The Edmonton Oilers are bad. So bad that a fan tossed his or her very expensive jersey to the ice Saturday after an ugly 6-0 loss to the Blues. It was kind of like a ceremonial throwing in of the towel, which is hard to blame Oilers fans for. They were sold on the optimism of a young team finally finding its footing and a new head coach who was going to lead them into a new era of Edmonton Oilers hockey.
Well, it hasn't played out. And the image of a blue Oilers jersey discarded on the ice did not sit well with Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. Here's what the head coach had to say as he addressed the media today.
"Whoever threw that jersey on the ice, they're out, they've given up, they're a quitter. We don't want that here." — Dallas Eakins. #Oilers— Derek Van Diest (@SUNdvandiest) December 23, 2013
Really? Come on. Really?
Here's the thing about being a sports fan: you get to be mad. You get to vote with your dollars and you get to show your frustration however you see fit. When the team is bad, you don't have to be OK with it. That doesn't make you less of a fan. If nothing else, it makes you a smart consumer.
Apparently not so in Eakins' mind. If you throw your jersey on the ice, you're a quitter and they have no time for you. That's fair, too. The team can't worry about fans jumping ship. What ails them is internal, but the message from fans is worth heeding.
Maybe throwing an expensive piece of clothing to the ice is a little extreme, but there aren't many ways for fans to connect and communicate with the teams they root for. That one Edmontonian sure found a way and the coach noticed. The response to it, however, should be disappointing to other Oilers fans as well.
Fans get to choose how they spend their money. If they want to continue to spend it on a poor product, that's their choice. If they don't, who could really blame them?
Now Eakins doesn't have to pay lip service to the fans, either, but his dismissive comments show a lack of concern for the customer. Perhaps no one is more frustrated than Eakins himself, but that one fan's act of disgust should be a wakeup call if nothing else. This is how bad things are in Edmonton right now. Things need to be fixed quickly.
The only people who can't quit on the team are the ones who have Edmonton Oilers at the top of their paychecks. The fans don't work for the team. The team exists to entertain them and acquire their dollars. When the team doesn't play to the consumer's standards, they have every right to walk away or at the very least throw a very expensive jersey to the ice.
It's not quitting, it's publicly demanding more for the money and that is entirely fair.