SUN Hockey Pool

Community pride an Oilers constant

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Inconsistent on the ice, fully reliable in the community relations neighbourhood.

Those few words sum up the Edmonton Oilers.

No matter how disjointed the team's collection of journeymen, kids and invalids has been this season and in years past, the initial commitment of heavy community involvement, issued several years ago by Hall of Fame citizen Cal Nichols, has been followed to the letter.

Money is steered to worthwhile civic organizations. Players show up at schools and service groups with reminders that reading is vital for children, that caring about others is essential.

The franchise's involvement in Minor Hockey Week is the most recent example.

If you watch the Oilers face Tampa Bay on pay-per-view television next week, you'll see a lot of minor hockey moments. Don Metz and his Aquila Productions crew did the job.

"If we get eight or nine minues of film, it could be a perfect between-periods segment," said Oilers president Patrick Laforge.

Somehow, players must find as much consistency as the off-ice Oilers have.

STATISTICAL IMPROBABILITY

In case you haven't noticed, NHL game stats are a bad joke.

The official record of the humiliating loss to Carolina shows the Oilers with only four giveaways, which means the entire feeble crew lost possession of the puck only four times.

A possible conclusion is that North Carolina residents are so busy counting laps at NASCAR races and dealing with two- and three-point basketball shots that they lack the concentration required to count one at a time.

There was one stretch in the second period when a couple of Oilers, allegedly defending their net, gave the puck away five times inside their own zone without a Carolina player in the same postal area.

LITERATE LINEMEN

In some ways, it's too bad reporters don't spend more time talking with offensive lineman.

As a rule, they're among the most articulate members of any football team.

A brief conversation with Joe McGrath about his youthful hockey exploits reminded me of numerous well-spoken guards and tackles of previous years. Bruce Beaton, Charlie Turner, Chris Morris and Hector Pothier -- all now retired -- are good examples of free spirit and intelligent thought.

It's encouraging that Morris and Pothier are now well-situated in the Edmonton educational system, which needs all the help it can get.

PANDA PRIDE LIVES

Trix Baker deserves a big send-off as she walks away from her coaching job with the University of Alberta Pandas.

It's one thing to talk about the championships that they won and the close calls they had, and quite another to remember that there was almost no pride in the Pandas from top to bottom when she took over.

Baker took the competitive fire that made her a top player and instilled it into a large number of young women who learned to win and then followed her into the coaching ranks.


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