle in at mom & dad's, eat far too many holiday treats, and talk about my new gig with family and friends.
THE SILENT TREATMENT
With my clothes barely unpacked from the Vancouver trip, I fielded a lot of questions about the players (of course) and also about the plane. Although I'm very busy updating the website after every game, game-night tasks are especially intense when you're on the road. Despite being absorbed with editing video on the bus and plane after the losses in Vancouver and Calgary, the silence surrounding the team was overwhelming. I can't say what happens immediately after the final buzzer (because media aren't allowed in the room for a few minutes, for obvious reasons), but by the time the team is done showering and ready to go, everyone is tight-lipped.
And my New Year's Eve? Solemn pretty much sums it up. As we were taxiing along a Calgary runway, the pilot announced that we had 30 seconds until midnight and he wished us all a Happy New Year. Not a word was said for the following 35 minutes.
FOCUS ON PERSPECTIVE
But you lose some, and then you win some, and at the end of it all, you hope that you've won some more than you've lost. It's a quiet ride after a loss, but come the next morning, the players and coaches are back on the ice and there's no shortage of vocal communication. Encouraging hollers, patient (and impatient) instructions, and a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing fill the practices and the locker room.
Some people on this message board are quick to criticize any light-hearted comment or interaction when the team is on the downswing. “Player X should stop cracking jokes and focus on his skating,” they say. “Who does he think he is, having fun when he's a -3?”
And Marc, Steve, and I see our fair share of criticism too: “I don't want to know what Player Z eats for breakfast, I just want to know why he doesn't shoot the puck!” and “Who cares about their New Year's resolutions?! The only resolution they should have is to win more games!”
This website is dedicated to the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club, but there's more to hockey than statistics, standings, and stress. Wins and losses, good trips and bad trips, serious answers and flippant remarks, critical comments and sarcastic compliments – we cover all of it because it all happens every day within the Oilers organization.
A CUE FROM THE COACH
Just ask the Coach. Nine times out of 10, Craig MacTavish delivers at least one funny line when he addresses the media. It might be a subtle jab at one of the reporters or a one-liner that triggers convulsions from the camera operators, but his sense of humour is never far from the surface.
Take this morning's pre-game press conference, for example. When asked if he's ever seen a biting incident like the one involving Jarkko Ruutu Tuesday night in Buffalo, MacTavish replied “I can't remember, but I've seen it lots . . . Guys get hungry. Was it in the third?”
If the Coach can laugh, so can the players and so can you. Enjoy the game! That's your NEW New Year's Resolution.