I had to look at the number again. And again. I realized the four figures on Western Hockey League website would not change, despite how often I looked at them. So I guess we’ll have to accept it. But, understand it? I don’t — and perhaps it begs a nagging question: what do Edmonton hockey fans want? The Edmonton Oil Kings were in a barn burner Tuesday night at Rexall Place: they came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Portland Winterhawks in Game 3 of the championship series. The Oil Kings have climbed right back in the best-of-seven series — winning their first game – and trail the Winterhawks 2-1. Those are good numbers.
But here’s the figure I don’t understrand: 6,799. Let’s look at it again. Six thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine. That’s how many fans were at the game. A playoff game. A championship playoff game. A playoff game against the Winterhawks who have played the Oil Kings in the last two championship finals, setting up the rubber match for this year. The Oil Kings won the WHL championship two years ago and Portland won it last spring. And there were 6,799 fans there.
Interesting, isn’t it? The last time the Edmonton Oilers had a playoff home date was (I think I had hair back then) was 2006. Certainly, they have struggled. The Oil Kings are owned by the Oilers and there has been fan unrest. We have to ask the question: are fans not going because they’re mad at the Oilers for their performance? Or, has hockey fans in Edmonton resigned to the fact playoff hockey in Edmonton, especially in May, doesn’t exist? Or, … you tell me.
The Oil Kings deserve the support of Edmonton. They are a success story, making three championship series in a row. And this year is a little more special because the Oil Kings weren’t supposed to contend for a championship.
Game 4 goes tonight at 7 p.m. Six thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine? Edmonton can do better. Playoff hockey at Rexall Place in May doesn’t always involve the Oilers. And as soon as we accept that, and start supporting the Oil Kings, the better sports town Edmonton will be.