Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 5, 2006
Rowdy fans taint Oilers' win
Hockey fans in the Edmonton area, if not across Canada, will be glad to see the return of the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup final. It's been 13 years since a Canadian-based team has won the top prize in the national sport.
In the 1980s, the Oilers iced one of the greatest hockey teams of all time, winning the Cup five out of seven years. But the demise of that championship team coincided with a rather unpleasant era in the history of hockey.
It was an era in which money and muscle dominated and two Canadian teams - the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques - were taken from their beloved fans and planted in "markets" that were more lucrative, even if hockey was a foreign sport there.
The Oilers themselves almost went the same way, saved only by the determination and initiative of a group of local business people. The ownership group made considerable sacrifices to save the city's greatest sports treasure.
Not much has been said about that ownership group as the Oilers have made their way to greater and greater heights in this year's playoffs. They are wealthy people who showed by their actions that they believe some things are more important than money.
OK. It's only a sports team. Nevertheless, these people should feel pride in what they have done for this city. They persevered for several years when there seemed little hope the Oilers would ever again be an on-ice success. It was only when the season-long lockout was resolved a year ago, new rules established and a salary cap imposed that a glimmer of light appeared.
Now, the people of Edmonton are united and uplifted in a way that they likely have never been before. The success of the Oilers has had a positive effect that no other community endeavour has had.
We wish the Oilers the best in their pursuit of the championship over the next two weeks, even though we don't pretend to believe that any sports team has God on their side.
We also encourage the players and the fans to act with virtue and respect for the dignity of those on the other side.
Oilers fans showed real class when, after Canada's national anthem was booed in San Jose, they responded the next game by cheering the American anthem. In subsequent games, many have sung along with the American anthem, bearing witness to the fact that sport can be a source of unity rather than division among peoples.
Unfortunately, the playoff victories have also been accompanied by the overconsumption of alcohol and near-riots in the Old Strathcona neighbourhood, including two stabbings, wanton vandalism, deliberately set fires and dozens of arrests. Mayor Stephen Mandel rightly called the May 27-28 uprising "a black eye for the city."
The Oilers have brought credit to the city through their sportsmanship and ethic of hard work. "Fans" bring disgrace when a victory celebration turns into mayhem and destruction. The goal of Oilers' fans should be to raise the moral level of jubilation and show others that Edmonton is a city of true champions.
Likewise, if the Oilers should be defeated in the finals, fans should be gracious losers. One need only recall that when Saskatchewan Roughrider football fans dumped manure on the front lawn of a placekicker who had missed a crucial field goal, it embarrassed a whole province. The antics on Whyte Avenue, supposedly in celebration of a winning effort, have already far exceeded the embarrassment of that episode.
Most importantly, we need to keep in mind that a sports victory is not one of life's greater accomplishments. It brings great excitement. But it is nothing compared with feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger and building a peaceful city where all people are treated with dignity. Nor is it any more than a glimpse of the fullness of joy that awaits us in God's eternal kingdom.
- Glen Argan
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