In regards to Edmonton’s biggest sports story of the year, I have concluded that by far, it has to be the Edmonton Oilers. They are considered as the best-known sports name in town; however, they haven’t played hockey for three quarters of 2012. Still, the Edmonton Oilers managed to be on the front page of every paper this year. This began by them landing their third straight #1 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Even non-sports fans were tuned in to see who “their” Oilers would pick in the upcoming draft. The sheer fact that the Oilers managed to gain their third #1 draft pick in a row was remarkable, especially since they roughly had a 14% chance of receiving it in comparison to their first two times, when they had a 49% change of receiving the pick in the draft lottery system. With the pick, the Oilers took the consensus number one, Nail Yakupov, adding to their already young and star-studded offense of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Not only did the Oilers manage to nab Nail Yakupov, they also signed one of the biggest free agents, Justin Schultz, a 22 year-old defensemen out of the University of Wisconsin. After Schultz’s contract came to a close with the Anaheim Ducks, the Edmonton Oilers, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and many other teams pursued him. The fact that Justin Schultz chose Edmonton over Detroit, Toronto, and many other high-profile teams proves that the stereotype that players do not want to come to a cold, barren wasteland is a myth and that young players see the rising potential for greatness with the team and want to be a part of it. This is contrary to the Danny Heatley Fiasco of 2008.
You also cannot forget the saga that has been the downtown arena project. The project has turned into a war between the City and owner Daryl Katz. It has become a feud that went so far as to have Katz visit Seattle and allude to how he would move the team if a deal was not done. This was again the story of the town: how could Katz move our beloved Oilers? How could he? Eventually these rumors would come to pass with Katz stating that he would never move the team.
Throw in the small victory that Edmonton finished third worst in the NHL and not last for the first time in two years. The Oilers had an up and down 2012 year, and even without hockey being played, they were still the biggest news around town.
CC photograph courtesy of Flickr, found here.