New digs have 'family' feel

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

On TV's Extreme Home Makeover, they take a hard-luck family in a rundown house, spend gobs of money renovating the place, then watch the jaws drop and the tears flow when the clan moves back in.

The Edmonton Oilers stole a page from that very book this summer. After an injury-plagued, 25th place finish last season, the players returned to Rexall Place this year and opened the doors to a $3.5 million dressing room facelift.

Nobody cried, but a few jaws hit the floor when they first walked into their sparkling new, spacious, state-of- the-art digs.

"It's probably the best room in the league," veteran winger Ethan Moreau said at the official unveiling. "It's functional, everything is top of the line. It was a nice surprise to start the season.

"It's something fresh - especially for the guys who've been here for a while. We spend way more time at the rink than most teams. We eat lunch together every day. Now we'll probably end up having breakfast together. A big change. It makes guys feel good when you walk in."

That's the point. After a dreadful 2007-07 campaign, the Oilers are going to great lengths to let everyone know they're starting fresh, trying taking the club in a new direction.

"This is that start of a new era," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who wants a fresh start on all fronts. "As coaches we're trying to hit on some of those things. Approach it like we're all first-year guys walking into the dressing room. Approach it with that kind of enthusiasm and focus."

While expanding the space to 10,000 square feet, displaying five replicas of the Stanley Cup in the entrance, expanding and refinishing the dressing room and building a massive players lounge with a granite dining table, leather couches and flat screen TVs, won't put pucks in the net, it will serve a healthy purpose.

"Accountability in players interacting with one another," said MacTavish, adding it's always been the Oilers' philosophy to cultivate a family setting.

"You want to have that. When you're spending a lot of time with each other, if you're not pulling your weight or putting the work in, it can be a pretty uncomfortable feeling.

"I've always felt we had an advantage in that respect; the players spend a lot of time together and that really gives you a level of accountability."

Edmonton's reputation as a place to play is stellar among players who've actually played here, but not so much among those who haven't. This is another step in trying to change the misconception.

"It's impressive to see the way guys are treated here," said Marty Reasoner. "It's an extension of the organization. It's a pretty big message saying the team is committed to the guys and treats them first class."

Besides, said Moreau, the Nobody Wants to Play in Edmonton angle is dead.

"There are too many good examples (of players who do)," he said. "Sheldon (Souray) came here. I signed an extension, Stevie (Staios) signed an extension. Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) signed a long term deal. Horcoff signed a long term deal. Raffi (Torres) signed a long term deal. Jarret Stoll probably will. Dwayne Roloson could have gone somewhere else. Dick Tarnstrom is back.

"All those guys could have gone somewhere else."


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