SUN Hockey Pool

Will Oilers compete with rodeo?

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

EDMONTON - Project yourself ahead. It's the 2015 Canadian Finals Rodeo. There's a new arena and entertainment district downtown.

Will it be Rodeo Week Arena Wars I?

Will the rodeo play at the Northlands Coliseum? Will the Edmonton Oilers still get out of town so as not to compete with the rodeo?

Or will the NHL team go out of their way to be in town at a time when more money comes into Edmonton to be spent by visitors than any other time of year?

Will the Katz Group book the biggest country and western acts in the business to complement -- and com pete against -- the rodeo and make the scene here much more like the festival of all things western like what happens at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas?

With Katz waving the non-compete clause and Northlands keeping the old arena open for whatever business they can round up, it seems the first real test of how it would all play out would come this week in 2015.

Mayor Stephen Mandel says he hopes the hockey team would choose not to compete and that the Katz Group would do the same with entertainment events during rodeo action hours.

Oilers CEO Pat LaForge says the non-compete thing is out the door now and wouldn't the whole idea be to have the Edmonton downtown alive and buzzing with activity to make the week as exciting and entertaining in every way possible to bring more visitors to town, visitors who might want to go to a night or two of the rodeo, catch an Oilers game or two and maybe see a couple of the biggest country and western acts in the business?

"I'm assuming the Northlands arena would continue with the rodeo," said Mayor Stephen Mandel.

"It's vitally important to the City of Edmonton to make sure the rodeo is a success and that it stays here," he said of the rodeo which twice previously has come close to being rustled by Calgary.

"I would hope all parties would find a way to work together. I would hope the Oilers would continue to have a hiatus and do a little travelling."

Mandel said he would like to see some concert activity that wasn't up against the rodeo as direct competition.

"I think we need to do more of the River City Round-Up and really build up that side of it so it's not just the rodeo.

"But to go arena against arena on the rodeo, that doesn't help anybody. And that's the challenge of having two arenas. I think we're hoping for co-operation rather than competition."

LaForge says they'd likely want to do the opposite and thinks it would benefit Edmonton big time to do just that.

"If the rodeo is across town, I think we'd like to blend hockey with entertainment. There would be no reason we couldn't blend into it.

"Actually, there is no reason Northlands couldn't use the downtown facility for the rodeo. Part of the deal is that the city gets 28 dates in the building at market value. There's no reason rodeo can't fit into the building and make money all around. I think it would ultimately be a better event for the city if all the action was downtown.

"But if the rodeo stays out at Northlands I think the idea that would work best for Edmonton would be to have downtown cooking like it did last year during Grey Cup Week. That was great. That was wonderful. I can only imagine what that would be like in and around a downtown entertainment district."

LaForge said the hockey team is definitely looking forward to not having the killer rodeo road trip every year.

"It's too long. And it's not just the road trip. We have to compress games at home before and after the road trip."

Having out-of-the-building-for-14-days trips like the one the Oilers are currently on with visits to L.A., Phoenix, Montreal, Boston, Detroit and Chicago isn't conducive to early-season success.

Bottom line?

"I think we'd be open for business," said LaForge.

"I think we'd blend with people who like rodeo, people who like hockey and people who like rodeo and away you go. I think we'd like to be going as many nights as possible. I think it would be great."


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