Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings' future looks brighter every win)May 10 2012 at 7:02 AM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Oil Kings’ future looks brighter every win
WHL commissioner Robison thrilled to see expansion team excell
By Cam Tait, edmontonjournal.com
May 10, 2012 6:36 AM
The Edmonton Oil Kings celebrate their overtime win against the Portland Winterhawks following Game 4 of the WHL championship in Portland, Oregon, on May 8, 2012.
Photograph by: Doug Beghtel , The Oregonian
EDMONTON - If you have ever wanted to be part of building major junior hockey history, Rexall Place is where you want to be Thursday.
Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison will be there, and said the Edmonton Oil Kings’ current playoff prowess is a sign of good things to come in the future.
The high-flying, hang-on-to-your-seat WHL final brings the Portland Winterhawks to Edmonton for Game 5 with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
“Hockey fans in Edmonton should take advantage of this rare opportunity to watch two of the finest major junior hockey franchises in North America,” Robison said Wednesday from Calgary.
In their fifth season, the Oil Kings are growing their fan base, which could get a huge boost from the league final.
“It’s evident hockey fans in the Edmonton area are now realizing they have an opportunity to watch world class junior hockey at its best,” Robison said.
Heading into the game, the Oil Kings have drawn an average of 8,000 fans per playoff game, and with the Oil Kings announcing last week all tickets for the remainder of the series will be $20, Robison sees the sky as the limit.
“We expect interest will only continue to build in the Oil Kings franchise,” he said.
The Oil Kings tied the best-of-seven series Tuesday night, when veteran forward Rhett Rachinski scored just shy of the 10-minute mark in the first overtime period for a 4-3 victory.
For the 20-year-old Rachinski, it’s a wonderful way to punctuate his final year of playing junior hockey.
Robison has great respect for the graduating players.
“The 20-year-old overage players play a very key role in the success of WHL teams during the playoffs. Their experience and leadership is invaluable to the younger players on the team,” Robison said.
The best-of-seven affair is now tied 2-2, the first time since 2007 the WHL championship final has been knotted going into Game 5.
The Medicine Hat Tigers and Vancouver Giants met five springs ago and featured the same kind of hockey.
Fast, skilled and intense — almost every shift.
“This series has the potential to be just as entertaining since both teams play an uptempo game,” Robison said.
In the end, the Tigers took home all the marbles in 2007, scoring the winning goal in overtime of Game 7.
“There is strong chance this series could go seven games,” Robison said.
That means he will be spending more time in arenas watching hockey than in his office, at the busiest time of year.
Last week, just before the series started in Edmonton, the WHL held their bantam draft in Calgary.
“This is the most important time of the season, obviously, from the players through to our team management and ownership. This is when you find out what players are all about and which teams are built to make a run for a championship,” Robison said.
And now Edmonton is enjoying the ride.
“The Oil Kings playoff run and the WHL Championship series is a very important building block for this franchise,” Robison said.
“The Oil Kings’ success should translate into higher attendance in the seasons ahead.”
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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