The EIG is the Machine and I am The Rage
I need you, my witness,
To dress this up so bloodless
To numb me, and purge me now
Of thoughts of blaming you
Totalitarian regimes have often used existential threats to consolidate power and to eradicate dissent. The eccentric Kim Jong-Il, for instance, uses the threat of supposedly imminent war with the United States as a tool to force upon his people a perpetual military culture. To continue the Orwell theme on this board, 1984's Big Brother used the threat posed by Eastasia and Eurasia to compel the people of Oceania to support his regime. Now, Cal Nichols is certainly no Kim Jong-Il or Big Brother. However, the story of the Edmonton Investor's Group illustrates the fact that existential threats can cause individuals to blindly follow questionable leaders.
The 2005-2006 Edmonton Oiler team was the best hockey club Edmonton has seen in 15 years. The current team, however, is on pace to have the worst season in 10 years. The fall has been quick and devastating, and is a direct result of a series of poor decision-making by Kevin Lowe and the EIG. The trade of Chris Pronger for cheap youngsters instead of veteran talent, the refusal to sign a Markov or an Eaton in the off-season, and the trade of Ryan Smyth are the three decisions that have undermined the current and future success of the Edmonton Oilers. There is one factor that has motivated each of these moves: money. Despite massive profits from the 2006 playoff run, and some of the highest gate receipts in the league, the EIG have refused to spend enough money to ensure success, and even refused to keep the Oiler's talismanic left winger, Ryan Smyth. Despite this failure to commit enough funds to the team, the EIG still retains heroic status, and has been completely above criticism from the fans or the media. To make sense of this, one must understand the dramatic events that led to the EIG taking control of the team during an era of existential threat.
Who controls the past now, controls the future
Who controls the present now, controls the past
In 1995, Quebec city lost its team to Colorado. A similar fate struck Winnipeg in 1996, as the Jets moved to Arizona. The fan bases of the remaining small market Canadian franchises, in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, were in a constant state of fear. These fears were realized in Edmonton in 1997, as Peter Pocklington was forced to put the Oilers on the market because of massive personal debts. A bid for the team by Les Alexander resulted in a March 13, 1998 deadline for a local ownership group to put down a 5 million dollar deposit to buy the team. With only days to spare, Cal Nichols finally assembled enough owners to commit to buying the team. The EIG were heralded as heroes who, through great personal sacrifice, kept the Edmonton Oilers alive in Edmonton.
Since that time, the EIG have continually released pleas of poverty via the Edmonton media. The old CBA supposedly prevented a successful franchise in Edmonton, and Cal Nichols claimed that without a salary cap, the EIG would be forced to sell the team. This, despite the fact that The Oilers turned a profit in 2003-2004 even without playoff revenue. Indeed, a close examination of the Oiler's finances suggests that the personal sacrifice of the EIG has been greatly exaggerated. The team is now worth $146 million, more than double what the EIG paid for it. The team's debt is one of lowest in the league, and the profits are high as well. In hindsight, buying the team has been a very good investment for the EIG. However, the group still maintains its immunity from criticism. This man even wants to build a new arena just because the EIG is such a swell organization.
Oiler fans need to stop the hero worship now. The team has undergone a rapid descent, and those responsible must be held accountable. The only alternative is a team that is perpetually underfunded, and is perpetually mediocre. To those who think playoff success is possible without a serious change in direction, Jim Mora has a message for you: THE RANT