This week in the Fan Experience Series, we hear from The Oilers Rig’s podcast host Trin Potratz. He’s a lifelong Oiler fan, and has even spent time living in
enemy Flames territory while maintaining his allegiance to the Oilers, despite a brief period of Leafs fandom. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s in it for the long haul.
- How long have you been an Oilers fan?Ever since I can remember. I remember watching hockey when I was really young, like three or four but I didn’t really understand what was going on. My mother put me in Oilers gear since birth so it came naturally. I did have a brief period when I was young and impressionable where I cheered for the Maple Leafs in the early 2000’s but the Oilers always had my heart. I swear to God.
- What prompted you to start cheering for the Oilers?My first “hockey” experience was going to a birthday party of my friend’s when I was six year old. We started playing road hockey and the kid who put on the goalie gear said his favourite goalie was Patrick Roy, I remembered the name. The Oilers happened to be playing the Avalanche that night so I told me Grandpa and Mother that I liked Patrick Roy. My Grandpa responded by saying, “well I like Curtis Joseph.” I watched the first game with them and I was hooked on the Oilers, and even more hooked on Curtis Joseph.
- What is your first real memory of the Oilers?Other than the story above, I think the first real time I remember a game vividly was the 1997 playoffs. If I wasn’t out on the streets playing hockey with my friends in the tiny town of Rycroft, I was in my living room and if the Oilers were on I would watch. The most incredible thing I had ever seen with my own eyes was watching my favourite goalie Curtis Joseph absolutely stone Joe Nieuwendyk in overtime and of course Todd Marchant’s winning goal. I still get chills when I see those highlights.
- Did you have a favourite player when you first started cheering for them? Who was it, and why did you pick him?Curtis Joseph. He was the first Edmonton Oiler player I heard of when I was a kid so I always cheered hard for him. Loved his mask, and my Mom told me he was a good person so that also helped. When Cujo signed with the Maple Leafs I followed him and cheered for them instead of the Oilers. My first ever live hockey game was Cujo’s Leafs against the Edmonton Oilers. I wore a Leafs jersey. I feel bad saying it now. Of course over the years I had many different players. Ryan Smyth, Eric Brewer, Chris Pronger (for one year), Raffi Torres, Radek Dvorak, Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, and now Patrick Maroon. Loved hard working players and good people.
- Has it been hard maintaining enthusiasm for the team over the last few years?Not at all. I’m a die hard and I pride myself on not being a bandwagoner. Every year of futile play I have gone into every season with a strong optimism. It wavered from time to time, but I never stopped loving my team. My Mom taught me that you’re only as good as the loyalty you keep. I’ve never lost faith. Finally it is paying off. I wear my jersey proud when I go out in public or on an ODR. When they win a cup in the next ten years (yes I said WHEN), then I can say I was with them throughout the bad years or whatever we shall dub the previous decade.
- What’s your favourite memory of seeing the Oilers live?That one is easy. I was living in Calgary during the lockout shortened season and I happened to score some nosebleed tickets to the Saddledome on the day of the game. My cousin and his fiancee were living with me so we all put on our Oiler blue jerseys and stormed enemy territory. The Oilers went down 2-0 very early, but scored an incredible eight unanswered goals to absolutely demolish the Flames on their home turf. I enjoyed a few Dome Beers and by the end of the game we had made friends with every other Oiler fan in our section. We preceded to make human trains and went through the Saddledome cheering and howling like a bunch of happy morons. Never will forget that night.
- Do you think the Oilers are on the path to a Stanley Cup, or do they have more work to do to get there?I really do think they are on the right track. Peter Chiarelli made them a team, even though he had to lose some deals to make it happen. The Oilers have an identity, and when they play a game, I honestly go into the game expecting them to win (to quote the wonderful Ryan Robinson). I believe the group needs to add a strong offensive defenseman who can play both sides of the rink (someone along the mold of Oliver Ekman-Larsson) and some additional scoring help on the wing. I think eventually one of Nugent-Hopkins or Eberle will need to be moved, and the Oilers will need to keep churning out NHL players through the draft. If the Tyler Benson’s of the prospect pool can give the Oilers two or three good seasons on the cheap it will go a long way. We’re set in goal for the next five years at least and we have two strong options in Laurent Brossoit and Nick Ellis in the pipeline.
- What transaction (since 2006) would you change if you could? Why?The Ryan Smyth trade. Hands down. I believe that was the beginning of the demise because Ryan Smyth was the poster boy for what it meant to be an Edmonton Oilers. The return was god awful and the team never truly recovered from that. Thanks Kevin Lowe.
- What’s the best part about being an Oilers fan?Other than getting to watch Connor McDavid, I think it’s the community. There are more passionate Edmonton Oiler fans than there are in any other city. Most Oiler fans know the game through and through and everybody has various opinions. This is the reason where there are so many different blog sites about this team in general. I’m willing to bet there are more Edmonton Oiler blog sites than their are Toronto Maple Leaf blog sites. Considering the difference in population, that is astounding.
- If you had to pick another team to cheer for, what would it be and why?I’ve always cheered for the underdogs. My top three teams in order are; The Edmonton Oilers (duh), The Nashville Predators, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. I liked the Preds for non-hockey reasons at first. Nashville is the home of country music, and I am a country music fan, writer and singer. Also their jersey’s are absolutely gorgeous. I love the logo, the colours, the name. Everything. As time has gone on they’ve developed into a great organization with a very strong fan base. I love the Blue Jackets because they were always the underdogs and could never quite keep up to their expansion cousins in Minnesota. When they finally made the playoffs I was so excited for them. There is a hockey fan base in Ohio, and that is a huge reason for me as well. I hate when teams in Florida, New Jersey, Carolina and Arizona have success because the fans couldn’t give a damn. Well, at least until playoffs. I’m happy the Columbus Blue Jackets are the best team in the league this year. I always cheered for them as underdogs and now they are a genuine threat in the league.