Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Heart Wants What It Wants

 I love this picture of Daryl Wirtz. Anyhow ....

 It was a couple of years after it ended between the girl from Rawlins' Cross and I when her sister and I (we were friends before and after the whole relationship) were talking and she asked me what I ever saw in her sister.

 They never did get along very well.

 I replied truthfully that I was in love, head over heels in fact, and even now, twenty years later I would say the same thing, I was crazy about her. I was lucky it didn't work out of course, a bullet dodged in the end, that's not a slag on her, it's just the truth it would not have worked out and so it goes.

 As an aside thinking about those long ago times reminded me about a couple of funny stories, you can read them here and here if you so desire, it's some pretty funny shit if I do say so. In any case the jist of it all is that my folks were never really a fan of her but they bit their tongue because they're live and let live and they hoped it would all crash and burn and had the confidence that I would crawl out of the wreckage and survive. We broke up once about eight months before the end really came and this conversation with my old man is one that I will never forget:

A few days after the breakup my parents called to check up on me. They were each on a phone, calling to lend me support. The conversation went something like this:

Mom : How are you? Are you better? We’re just calling to check in on you.

Me: (Barely choking it out) Oh, I’m ok.
Dad: You do realize that there are plenty of fish in the sea right, son? You have heard of that expression? I think it applies here.
Mom: Jesus Murphy Jack, that’s not helping.

Me: But … but, I love her. I …
Dad: Son, do you know when you’re walking on a beach do you realize that there are millions and millions of grains of sand under your feet. Millions of them. Do you get my drift here?
Me: Gah.
Dad: Or say the beach is up by Goulais. You look out and you see the north shore and there are trees stretching as far as the eye can see. Millions of trees all of the way up to the tundra.
Mom: Jesus Murphy, Jack.
Me: Irk.

Dad: Son, have you ever kicked over an anthill? And all of the ants come streaming out of the hill into the hot hot sunlight ….


 A week or so after that conversation we were back together, no matter what my old man was hinting at there.

 The funny thing is all of these years later I know where my folks were coming from when they kept it all quiet because as I get older I realize more and more that I don't know a damn thing about a lot of things and most of all I don't know nor should I care about people's business. I went through a stretch of a few years where I was a pretty smug little dude, I knew it all and would sit in judgement quite easily. There's right and there's wrong and all that.

 But as I have gotten older I don't know if it's the fact that I have kids or if I am just getting smarter or if this is wisdom (are you there Gord, it's me Margaret?) but I have discovered, mostly through a few divorces of folks we know, that behind closed doors things go on that are far more complicated than we can guess at. Pretty basic yeah? (I never claimed to be that bright). We're complex apes, we are, and to think that we know better or that we can tell people how to act or behave, as long as they aren't hurting others, well, that's something I don't want any part of because quite frankly life is short and if you're spending any part of it worrying about what your friends and neighbours are doing then you probably should get over yourself and try and take in what you can before it's all over.

 Know what I'm saying?


 The thing that really fascinated me about the whole situation with the Oilers is Daryl Wirtz because let's face it he has been the man behind all of this and in the end the buck, as they say, stops with him. I remember when he became the owner how we huzzahed because for a long time there was a danger that the club would move and I remember writing at the time how happy I was because I basically knew that I would never have to worry about that again.

 Years later and the Katz ownership has been a disaster for the franchise and this has been one of the ugliest times for any club in NHL history. The team is garbage but even off ice they display an unerring tin ear to what is going on. The clumsy threat of Seattle in arena negotiations, the smirking foolishness of Patrick Laforge, the ridiculous letters to the public, the deterioration of the ice at Rexall, it goes on and on. We all know that if the team began winning the outside stuff would be forgiven for the most part but it's all part and parcel of what seems to be a very very unlikeable bunch of people. Arrogant, greedy, dishonest, incompetent, this group has it all or so it seems.

 I remember reading a story from a few years back about Bill Wirtz. Wirtz killed hockey in Chicago, him and Bob Pulford, annd it was not a coincidence that when the old man died Pulford was exiled and the team almost immediately became one of the best in the league. Anyhow the story went something like this, there was a Hawks' fan working somewhere and an old man came in, they began talking hockey and the young man began to rant in the harshest language about how the Hawks had been ruined by Wirtz and of course the old man was Wirtz. The thing about it was that Wirtz did not get angry or stomp off, if anything he was stunned and saddened by the reaction. He had no idea that anyone would think that of him and of course remember how the fans booed the eulogy Dale Tallon tried to give him. Man what a legacy and imagine what his family thought.

 Now honestly I don't know if that tale is true or not although I read it on the interweb so it probably was but the point of it or rather what it got me thinking about was what Darren Katz thinks about all this. Is he, like Wirtz was, completely oblivious to what is going on? Is the whole thing just a play for the arena, as some have surmised? If not, if he really wants to win the Cup with this club (and as a young man he was a fervent fan by all accounts), then how is he putting up with this disaster?

 We know very little about young Darryl Wirtz. Hugely successful businessman and all that we would guess that this means (ie he is ruthless, driven and hugely competitive - I think those are reasonable assumptions). But otherwise we know very little. It really is fascinating.

 So what to think then? I was watching some video from the Sloan Conference the other day and on one panel were my friends Dellow and Mirtle as well as Kyle Dubas and Dallas Eakins. It was very interesting stuff but one thing that tweaked my interest and led to this post was a comment that Tyler made. Paraphrasing here, he basically said that people outside have no idea about the relationships, the personalities and what is going on inside. He was just making a matter of fact comment, that's all, just saying that for example, people say that a coach is stupid because of a move he makes when the reality is there is a process that has led to this decision, a lot of thought and reasoning.

 To digress for a moment I have always found this part of the industry infuriating. Media members with an agenda or a lack of talent comment on a player's 'lack of character' constantly and fans eat it up and feed the monster. People like Dreger and Simmons echo their sources and so we see the folks who have absolutely destroyed the Leafs defended to the hilt. Guys like Poulin and Loiselle were supposed to get jobs right away, remember? Teams and players work hard (they all work hard for the most part let's get serious) and get a few lucky breaks and they are paragons of character even though they lock the man who guided them to their titles (and made a lot of them richer in the process) out of the dressing room. Shane Doan cheapshots yet another player and because he is a 'good guy' he gets lauded on HNIC as a standup guy while European players by the boatload, guys who came to another country as teenagers to pursue their dreams despite not speaking the language, get derided constantly for their lack of character.

 Anyhow you get the picture. It's all conjecture, often guided by a self serving agenda, presented by 'insiders' and 'experts' who value plugs more than the best players in the league because they are mostly drawn from the ranks of the backup goalies and benchwarmers themselves. I don't think that it's coincidence that the best ex players commenting on the game nowadays are Ray Ferraro and Mike Johnson, two guys who were decent players in their time. I have no answer for Jeff O'Neill though.

 So what is the point of all of this rambling? I don't really have one other than to wonder what Katz thinks. We have no idea. He makes a ton of money on this club, less now with the dollar tanking, but he'd make more if they were a playoff club. That's a ton of revenue flushed right there and it's not like he runs the team on a shoestring, They spend the money, which of course makes the failure that more galling. So the people who say that he only cares about the money, well he could be making a lot more money so where does that leave us.

 Is it loyalty to his hockey men? Friendship? There are rumours that Lowe offered to resign and Darryl Wirtz refused. We have to think that this has a lot to do with it in any case. The results speak for themselves. The team is a howling embarassment and yet while the axe falls in Vancouver, Toronto, potentially in Boston, in Edmonton there is not a whisper of discontent. There is talk of audits and accountability but nothing happens and so we can say that loyalty plays a part, one certainly cannot see Katz nodding his head in agreement as MacT explains away another disastrous season.

 But when it comes down to it we don't really know what the hell is going on!

 What I'm saying here is that we have to face it, Oil Change is getting stale, only Coronation Street and Big Brother have had longer runs. So Mr Kirtz, if you are reading this, what I'm saying is bring in Baba Wawa and have a sitdown with her. It would be a nice change of pace, it would answer our questions (as long as it's not the Edmonton sports 'journos' asking the questions god help us) and maybe we could find out what makes you tick and why you are standing by while hockey fans everywhere laugh at what your employees have wrought.

 I'd buy that for a dollar, maybe more. Think of it as a way to recoup some of that lost playoff revenue.


Gord S. said...

I remember the Oilers back in the early 80's. Stanley Cups, players around town everywhere, Oilers management could be seen dining out. The only one who we never saw was Pocklington - he was busy running his businesses.

Today - the players are hardly ever seen in public, Oilers management has gone into hiding - with good reason.

Supposedly we have a hockey team - but you would not know that talking with anyone at work or with any friends.

The Oilers could have their home base arena in Seattle for all the impact the team has in Edmonton. Absolutely disgusting!

Muji said...

OilersNation's "Wayne Gretz" had a nice series of posts on the failed rebuild and Daryl Katz last year:


Choice quotes:
"I don’t think the Katz era is going remotely to plan on the ice. But I also think that it is going exactly to plan off the ice with the arena and this bodes well for the long term future of the Oilers. And I also don’t think he is nearly as bad of a dude as everyone makes out. Is he an introvert and a weirdo? Sure. But if you are going to have the skills and determination to make yourself one of Canada’s richest people some other categories of personality are going to give."

"I am not here to be a Daryl Katz apologist. I think that when he mapped out his master plan for owning the Oilers it involved sitting around with his buddies - who have been assuring him they know a thing or to about winning for their entire lives - and celebrating Oilers wins by the bushel. He gave them carte blanche to get the job done and they have failed him miserably."

"The ties that bond this crew of the Boys on the Bus seem to be some of the strongest ties one could ever see. They were exposed to a tremendous amount of success early in their lives as a team, stuck together then and now and continue to stick up for one another non stop. "

Me? I don't have a problem with Daryl Katz. The Oilers are stable because of him. Hell, the Oilers would be a cap team if they were even close to being not awful (actually, they hilarious have been a cap team during this awfulness...). Edmonton is getting a much-needed downtown arena in part thanks to Katz (and taxpayers too, sure... and yes, Katz is profiting... but still, it's a good vision).

That said, 6-Rings Lowe, Howson, MacT, and everyone save for Joey Moss should probably be purged. If I went to work and accidentally burned down my office and then did it again the next day and then again next week, then I should definitely be fired.

I don't think Katz owes us an explanation for WHY he doesn't fire his buddies. Mostly because the reasons are obvious.

Murat said...

I just meandered my way back through your various Rawlins Cross posts. Quite a story there, well told in all of its vignettes but never moreso than when you describe getting out of bed and looking through the window at the harbour and snowy streets below you. I felt like I could imagine being "there", as a reference both to the physical and emotional states.

The odds of me having met my future wife this year feel low to me, but it's crazy how yet again I feel like I mirror one of your stories.

I met her a couple of weeks before I met you for beers that first time in December of 2011. Ways in which the stories relate, structurally anyways:

-2 years in length, with one false ending 6th months before the real and necessary finality.
-An obvious peak (in our case, overseas travel) and a decline so slow that it was imperceptible until it was obvious
-I was, in most ways, the coyote to her roadrunner
-My parents never really liked her. Or, they liked her just fine but they never liked her for me. My mom especially became close with and supportive towards her but, as soon as it ended, told me for the very first time that to her this was a relief - my mom had hoped the end would come almost since it all began.


One of the most fascinating things I found in the comment sections of your old posts is a flurry of posts by the Oilogosphere matriarch, IceDragoon. In her posts, Louise comments on some Tom Renney news and suggests that despite MacTavish's exit from the coaching ranks MacT is very much still trusted by the organization - that they still hold his opinion quite highly. At the time, that was not a common thought but Louise also indicates that she has some very close and very old friends who are close to the organization as well. She points out that she (wisely, I might add) only chimes in with bits of 'insider' info after a story has already broken and then, my favourite part: she says she wishes she could b****slap some of the fans who throw their opinions around as fact and jump to impossible conclusions without understanding how things really work.

Pat, when you talk about Tyler's quote and the importance of real, developed, human relationships and organizational decision making with processes invisible to the fans, you remind me of IceDragoon's rant from way back when. And of course you're both right. We as fans think we know so much and in many ways we do because we ask good questions and think rationally about the answers. I am certain, however, that there is just as much information that we'll never know about things like interpersonal relationships, inter-club politics, etc that influences a lot of the important decisions.

If I got to choose, I would say that a team without a wide web of old boys and backs to scratch would be run much more efficiently than Katz's club. I think that Toronto 3-5 years from now versus Toronto from the 80's to today is going to be a stunning case study in exactly this type of contrast. And, finally, I hope against hope (like that coyote, perhaps, or Charlie Brown with his football) that Edmonton will somehow get its shit together and enter an era of consistent smart bets.

MacT has kept the core and his recent verbal is low on Schultz, so maybe there is hope. Stranger things have happened, no?

Jana said...

Lowe should have just resigned instead of "offering". It's become a festering pool of incest. Pat Laforge (and I have met him) is a glad handing snake oil salesman. I wouldn't trust him even watching him with my own eyes.
I couldn't stand MacT as a coach but I'd had hopes he'd be a better GM. I should have known he has no clue about hockey talent based on his assessment of Marty "Sakic" Reasoner way back when and his love of nobodies like Reddox. This team needs help, or an act of God.

Black Dog said...

Muji - those are good points (about the ties that bind). The only problem I have with Katz is that this hockey team sucks. I don't think he is a very nice man but that's nothing more than my opinion and personally I could not care as long as his team starts winning.

Black Dog said...

Murat - when are you coming back to Toronto man, that's an awful lot to talk about. And speaking of writing, you should do so. What a way with words.

As always thank you for the kind words and also for the response, I love reading your comments.