Oilers seek overflow from Stanley Cup
By JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist Published: 6/2/2009 2:18 AM Last Modified: 6/2/2009 3:44 AM
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ORLANDO SPOILED what would have been a marquee matchup with the world’s two best players in the NBA Finals when the Magic eliminated Cleveland’s LeBron James.
The NHL, with a much smaller media stage, has no such problem. The Stanley Cup Finals pit the game’s best team, Detroit, against Pittsburgh, the home of Sidney Crosby, arguably the best hockey player since Wayne Gretzky.
And the Tulsa Oilers, who used the glitz of the BOK Center to spark a resurgence of hockey interest in Tulsa, is hoping a glamour matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals will also stir more attention.
“Anything that brings the spotlight to our sport is a good thing,” said Oilers general manager Taylor Hall. “I don’t think we could ask for a better Stanley Cup Final.
“You have the one team that everyone knows. Detroit is the team that everyone either hates or loves. And with Sidney Crosby, you have the biggest star in the sport. It is a great matchup for hockey fans.”
And, it is a great matchup to make new hockey fans.
As the temperatures in Tulsa climb above 90 degrees, the Oilers are hoping to spread the word about a sport played on ice.
The Oilers have been sponsoring a Stanley Cup Finals watch party that is drawing packed-house crowds at the Scoreboard Sports Bar at the River Spirit
Sure, the hard-core hockey fan is on board for the finals, which continue with Game 3 from Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Game 4 Thursday.
Yet, the real attraction to the Oilers is the interest the finals are creating with the casual fan.
“Those are the people that have been drawn to this finals,” Hall said. “Hockey fans are going to watch the finals no matter who is in it. They just love hockey and any match in the finals would be great.
“But, by having a finals with such an attractive matchup, we are attracting the marginal hockey fan that might come out to a game or two every season. Plus, we’re getting sports fans out who love all types of sports.”
The Red Wings lead 2-0 after a pair of virtually identical 3-1 victories in Detroit.
Crosby, who is one of the two biggest stars in the NHL along with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, has yet to score in the finals.
“This is the last chance to see hockey this season,” Hall said. “The fact that these are the best two teams in the world playing against each other is just a bonus. That doesn’t always happen in the finals. It is a great time to watch hockey.
“Hockey is sometimes the last thing on your mind this time of year. The weather is heating up and people are getting outside. But, this is a great opportunity for us locally to drum up some interest.”
The Oilers are coming off an important transition season. Tulsa moved into its deluxe new home, the BOK Center, during what was a challenging season on the ice.
The Oilers weren’t very successful on the ice but had a booming season in the stands and in the new facility.
“I played in the NHL and I never played in any building that was as nice as what we have in the BOK Center,” Hall said. “I can’t tell you how big-league the BOK Center is for us.
“It is an unbelievable facility. And, they’ve done everything we could have asked. I think it was a tremendous success for us as a franchise. But, it was equally a huge hit with our fans. You can’t ask for a better home.”
In fact, the BOK Center was voted the Central Hockey League’s best facility in a league-wide vote following the season.
“We took a lot of our staff down to Dallas to look at the American Airlines Center (home to the NHL’s Stars),” Hall said. “It is a terrific place.
“But, it is no better than the BOK Center. We can do everything and more in our building than they can. That should tell you everything you need to know about how great of a home the BOK Center is for us.”