Opinion

The Fan Experience, featuring Alex Thomas

This week, we hear from The Oilers Rig’s own Alex Thomas, a Massachusetts native who bleeds Oiler blue. If you’ve read the site for any length of time, you know that Alex is a prolific writer and has opinions on just about anything having to do with the team. 

1. How long have you been an Oilers fan?

I’ve been an Oiler fan for as long as I can remember. I first fell in love with the team in the early 2000’s (I want to say 2001-02) and followed them as best a kid from Boston could during my childhood. The first year we got NHL Center Ice in the house was 2005, so I’ve pretty much watched every game since that 2005-06 season. 

2. What prompted you to start cheering for the Oilers?

My grandfather was a huge Bruin fan, from before the Orr days on, so our family had a ten game package back when Bruin tickets were affordable and before the actual fans were priced out of the TD Garden. On Columbus Day in 2001 the Oilers were in town and wore their ‘gear’ third jerseys. I fell in love with those jerseys and Ryan Smyth scored that day and instantly became a favorite of mine. The Oilers got blown out that day, which is pretty ironic, but I was converted. I begged for a gear third jersey that Christmas (which I still have, wore it the night of the lottery win) and it’s been love ever since.

3. What is your first real memory of the Oilers?

The story about going to the game in Boston is probably first memory, but I’ll add in another one. During the 2006 run I was still pretty young and like most kids had a bed time. Well, my dad was a police officer at the time and would sometimes work nights, so during the run when he was working and my mom was asleep I’d sneak out and watch the games. School the morning after Horcoff’s 3OT winner against the Sharks after 3 hours of sleep was hell.

4. Did you have a favourite player when you first started cheering for them? Who was it, and why did you pick him?

Ryan Smyth. I just loved how much of a leader he was and how he played the game. He’s the biggest reason I became an Oiler fan. His trade is still talked about in my household as a very dark day for myself…..7th grade Alex came awfully close to disowning the team haha! 

5. Has it been hard maintaining enthusiasm for the team over the last few years?

To a degree it has been. The losing takes a real toll, especially when you have to pay to watch the games each season on TV and the computer. It doesn’t help that games start at 9:30 out here either on most nights. That said, as frustrating as it has been, I do love this team and even though I want to quit I know I can’t do it. People know me in my hometown as the Oiler fan, they’ve become part of me almost.

6. What’s your favourite memory of seeing the Oilers live?

During the 2010-11 season, my father, uncle, brother and I did a guys weekend in New Jersey. We did Oilers @ Devils Friday and then Cowboys @ Giants on Sunday. Well during the game Friday night we ended up sitting next to Ryan Whitney’s mom. She finds out we too are from Boston, and next thing you know she’s telling security I’m Ryan’s cousin and forgot my pass. They took me down to the locker room and I met Whitney after the game. I have a hat signed by most of that team, including Hall, Eberle, Penner, Hemsky, Horcoff, Whitney, Khabibulin, Smid and Ryan Jones. I’ll never forget that night. 

7. Do you think the Oilers are on the path to a Stanley Cup, or do they have more work to do to get there?

They certainly have more work to do, but they have Connor McDavid and some very good young defenders on the roster and in the system. A few tweaks here and there and the path is set.

8. What transaction (since 2006) would you change if you could? Why?

The Ryan Smyth trade at the deadline in 2007. The Pronger trade started the “decade of darkness”, but this trade pushed the team overboard. It was silly too, and should have never happened. 

9. What’s the best part about being an Oilers fan?

As much as people argue, it’s an awesome fanbase that’s pretty tight as a whole. Being a part of that, and rooting for a team with such awesome history, is pretty special to me. There’s something fun about being an Edmonton Oilers fan, even with all the pain and suffering!

10. If you had to pick another team to cheer for, what would it be and why?

This will raise some eyebrows but probably the Carolina Hurricanes. When I was young, my dad was a Hartford Whalers fan and followed the Canes for a while after they moved from Hartford. I actually own a Hurricanes jersey from 2002, but I couldn’t stomach looking at it after 2006. Obviously the Bruins are right in the running too, being my hometown team and all.

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