Love and money

Edmonton Oilers president Pat LaForge and president of the Grande Prairie Storm, Mayor Wayne...

Edmonton Oilers president Pat LaForge and president of the Grande Prairie Storm, Mayor Wayne Ayling, hold up the Joey Moss Cup. (Edmonton Sun/Kevin Crush)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Tickets for the Joey Moss Cup are $48.

And they're sold out!

The Edmonton Oilers came within one game of being a shock winner of the Stanley Cup when we last left them. They're going to start this season being shocked.

When they arrive in Grande Prairie for training camp today, they're going to step off the plane into a massive love-in.

"It's going to be a big warm and fuzzy," said Don Moon.

"I don't think the Oilers had to do this. Grande Prairie was Oilerville a long time ago. They didn't have to come here to prove it is Oilerville," added the head of the local organizing committee.

If there are communities envious of Grande Prairie holding the first three days of Oilers training camp this weekend, don't be, says Moon. He's convinced his group is carrying a flag for future visits to communities all over north central Alberta.

Indeed. The Oilers will quietly admit they are looking at Yellowknife, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster and other centres in "Oil Country" to go camping in the future.

BIT OF A BLUEPRINT

"We get the impression we're being used as a bit of a blueprint," said Moon, business manager of the AJHL Grande Prairie Storm.

All the Canadian NHL clubs might want to take a long look at this.

"Not only are we down to just a few standing room in a 3,000-seat arena for the Joey Moss Cup, we've sold 750 tickets at $170 each for a banquet. They sold out real quick. I'm sure we could have sold another 250 easily," said Moon.

They're down to about 200 practice sessions tickets remaining in the Coca-Cola Centre at $12.50 a pop.

"We have about 1,950 of those for each session and we've sold about 1,600."

The budget, to pay for Oiler flights, hotels, meals and the facility rental costs, is $200,000. But it looks like they'll cover that and make another $100,000 for the Storm, Burn Society and Sunrise Rotary.

To sell out the 3,000 Canada Games Arena for an intersquad game at $48 a pop says something when you can buy a Grande Prairie Storm AJHL season ticket for $269.

The 'Weekend With The Oilers' all-events pass costs one dollar more - $270.

The Oilers going to Grande Prairie this weekend should give the people in Edmonton warm fuzzies, too.

If you know the history of the Oilers, coming to Grande Prairie is drastically out of character. Historically when they are successful on and off the ice, arrogance sets in. The Oilers are essentially sold out going into this season. They don't need people from this city of 50,000 - which serves a population of about 250,000 within a 200-km radius - driving 484 km to Edmonton to go to games.

There was a lot of talk of the Oilers doing something like this on a regular basis when they took the team to Lloydminster for an intersquad game after the Edmonton Investors Group saved the squad.

But that turned out to be paying off the significant number of investors, who happen to be from Lloydminster, and lip service.

Oh, the Oilers took many a "crop dusting" run to visit many centres in their market area for a while there. But never the first three days of training camp.

OILERS WATCHING

It's a great way for an AJHL team to launch its season at home as the Grande Prairie Storm will do against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons Friday and Saturday in front of Oiler players.

And having a success like this isn't going to hurt Grande Prairie's quest to win a Western Hockey League franchise in the future.

But the real value of a visit like this is often lost on fans from the big cities. It's with the kids. A kid in Edmonton has a multitude of opportunities to see an Oiler. But not a kid outside of town.

I can relate.

Back when the Detroit Red Wings used to hold their 'Original Six' training camps in Edmonton and I was a 10-year-old kid growing up in Lacombe, they brought the Red Wings down to Red Deer to play the Edmonton Flyers in a pre-season game.

I remember the thrill it was to not only see Gordie Howe and Terry Sawchuk in the flesh, but wearing that Red Wing uniform on the ice. My dad was never more wonderful in my eyes than he was that day.

Somewhere in Grande Prairie this weekend there'll be a kid feeling just like I did.

And soon, hopefully, there will be kids in Yellowknife, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, maybe even Lacombe, who felt just like me.


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