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Pre-pre-season excitement

Friday, 29.08.2008 / 3:55 PM / Blogs
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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Pre-pre-season excitement
The 2008-09 season will be my fourth working in professional hockey. Though the learning curve was pretty steep at times, I've maneuvered through most of the hilly bits thanks to guidance from coworkers, Hockey DB, and the Google search bar. (Don't try this at home or you just may end up working for a hockey team! The horror!)

There are lots of things I have yet to learn. For example, it would be really nice to be able to calculate GAA in my head or to perfect the tandem Zamboni navigation technique. (So synchronized! How do they do that?!) And firing a killer one-timer would be an excellent skill to acquire, if not for professional advancement then for show-off purposes alone.

Shooting skills aside, there are at least a couple of subjects I have a pretty solid grasp on. One of them is the AHL veteran rule (not entirely applicable at this level, but still good to know). Another is the sequence of events leading up to the season opener, which this season falls at home on October 12th vs. Colorado.

“TO-DO” TIMELINE

After a few summer months (the fewer, the better) of unwinding, brainstorming, and planning, August is the time when agendas fill up and numbers and dates start dominating conversations around the hockey club. Staff throughout the Oilers organization and across the NHL are busy setting targets, implementing strategies, and turning their focus to rookie camps, training camps, pre-season games, and – ultimately – opening puck drop.

There are always exceptions (just ask the Oilers Accounting Department at year-end!), but in general, the busy business starts when the regular-season schedule is released in mid-July. At this time, concrete timelines, deadlines, and priorities are established for each department, from Hockey Ops to I.T.

SURPRISE! IT'S SEPTEMBER!

Although everything intensifies in August, it's sometimes difficult to think about the rink when the summer sun beckons you outside. (Or so I imagine. My tiny basement windows do a good job of blocking sunbeams, increasing my productivity by leaps and bounds. – Marc: Are you listening? Leaps and bounds of productivity happening over here!)

But, just like when we were kids, everything changes after the Labour Day weekend. There's something about September that prompts children and your Oilers staffers to shake off the sunstroke and get their acts together. For kids, that “something” is parents and teachers. For Oilers staff, it's the impending hockey season, and – luckily for us – it's something we all get excited about.

So what's so special about September? First of all, all sorts of important events can now be counted on only fingers and toes: the installation of ice at Rexall Place, the arrival of the players and their first appearances of the season, ticket on-sales and pick-ups and mail-outs of all kinds.

Secondly, when the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to turn, ice is no longer a remote possibility. With ice comes skates and pucks and raspy voices from cheering for a team that you haven't seen in what feels like forever. (In actuality, you will have patiently waited 172 days between last season's final game and the opening pre-season puck-drop vs. Vancouver on September 22nd, but who's counting?)

FOCUS ON THE FINISH-LINE STARTING BLOCK

Though there is a lot of work to be done before that first pre-season game, there's also a lot of dedicated people working diligently – and passionately – to complete it. Throughout the season, I hope we can introduce you to some of these friendly folks in exclusive staff features on edmontonoilers.com and, specifically, Oilers TV.*

Working in the NHL may be new to me, but the thrill of September certainly isn't. New names on the ice, new faces in the locker room, new assignments to write . . . The pre-pre-season excitement is in full effect, and I'm fully feeling it.

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* Speaking of staff features and Oilers TV, everyone's favourite VIP (Very Important Producer) Steve Taylor is in Honolulu this week. I'm sure he's having an absolutely horrible time laying on the beach and diving into bowls of pineapple, so my thoughts are with him and I hope he sticks it out through the long weekend. See you Tuesday, Steve!
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