Oilers could learn a thing or two

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Win or lose, the Edmonton Rush did the best thing possible for their fans this season. They competed every night.

The same applies to Jelena Mrdjenovich.

Too bad you couldn't say the same about many of the Oilers during the last several months.

As the players lost both games and their enthusiasm, the paying public had a perfect excuse to do the same thing.

Too many years ago, the success of the Oilers and the Eskimos prompted our community's deep thinkers (?) to create some "City of Champions" signs. Much of the criticism was unjust.

The only thing wrong with the label was the narrowness of focus. Still we don't recognize that championships can take many forms.

And the only difference between Mrdjenovich and the Rush is that she wins. The lacrosse team doesn't - not yet.

The boxer's manager, Milan Lubovac, already realizes that she must start looking for new fields to conquer. The WBC super featherweight champ has destroyed all opposition in her weight class.

Differences between the Edmonton athlete and the Japanese visitor, Emiko Raika, were many: more speed, more power, more strength, more size - all adding up to a decisive victory.

Come to think of it, if Mrjdjenovich stays at the top of her game much longer, perhaps those old signs at highway entrances to Edmonton will get some new credibility.

It's no surprise that she was involved in another sport first. I'm convinced basketball requires more specific talents than any other sport. Jelena discovered boxing while recovering from a hoops injury.

"Maybe we have to take a bout in the United States," Lubovac said. "It shouldn't matter where we go. She's too good for everybody she's been fighting."

As for the Ryan Henney-James Cermak bout for the Canadian cruiserweight title and the match between Kris Andrews and Gareth Sutherland for the junior middleweight bauble, only one word is necessary: rematch!

Henney learned much more from their first bout than Cermak did. After he took a pounding in the first five rounds, it seemed only a matter of time before the Edmonton guy went down and out.

But he closed the gap with courage and power. Mostly, he refused to quit. Loads of Oiler players need to learn the same lesson.

THE CAT CAME BACK

Good news for the few existing Cracker-Cats supporters: Reggie Rivard is coming back.

The hard-throwing righthander has been almost the only serious connection between the Northern League team and this community in the two seasons Dan Orlich has paid the bills.

Al Coates has made a solid effort to provide off-season info and it's great that Mr. Baseball will be behind the microphone soon, but the season approaches and there has been no obvious swell of fan interest.

One thing Coates knows and Mr. Orlich can learn: baseball has a following here; if the product is good and the ownership attitude is not overbearing, the public will start to care.

THERE'S A LESSON HERE ...

The Oilers' miserable season has led to unexpected benefit for Allan Cup supporters.

Starting today, Canada's senior hockey championship is on the line at the Stony Plain Arena. Tickets are scarce, perhaps all gone.

The Bentley Generals and Lloydminster Border Kings, along with host Stony Plain, are Alberta's representatives. Bentley, in particular, figures to keep the building full. The Generals played their qualification series at Red Deer's downtown arena and drew more than 2,000 fans for every game.

ONCE AGAIN, A MAGIC WORD.

In every game, the no-name players will do the best possible thing for fans. They'll compete.


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