What is the Meaning of the Thrown Jersey?
Much has been made of the jersey that was thrown on the ice on December 21st starting with the theories by the media. Listening to the post game show on CHED we might be lead to believe it was a statement to players; players who are already at their limit of frustration; players who, we are lead to believe, are impervious to the statements of fans because they can not be beaten down any more than they already are. Maybe, but I don’t think so.
Before this game even began I watched a die-hard fan put on her jersey, just like she does every game day. There was no light in her eye, no sense of anticipation, no joy in slipping on this symbol of a team to which she has given her loyalty and energy and devotion since she traded hockey cards at recess in primary school. Instead I watched her pull it over her head with a sense of despondency, of dejection and discouragement. Her step had all the energy of a friend going to a funeral for the death of a friend. She has been a fan of the Oilers since before the oldest player on the team was even born. Yet it was all she could do to put on that jersey, go out the door and go to see her team play.
I don’t think that throwing down that jersey was message to players to add to their negative feelings. I don’t think it was a message to the coach or to management. I don’t even think it was a message to the Oilers organization. I think it was a ‘good-bye’ to the Oilers, a final salute to what used to be, like the handful of petals thrown on to the casket of an old dear friend before you turn and walk away.
The above was written by my sister but I think it speaks volumes. I like most fans have been an Oiler fan since the beginning – though good times and bad. Unlike many I am old enough to remember the glory years and the pain of the dismantling of that team. I was a fan through everything that followed. This seems different somehow. I don’t know if I can even put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the anticipation, that even though the Oilers were rebuilding that there were good times ahead and the Oilers would be competitive.
This season has been very difficult as the team has played so far below expectations and many nights it seems like they just give up. The 6-0 loss to the Blues was a prime example of that. For 20 minutes they played exactly how Eakins had said they needed to play. They hustled, they fore-checked, they hit and were unlucky to be down 1-0. Then they decided that it wasn’t worth the effort and just did what they wanted for 40 minutes and the rest was predictable. They refuse to pay the price to win. They refuse to continue to make the sacrifice to turn this team into a winner. So if the players who get paid millions of dollars for the privilege of putting on that Oilers Jersey do not feel it is worth the effort, then why should we fans who pay for the tickets, the jerseys, the souvenirs care?
Since 2006 fans have bought-in to the rebuild. Oiler fans have done everything expected of them as good – no -great fans should. All Oiler fans are expecting in return is the same commitment from the owner, the management, the coaches and, most importantly, the players. Until fans feel they are getting the same commitment from the organization as they, themselves, have committed – with their time and their dollars – they will be angry, turn away and become apathetic.
For the Oilers organization: the puck is in your end. What are you going to do with it?