Hockey fans have some very complicated relationships with their teams. No, I don’t mean Facebook-style “it’s complicated”, I mean the old school kind of gnawing-at-the-pit-of-your-stomach-when-they-look-at-me-do-they-really-like-me-I-don’t-know-ohmygod-they-smiled-at-me-I-think-I’m-going-to-die kind of complicated.
It’s practically hormonal sometimes.
Now the Oilers, and Oilers fans, have had a very rocky relationship over the years. I’m not going to call them co-dependent but I don’t think anyone would complain if we did.
So what do you do with a complicated, dysfunctional love story that threatens to eat at your sanity with every waking moment?
You make a mixtape.
That’s right, a mixtape. Not a playlist, that’s for children. No, a mixtape required careful thought and preparation. It required effort, dammit. You didn’t have a vast database of music libraries at your disposal. Maybe you had a collection of cassettes or even a turntable if you were going to sneak in a Beatles song or some Gordon Lightfoot. Otherwise you’d sit by the radio with your finger hovering over the record button and hope they’d play your request or include the song you were looking for in their rotation.
In the end you hoped that you’d have two sides with just enough songs to get to the end of the tape without going over, and something that could properly convey the true gravity of your teenage overwrought emotional angst to the object of your affection.
Maybe the Oilers and their fans need a mixtape right now?
Let’s start at the beginning…
Dear Oilers, we like you. No, we like-like you. You’re really cool and make our hearts flutter and I think things could be really great between us. But, there’s been some stuff that’s happened over the years and, well, we kind of need to just get it out of our system. So I’ve recorded some songs and you can kind of see where I think we are. I hope you like it!
Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final – the night we fell for you, and it hurt like hell. We weren’t planning on it happening, it just sort of all came together. I’ll never forget that beautiful warm spring, how even the Sun seemed to linger in the early June sky just to catch a glimpse of how happy we were together. But that pain, through all the good times, that pain still cuts me to this day and I wonder sometimes if somehow it tainted everything else that has happened between us since.
The day we drafted Taylor Hall and everything looked like it was going to be worth all the agony and heartbreak. I knew things were going to be bad, but I was ready to fight for them all the same. I was in your corner and ready to march through countless obstacles to victory.
There were some really good times. I mean really good. You’d score a beautiful goal off the rush or shovel one in against all odds as the seconds died down on the clock and we’d end the night with a win we never thought we’d get. There would be a look in your eyes, and I knew.
And then that spring in 2012 everything just seemed to come our way and I thought we’d really made it with Yakupov and Schultz, but then it felt like things got even darker than they’d been before.
We believed. We really believed, not only in you but in us, together. You’d take out those ads in the paper and we’d come running back to you.
Then when you needed help to get a new place I was there for you, putting a roof over your head because I had hoped that we could grow old there together, making new memories along the way. Sometimes I don’t feel like you really appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made, how many of the things I do – how everything I do – is for you.
Things were always going to be difficult between us. Neither one of us is perfect, but I felt like if we worked hard enough we could beat this world at its own game. I know I get tired of fighting sometimes, sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and walk away, but we’re in this together. I’ve tried to fix you a thousand times.
But things started to change after you moved and got a new place. Some of the things and people we loved most about you disappeared and we couldn’t understand why. We want them back but we know it’ll never happen and we still love you but we’re not sure how to move on.
And just like that, out of the blue, my life felt like it had started all over again. You were back, bright and excited. You gave me 97 reasons to get out of bed every morning and go sleep with a smile on my face every night. I felt like we were reborn and we could conquer anything together.
But then you hurt me again and I felt like everything bad was happening all over again. I don’t know if we lost our balance or something hauled us down, but we hit a wall and it felt like my shoulders just gave out under all the pressure I’d been trying to carry for so long.
If not for last year’s vacation to California, I’m not sure we’d still be together. But everything just worked for us and it was exciting and magical and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me. I know it ended too soon and I worry that we’ll never go back, but I want you to know how much it still means to me.
So this year, when everything started out so well, I thought we’d turned a corner. But things went from bad to worse, whether we were at home or travelling, it just felt like we were praying for it to turn around at some point.
Now, I miss you and want the old you back. The one that I first fell in love with and the one that grabbed my heart back last spring, too. I’ve looked at other teams and other fans and they just seem hollow to me now that the colour has drained from our world. Because, in the end, I can’t think of another team like you.
I’m not leaving you. This isn’t a breakup. But I need you to know how hard this is, for both of us. I know that I need to change some things about myself and try not to take everything you say to heart but I can’t make myself care less and I need you to hear me more. Not just when things are going our way but when we’re losing, too. Because we’re in this together and even though I don’t always like the person you turn me into, I can’t seem to stop loving you.
*Author’s note: I would like to thank several people who helped shape this music list and for their feedback in general, including: Supernova (@supernovs1), Woodguy (@woodguy55), Megan (@mig14), GarbageFirePod (@GarbageFirePod), Shauna (@SLShockeyfan) and arrrdeecee (@arrrdeecee).