So I’m not sure which is the greater myth… that Rexall Ice is the best in the league, or that Rexall Ice is the worst in the league. You’d have to figure that the players would be the best judge of this, it would seem. And that’s what several of them did in the 2011 CBC and NHLPA player poll.
As it is well known now, Edmonton was named #2 (#1 was the New York Islanders) least desirable team to play for right now… and rightfully so. The team is at an all time low, about to follow up it’s first ever dead last finish (in the 2009/10 season) with potentially another dead last finish. But, it appears that the ice surface has absolutely nothing to do with players’ lack of desire to play here.
You can take back a little pride, Edmonton, as Rexall was again voted the rink with the best ice surface. You’d have to figure that this far down the road, players aren’t still buying into a myth about the ice surface. Maybe it’s not as bad as we’re being led to believe. I’m not disputing that the ice making equipment is old and in need of an overhaul (nor am I doubting that we couldn’t benefit from a more modern facility either), but it sounds like Rexall’s ice isn’t showing the wear and tear we are led to believe just yet, anyway.
I’ve been thinking for a while now on why Edmonton is so lowly ranked in popularity, and the pick of New York Islanders as the least desirable place to play helps clear it up for me. The players do have a bit of emphasis on the location itself (ex. California is a nice play to live), and the fans definitely do matter – I’ve often thought our fans are way too overly critical of players here. But I think the biggest thing is that most just want to play for a winner – a team with a strong and obvious direction. The Oilers have been the butt of the league because our management has made some serious mistakes and didn’t really seem to know which way it wanted to go.
That will change. Edmonton will one day be a popular location for players as these young kids grow and become star NHLers. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are two players that you can see have a strong desire to win and play hard each game. They have that high compete level and battle. They’ll help build the winning culture that this team has lacked in the past. It won’t be an overnight transformation, no… but things will improve here in the next few years. Right now, this team couldn’t attract a dog if it put peanut butter on its balls, but in time free agents will be happy to come here. Detroit attracts so many players because they have a strong organization from top to bottom. They have one of the more hockey-savvy fan bases (although economic troubles have made it hard there in recent years), they have good players that have a high level of work ethic instilled in them, they have a amiable coach, they have top-notch scouting, and they have a GM who has an obvious plan.
In Edmonton, we’re slowly piecing those parts together. I think many question the GM, and I do at times too, but his plan is obvious and we won’t see the fruits of the plan for a few years yet. Patience will pay off for us fans. The scouting team is proving to be quite an improvement over past years (and I would even say in the top part of the league). The fan base.. well, you know how you are. We are passionate.. it can be bad, but it can also be f—ing fantastic. The coaching… I think this is again where patience will allow us to see the fruits of Tambellini’s masterpiece (OK I just laughed a bit thinking about Khabibulin expensive 4-year deal as being part of the masterpiece….). Renney is a guy that is definitely well liked and respected by players. He is strong when he needs to be, and protective when he needs to be. He’s very patient with the players. He allows them to make mistakes so long as they learn from those mistakes. He gives opportunity to those that show effort, while also showing ability to make an impact. He is the perfect coach for a young team.
We’re not there yet, by any stretch of imagination… but one day, when the team turns things around and starts winning with some regularity, we’ll see players lining up to come here too.
Anyways, here are a couple of other interesting votes in the poll:
- Two-thirds of players felt that the instigator rule should not be abolished (sorry fight fans).
- Over 50% thought that Quebec City was the Canadian team most deserving of an NHL franchise (Winnipeg was second at 25%, Toronto at 16%, then Hamilton at 5%).