Last season truly was the coming out party for the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League. No longer is the team from Alberta’s capital the biggest joke running, in fact they are now a wanted commodity in the United States.
I’ve been guilty of complaining over the last few years about the lack of coverage in the States for this team. Being from Boston and all, it was frustrating to essentially have the club ignored until draft night. Deep down I understood why, the Oilers were awful on the ice, but it was still frustrating.
Connor McDavid did not change the lack of coverage in year one as hoped, but he certainly laid the foundation and paved the way for Edmonton to the American spotlight. Last season, after not appearing on US national TV since the 2007-08 season, Edmonton appeared on NBCSN for a late season game against the Los Angeles Kings.
I wrote about it when the game was first announced as getting flexed, but I’ll say again what I said that day; it is a big damned deal that the Edmonton Oilers were put on the national stage in the States. A solid playoff run, also on national TV in the States, has only helped grow the appetite for this young team in the minds of hockey fans south of the Canadian border.
This season the Oilers will appear on NBCSN a total of three times, one more than the total number of regular season games aired on the network since NHL started with NBC during the 2005-06 season. The Oilers, finally, are starting to get a push in America and it’s a big damned deal.
The club will play the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, November 21st on the network. After that, the Oilers will play the Kings on January 2nd, and the Nashville Predators a week later on January 9th. Overall, the club will play two road games (St. Louis, Nashville) and one home game on NBCSN.
For American fans like myself, and for hockey fans in general, it’s a reason rejoice.
Why It Matters:
Most Oiler fans probably don’t care that the club is playing on US TV and that is understandable. After all, most of the Oiler fanbase resides north of the border and isn’t impacted by this in any way, shape or form. That said, this signifies that the club has officially left the basement and made the jump back to relevant.
NBC will not show the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, or Winnipeg Jets on their networks at all this season. That puts Edmonton in an exclusive group with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, two wildly popular original six franchises, as Canadian teams on the network this year.
It shows that the Oilers are more popular than they have been in years. For a sport dying for more goals and excitement, the Oilers are a godsend. The team is young, quick and, most importantly, dynamic. They won’t win every game, but the Oilers will most likely play in an entertaining game when they take to the ice. People want to see that.
They want to see the talent, they want to see the speed, and they want to see two of the best young forwards in the NHL do what they do best. That brings us to the next reason why this matters.
The Oilers, for the first time since the Gretzky and Messier years if we are being honest, have true star power. Doug Weight was a great player, and Ryan Smyth was heart and soul, but they weren’t household names for sports fans. Connor McDavid is that kind of name, and people want to see him play.
You may not believe it, but many people were upset Edmonton wasn’t on the NBC networks more last season, people want to see him work his magic. After this past season, people also want to see Leon Draisaitl play the Malkin to McDavid’s Crosby.
American hockey fans are in for a treat this year seeing McDavid and the boys on TV a couple of times. For Oiler fans, they can take solace in knowing that not only is their team good again, but it’s also relevant in a big way once again.
NBC recognition is a big step for the Oilers, and signals that they very well could be one of the NHL’s teams of the decade for the next ten years.