Talkin' About The Oilers

Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers lost to the Blue Jackets in a shootout, an outcome that sparked the firing of the Civil War-style cannon in the Columbus arena and the retreat of our youngest son to his room.

Come on, boys. That's enough, already.

Mikey is a big Oilers fan. Not a season-ticket holder, obviously, but a true fan just the same. When word broke on Twitter that the team was going to skate at the Hawrelak pond a few weeks ago, down went his undergrad art history textbooks and out the door he went. He was quoted in the Journal's account of the the shinny game. He was at OilersNation's 5th anniversary bash last week. No surprise, mind you. He was raised an Oilers fan.

That's McGeough in the middle
I first sensed what we had on our hands that November night in 2006. The whole family went to the Oilers game. It was against Dallas. And it was the game in which referee Mick McGeough entered the pantheon of villains when he whistled down a phantom hand pass by Shawn Horcoff, disallowing what would have been a tying goal by Ryan Smyth as the clock expired. The Oilers lost 3-2.

It was the end of the age of innocence for Mike, then all of 12. As the boos and some really creative, compound-complex sentences involving some bad words poured down over us with the popcorn and ice and beer cups, I looked down. Our son Alex was shocked, just standing there, stunned. Mike had tears in his eyes. Actually, I trace Mike's general distrust of authority, including mine, to that moment. It was just so unfair.

But those tears suggested how deep his love of that team was, even then. And still is. He's a fan of The Nuge's playmaking, Hall's swashbuckling, and Eberle's maneuvering. He has steadfastly defended the team against the questions I have about its goaltending, its coaching (at times), its size, its tactics.

You know, the stuff the fathers and sons talk about to keep fathers and sons talking about things.

And, really, that's what's tough about the predicament the Oilers are in. Outside of a playoff position, sure, The Nuge unable to find the back of the net, okay, but it's getting tougher to talk about the losing Oilers with my son.

That's Mike in the middle
After tonight's loss, I shrugged, looked over at Mike, and he cut me off before I could form a thought or a question.

"Don't even say anything," he said, with a smile that wasn't really a smile. And then it was back to the homework for him. I think, at some level, I represent the glory days of the Oilers. But that's just musty nostalgia for him, a version of the annoying when-I-was-young stories parents tell. He thinks these guys can win now, or soon. When he is young.

I know this isn't about me. It's about the economics of winning and it's big business and there are really smart hockey people in the Oilers braintrust trying to figure out what to do when to not lose to the Columbus freaking Blue Jackets. This is just a simple, earnest plea to the Oilers to step it up a couple of notches.

I miss talking to my son.


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