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BLOGS

Summertime tales from the front office

Thursday, 16.07.2009 / 4:39 PM / Blogs
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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Summertime tales from the front office
Midway through July and I figured it was about time I updated you on what's been going on in the Oilers office for the past month or so. With the Draft at the end of June, free agency in early July, and the launch of the new website last week (hope you like it!), I probably don't need to tell you that the Edmonton Oilers.com team has been pretty busy this summer. But I'll tell you anyway – in detail, and with a few spicy adjectives thrown in for flavour.

TASTE TEST AT TELUS FIELD


Speaking of flavour, I might as well start on a very delicious subject: hot dogs. Now, I have never been a big fan of the hot dog, but when my coworker Sharman Hnatiuk invited me to Telus Field to taste test their specialty dogs for a review she was writing, I couldn't say no. Blame it on curiosity or hunger or the all-important 'free' aspect, but I was quite excited about this work-related binge.

And rightly so. In the name of journalism, we split a Perogy Dog, Reuben Dog, Southern Soul Dog, Sonic Super Chili Cheese Dog, and a hot dog slathered in guacamole, sour cream, bacon, and Catalina dressing that we named the Baja Dog. That's 2.5 hot dogs each, people. I hope you're impressed because I'm slightly disgusted.

If you're skeptical about the legitimacy of this taste test, click here to read Sharman's article. After you've done that, head over to Telus Field for a Capitals game and try out a dog or five for yourself.

OILERS INVADE SLAVE LAKE


Pat Quinn and Jordan Eberle address students in Slave Lake, AB.
Okay, it wasn't ALL the Oilers but arguably the most-important Oilers (me included) invaded the Oil Country community in mid-June. The morning of Friday, June 12th, I met Pat Quinn, prospect Jordan Eberle, and team Communications Manager JJ Hebert at City Center Airport for the quick flight to Slave Lake. This was my first chance to meet the new Oilers head coach, and I was slightly nervous about making a good impression. Turns out I needn't be: less than five minutes after our introduction and once we were safely buckled into the small private plane, Mr. Quinn asked where I was from. I said Winnipeg. He said “You don't LOOK like you're from Winnipeg.” And I laughed, kinda.

With that regional ribbing out of the way, we were best buddies and enjoyed the sights and sounds of downtown Slave Lake. With camera in hand, I paparazzied Pat and Jordan as they visited a sports store, a radio station, and the local school. We were treated to a helicopter ride by Slave Lake Helicopters, and eagle-eyed pilot (and owner) George Kelham managed to track down some wildlife for us to appreciate. That was my second-ever helicopter ride, and I loved every minute of it. Can't wait to do it again!

That evening we attended a fundraising dinner and silent auction in support of the Slave Lake Rotary Club, and in my professional opinion, everyone had a blast. Thank you to our excellent hosts, and good luck in the rest of your fundraising.

If you're skeptical about the accuracy of my last few paragraphs, click here to watch a video on the Slave Lake trip.

OILERS DO THE DRAFT

10 days after the Slave Lake experience, Marc and Steve flew to Montreal for the NHL Entry Draft. I manned the Official Edmonton Oilers Digital Media NHL Entry Draft Command Center - Northern Alberta Location from the comfort of my desk and then, during Friday night's first round, my couch.

Although I couldn't experience the Draft first-hand, I think Marc and Steve found it challenging but exciting. Internet access in the media hotel was iffy at the best of times, so the guys had to share an office on the main floor of the hotel with website folks from the other teams. It could have been an internet nightmare, but Steve's sharp elbows and insatiable desire for DSL helped us set new records for website visitors and video plays during Draft week. Hooray!

If you're skeptical about the level of our commitment during the Draft, click here to check out our Entry Draft section.

MEETING OF THE WEBMASTER-MINDS

On the Monday after the Draft, your favourite web team, along with Oilers Corporate Communications Manager Jessica McPhee and Marketing Manager Christine Dmytryshyn, flew to Vancouver to meet with Digital Media, Marketing, and Communications representatives from the Canucks and Flames. On the agenda: new website transition, best practices, strategies for 2009-10, communication and collaboration between clubs, and – finally – steak.

The steak was pretty good, but so was meeting with our peers. I can't express how valuable it is to meet in person, share stories and ideas, and reconnect with the bigger picture. It's easy to get caught up in our own little NHL worlds, especially in remote Edmonton, so it's interesting to hear about the challenges in other markets, the structure of team front offices, and game-day processes.

If you're skeptical about the success of these meetings or the deliciousness of the steak, well . . . I guess you'll just have to live with that skepticism.

FREE AGENCY FREE-FOR-ALL

The day after our return from Vancouver, most Canadians celebrated the 142nd birthday of our great nation. I also celebrated this birthday, albeit while watching sports coverage on TV and straying no more than five feet from my BlackBerry or laptop.

This being my first NHL free agency day, I wasn't really sure what to expect. There was a lot of waiting and watching and rumour discussing, but in the end we reported three stories: Dwayne Roloson signing with the Islanders, the acquisition of Nikolai Khabibulin, and the signing of Jason Strudwick. What did Steve, Marc and I accomplish for each of these events? We posted press releases, sent press releases to our Pipeline and media lists, built graphics for various sections of the website, updated the roster, gathered and produced audio and video, and completed a handful of other small tasks that keep our site up to date and informative.

If you're skeptical about the significance of these duties, click here to visit our Off-season Movement Tracker.

DEVELOPMENT CAMP COVERAGE

The following week, the future stars of the Edmonton Oilers descended on Sherwood Park for Development Camp. I was only able to attend one of the sessions at Millenium Place, and I'll admit it was a bit strange to set foot in a rink again. I mean, it was very familiar and slightly comforting, but it felt wrong to be wearing a skirt and sandals in the presence of such a large piece of ice. But I pulled myself together and focused on the task at hand: committing journalism, as my journalism professor would say.

After watching Skating and Skills Coach Steve Serdachny put his troops through various creative and probably torturous drills, the web team joined the large media contingent in the hallway near the locker rooms. We received the go-ahead from JJ and then descended on the unassuming young hockey players like a pride of lions on a herd of exhausted gazelles gathering for a drink at Lake Gatorade. Okay, it wasn't that vicious, but many of them seemed a bit shocked by the summertime media coverage. Welcome to Edmonton!

HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN

After development camp, I drove to Winnipeg for a wedding. I won't give you the play-by-play of that event, but I will say this: When in Winnipeg, nobody comments on whether you “look” like you're from Winnipeg. Manitoba's capital city is a safe-haven for all former Manitobans who seek reprieve from the teasing of those who haven't been lucky enough to live in the heart of the continent. Ponder that, Mr. Quinn.

MONDAY MORNING MAGIC


Oilers forward Steve MacIntyre gives a thumbs up after enjoying a ride with some lucky fans at Capital Ex for Monday Morning Magic.
This past Monday, I joined superstar intern Nyki for Monday Morning Magic at the Capital Ex. For those of you not from Edmonton, Capital Ex is the city's big carnival and exhibition, and Monday Morning Magic is an important event in which children with disabilities are invited to enjoy the rides without the hassles of large crowds and line-ups.

Many special guests were in attendance, including players from the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, the Edmonton Capitals, the Edmonton Oil Kings, and – last but not least – Oilers Jason Strudwick and Steve MacIntyre.

Jason and Steve have gone the extra mile for community events this summer, and as usual they were the center of attention and the life of the party at Monday Morning Magic. You can check out the photos here or watch the video feature on next week's episode of The Link.

OLYMPIC BREAK


Gavin Morton, Keely Brown, Julian Solberg, and Patrick LaForge pose with the ball after their victory in the Oilers Summer Olympics baseball event.
That pretty much brings us to today -- Wednesday, July 22nd. As I write this, approximately 20% of the Oilers office is on holidays, 75% is either watching or participating in the office Summer Olympics, 4% is manning the phones and emails (it's a big job), and 1% is writing a blog. At this point, you know what the blog is about but you probably don't know what the Summer Olympics are about. So I will tell you:

Throughout the summer, each Oilers department hosts a Summer Olympics event for one week. We don't do easy sports like javelin or triathlon or synchronized swimming -- we stick to the hard stuff like trivia, croquet, and ping pong. As a near-genius, I excelled at trivia but somehow couldn't secure a spot in the finals. Shocking, I know.

This week's sport is 3-on-3 basketball located at the IOC-approved Oilers parking lot venue, and although I am not participating in said event, I assure you that the spirit of competition is healthy and palpable. Oilers CEO Patrick LaForge is on court. No word yet on fouls or firings, but I'll keep you posted.

I hope your summers are going well. I would like to say hi to Oilers fan and frequent message board contributor hockey4ever, whom I met at Monday Morning Magic. It always amazes me when people recognize me from this blog or my online interviews, but it's quite rewarding to know that you enjoy my work and – most of all – enjoy the website. Thank you for your support and encouragement.
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