Ahhh – Back to the Good Old Days, When Sport was Less a Business and More a Family by: "The Prof"

I am getting older, and I probably think like an old guy. That is, my values are different from many others. But let me offer a different perspective on the question of the day: what should the Oilers do at the draft?

Let’s call this my Al Kaline blog. I know that young readers probably don’t know who Al Kaline is. But you should look him up on Google. He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame; led the American League in Batting Average in 1955; and played 22 years (from 1953 to 1974) – all with the Detroit Tigers. And, it is that last point that I like – he played all 22 years with the same team – the Detroit Tigers. Wake up on Tuesday, and Al Kaline is a Detroit Tiger. In the off-season, Al Kaline is a Detroit Tiger. No matter when – Al Kaline is and was ALWAYS a Detroit Tiger.

This reminds me of the old Oilers before Pocklington started to erode the family. Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr, etc. I don’t care where they played for the rest of their careers – they were all Oilers. To me, always Oilers! When you see an Oiler jersey retired – you have a sense of the spirit I am talking about.

Now here we are facing a draft and the rumors are going around who the Oilers need, who they can get, who they will trade for, how the cap space works. It all tires me out, and it sure doesn’t fit my values. What I want are young kids who start as Oilers and end as Oilers.

I want Tom Gilbert to stay an Oiler. I want Horcoff to stay an Oiler.

I want Hemsky to stay an Oiler. Brodziak – Oiler. Cogliano and Gagner - Oilers! Moreau, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Pisani, Reddox, Stortini, and even Penner and Pouliot – keep em. All Oilers!!

Goalies? Perhaps it is time to see what Deslauriers (all 6' 4" of this young kid) is made of. Keep Roloson – I know he felt unwanted two years ago, but if he is who I think he might be, convince him to stay in Oiler blue and orange. He seems like a good guy – a team guy – a family guy. Have him bring his wife and kids back – because we want him to be part of our community and city. His best days were as an Oiler and he loves being depended upon. Maybe he can squeeze one more year out of himself – and we can draft another young kid who might turn out to be another Andy Moog.

On Defense – I love Grebeshkov. I watched him turn into a player from a kid who turned over the puck every game. I like him! Keep him!

Chorney, Peckham, Souray, Strudwick, Smid, Visnovsky. I love them as players – with all their ups and downs – keep em all! Staios – perhaps he is slowing down and getting by more on smarts than speed these days. Keep him, too. And when he can no longer skate well enough – make him a coach to teach other D-Men how to be as smart and tough as he is.

For me, hockey is about hanging out with my family – with something to watch. It isn’t and never will be life or death. And I hate it that is becoming only a business. I want sport to represent more – community, teamwork, competition in the best sense. These are my Oilers, and the more I am a fan the more I want to think of them as a family. I think of Ladi Smid as a good kid – a person – someone who tries so darn hard and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. But, he is in there pitching – never quitting. This is not a bad role model as young Edmonton boys grow up from ten to twenty.

Here is what I want the Oilers to do. Stand pat. Draft what they need and keep who they have. I will be a fan if they make the playoffs or if they don’t. But I want too root for Gagner and Cogliano this year – and next year – and for a lot of years.

Draft smart. And, don’t play like the other clubs – give the Oilers back to the fans and take them away from the accountants. Let’s bring back the days when everyone knew who the Oilers were and when players wanted to be drafted to play in Edmonton because, well, we were the Oilers – and because we are different.


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