Oilers Mailbag: Exploring Edmonton’s bid to host NHL’s possible return

Gene Principe chats with Edmonton Oilers forward Jujhar Khaira on the importance of family, his old-school journey through the ranks of the hockey world & what it means to be the third-ever NHLer of Punjabi descent.

EDMONTON — The theme in this week’s mailbag is the NHL’s possible return — most specifically to Rogers Place in Edmonton.

As we detailed this week, Edmonton is bidding to become one of the host cities for the NHL’s proposed return, and with hotels within walking distance to the arena — and a relatively small COVID-19 impact compared to much of the league — it seems a logical choice should the NHL and NHLPA agree on centralized locations for the game’s return.

Whether the league comes back this summer is a decision that will be made by the health authorities, ahead of Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. But let’s chew on some of the questions that came in this week, as folks ponder a summer with hockey doubleheaders every night, shall we?

One problem with that, Deano. A major part — no, THE major part — of any return of hockey will be maintaining a quarantine bubble. Players, staff and all of the roughly 800 people involved in putting on a six-team "bracket" would be expected to remain inside the quarantine hotels, restaurants and arena. That means teams moving from city to city runs counter to the objectives of trying to play two months of hockey in a pandemic, while trying to keep the virus from cancelling everything again.

Ironically, this quarantine concept is the one element that could sewer the whole plan. Players will be asked to be away from their families for perhaps more than two months, for those whose teams make it to the conference finals. That may not fly with the NHLPA, where some pushback is already being heard.

Well, Agent Granata, just like you, I’d love to walk back into Northlands Coliseum to see that triple bill of the Pat Travers Band, The Scorpions and Ted Nugent, just the way we did back in 1983 (or whichever year that was). But today the building awaits the wrecking ball. The last hockey game has been played there, the last concert held. The mice run the place now.

This isn’t an actual question from Rick, but more of a suggestion. And a fine one.

I recall in the ‘90s when the Oilers — and certain other teams — were accused of piping in crowd noise to augment the din created by the real fans. To this day I send the team a monthly bill for my hearing aids, which they refuse to pay (kidding).

But we should ask: what exactly do they accomplish in that Korean baseball league that has robots in the stands to cheer home runs? Would a hologram fan sit back in their seat, so everyone can view the game? Does a hi-tech 3D projection couple smooch it up when the Kiss Cam focuses on them? Or watch their language, to maintain a family atmosphere?

How many beers can a robot drink? Didn’t C-3P0 tip a few in one of the Star Wars movies? Would he pay $12 for a beer, the way real fans do?

Well Luke, I’m a soft taco guy. Which is kind of like a burrito, when you think about it.

Well Richard, seeing as I’m more of a writer than a TV guy, we went to Ed Hall for the answer. He is the executive producer of our NHL games. Here was Ed’s reply:

"If I am understanding the question correctly, I would simply say, this is an excellent example of how much the TV broadcast image technology has improved over the years (ex. SD to HD).

"Look at the Last Dance doc on Netflix. The video quality difference between the new and old footage is like night and day — and those features have the luxury of been painstakingly run through editing suites with image and colour correcting. But even that process can only improve the image quality to a certain level."

So Rick, it’s either that, or the fact that even in 1987, Craig MacTavish is still skating around without a helmet on.

Danny, I’m with ya.

Here’s what we know: whatever happens here, there isn’t going to be an NHL fan in an NHL rink watching an NHL game until sometime in November or December – maybe. There are fans who are owed anywhere between three and seven regular-season games that they had purchased tickets for, and many others who have laid down thousands of dollars on playoff packages.

I have no clue how a league that is absolutely sure that it cannot let those fans in the building for the remainder of this season has not yet settled with their most important and loyal fans — the season seat holders. Especially considering the current economy.

Yes.

Look, it’s a business. The James Neal-Milan Lucic trade was a massive win for the Oilers – particularly now that it seems they will retain their third-round draft pick. And there has been no talk about him being a bad guy, or complaining about his role, or any of that stuff that trailed him out of Calgary.

But at $5.75 million for the next three years, Neal’s is the first contract general manager Ken Holland would look at if the league permits a compliance buyout. If he can get clearance from ownership, I’m betting Holland would buy out Neal.

Jar makes a good point.

So, back when I was doing some work for an all sports radio station in Edmonton, we used to raise money for charity by holding a big party at my house, which had a pretty nice deck. Thus, Spec’s Deck. We had two of those shakers.

The police came. Neighbours complained. Complete strangers roamed around our home, "er, looking for the bathroom." Some guy was in my kitchen at 1 a.m. pouring drinks for everyone when it was discovered nobody had invited him. He walked out the back gate never to be seen again. Another dude fell off the deck and missed cracking his head on a boulder by about the width of a beer can.

My wife, who is in the insurance business… well, I probably don’t need to finish that sentence.

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