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?
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.
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.