The Edmonton Oilers caused a real stink back in Alberta (and probably raised a lot of false hope in Seattle) when they took a visit to the Emerald City to explore the market and see what it would be like as an NHL home, presumably for the Oilers.
As part of the vacation/leverage trip, Oilers owner Daryl Katz and his group headed to CenturyLink Field to take in Monday night's rather memorable (or forgettable) football game between the Seahawks and Packers. Joining them in attendance was none other than a one-time Oilers great and still hockey god in Canada, Wayne Gretzky.
Some were speculating Gretzky was actually involved in the power play from Katz and crew. It was punishment enough watching Gretzky play for the Kings, Rangers and Blues to end his career, now was he in cahoots with Katz to try to get the city to commit more money to fund a new arena?
Not according to Gretzky, he wasn't. He just was there to watch some football.
"That's the last time I go to a football game," Gretzky told the Fan 590 in Toronto, laughing.
"I just wanted to watch the [football] game. I tell people I'm not involved in any official capacity with the National Hockey League and sometimes people go 'you are' but I'm really not. It's just one of those things where I was invited to go to a football game and I said 'why not? I'd love to go' so my son and I went. I have no stake or no claim to any team in the NHL whatsoever. I went there to enjoy a football game, simple as that."
Not everybody is willing to take Gretzky 100 percent at his word on that. He was seen sitting with Katz and crew in a luxury suite at the game (see video above from KOMO 4 in Seattle). Remember, Gretzky was also in Seattle earlier this summer to reportedly talk about hockey in the Seattle metro area.
With that said, it sure doesn't sound like Gretzky is on the inside with Katz on the arena battle and wasn't necessarily privy to what was happening with the Seattle visit. Otherwise, why would he basically squash Katz's Seattle threat?
"I think over time here cooler heads will prevail. I think Daryl and the city will hammer it out and get it done," Gretzky said about the Oilers staying in Edmonton. "They're probably a lot closer than other cities have been over the years to getting a deal done. I can't see them moving, it's one of the greatest franchises in all of professional sports. You don't move a great franchise like that."
Obviously Gretzky is on the money with that line. That's the belief of probably 99 percent of people out there, that the Oilers aren't going to relocate. It would be interesting to see if the Board of Governors would even approve it or ask Katz to sell the team instead.
The Edmonton mayor doesn't seem to buy the threat very much either. Stephen Mandel noted how great the city is as a hockey market and doubted if Seattle could compete with that.
"The Oilers have sold out what 150 to 200 games in a row [in Edmonton]," Mandel said. "In Seattle you have football, baseball, if they get an NBA team [then it will be pro basketball], college football, college basketball, and then hockey. I'm not sure you're going to sell out 18,500 seats a game or 18,300 seats a game there at $8,000 a season ticket."
There are a lot of people poking holes in said threat, not least of all is Gretzky.
Was Gretzky as innocent in the Oilers' Seattle visit as he says? Maybe, maybe not. But if he is effectively undercutting the appearance that Katz would move the team to Seattle, I'd lean toward no.
Feels more like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is catching some heat for it. Not quite like those refs officiating that Seahawks-Packers game, however.
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