Tuesday, 2 May 2017

How Quickly They Forget

As this story broke this evening, I'm going to take you back to 2013 when Kevin Lowe, then-Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations, decided to label hockey fans in Edmonton during a press conference by saying, "We have two types of fans: we have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about. But certainly the people that go to the games and support we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message." Whatever was going through Lowe's head that day appears to not have resonated with current Oilers game-day management because the Oilers decided to do something so ridiculous that I thought the news report was a joke. Except it wasn't.

Global News' Sarah Kraus reported this evening that Sunday's playoff game at Rogers Place saw staff convert two women's washrooms into men's washrooms to accommodate male fans that had complained about long lines and wait times for washrooms during Oilers playoff games. In today's day and age, this seems like an April Fools Day prank, but it was very real on Sunday evening.

Yeah, that's insanity that they changed two washrooms meant for women to accommodate men. And for Susan Darrington, a woman who is the general manager at Rogers Centre, to give the go-ahead to this idea seems like everyone at Rogers Centre is entirely out of touch with reality.

"For playoffs, what we're seeing is we're getting predominantly men in here – the more exciting the hockey gets, I think the less guys are willing to give up their tickets," said Susan Darrington, general manager of Rogers Place. "So we've adjusted our plans and we flipped a restroom on our main and on our upper concourse to be more available for men."

"You'll never make everyone happy," Darrington continued. "I think we actually feel good about what we've done. The men are getting through faster, the women are seeing a little more of a delay."


Darrington did offer the most transparent of defences in telling Kraus, "We clicker count, we've got people watching the lines and again, we're studying them and doing everything we can operationally to make it as comfortable as we can for our fans."

Which fans does she mean? Just men? Here's a radical idea:


Jacqueline Comer, a fan as Sunday's game, told Kraus, "It just felt like we were on the other end of the scale for us in terms of what fans were important," and she's entirely right. Back in 2013 after Lowe's comments, fans on social media and who called into radio shows referred to fans who pay for tickets as "Tier 1 fans" and those who don't go to games as "Tier 2 fans". Thanks to the Oilers' decision on Sunday, women are now in that "Tier 2" category as they have less access to important amenities such as washrooms.

Honestly, we live in increasingly concerning times. As per the City of Edmonton by-laws, Rogers Centre meets the required 172 toilets and urinals as per the building code, and they actually have a total of 485 installed including those found in the company boxes, on the Loge Level and in the Sportsnet Club where everyday ticket holders aren't allowed to pee. So let's assume that some 400 toilets and urinals are available for use. And since urinals take up less space already than a full bathroom stall, men ALREADY have more places to pee. While the other bodily function must be addressed as well, the vast majority of men at a sports event use urinals to take care of business. Sorry, folks, that's the reality of men's washrooms at arenas.

The Oilers, in their vast wisdom in making this decision, provided no numbers on how many women attended Sunday's game nor did they provide any hard figures as to how many women are season-ticket holders. Miss Darrington, in her statement in the video, feels that men give tickets away to women during the season, but clearly hold onto those tickets once the playoffs roll around, thus making the number of men in Rogers Centre go up dramatically. And let's not forget that this is the organization that decided it would be a good idea to charge fans without tickets $80 to sit in the concourse and watch the game, thereby adding extra strain on a fixed number of plumbing fixtures.

Whether it be the owner exploring options to move to Seattle during stalled arena negotiations, the president of hockey operations insulting a large number of fans, or the organization as a whole telling female fans they aren't as important as male fans, you have to wonder why Oilers fans remain as fans of the club. I get that hockey runs deep in the northern Alberta city, but this is one of the emotionally abusive relationships between fans and team as I've ever seen.

And you know what the Oilers will do to make everything right again?
"If I offended anyone, I apologize. We see many of our fans at Rogers Place, and we appreciate each and every fan. I did not make that clear."
Once more, Oilers fans will forgive and forget again because they love their hockey. It might be time, though, that the Oilers organization is held to a higher standard than the current standard because it seems that bar is set pretty low. This isn't an "IF I offended anyone" situation; you did offend a lot of people and it's happening far too often from the franchise for my liking as a hockey fan.

I'd make a joke about something stinking in Edmonton, but this latest egregious example of idiocy should not and cannot just be flushed away. And if you're a female Oilers fan, you'd have to wait a good half-hour before you even got that opportunity.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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