samedi 18 avril 2015

Nine years out of the playoffs: How do Oilers players deal with constantly losing?



source : edmontonjournal.com

By the end of a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in November, the fans at Rexall Place were almost tired of booing their Edmonton Oilers off the ice.

Leaving the ice, the players wore the pain of that humiliating defeat. They were winless in a five-game homestand and it was clear yet another season was slipping away.

You’d think they’d just hit rock bottom.

But they still had to endure a walk of shame.

On the short trek from the ice to the locker-room, the players had to pass by fans who were only too happy to boo the entire team as it finally disappeared from sight.

Video of the verbal flogging raced across TVs and laptop screens across North America for days afterward.

“We deserved absolutely everything that we got in that walk,” Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens told the Journal’s Joanne Ireland on Nov. 25. “It’s not a walk that I enjoy doing, but we deserved every minute of it.”

It was the latest addition to a string of fan backlash that the Oilers have faced in recent years after routinely ending up in the National Hockey League basement, from jerseys tossed on the ice to billboards calling for management change.

The fans are certainly fed up with a losing team.

But what happens to a player who has only known losing for his entire NHL career, whose only playoff experience comes from a seat in the stands or from the comfort of his own living room?

That’s the reality for many of the Oilers, including core players Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan

Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.

“I think it can go one of two ways. You’ll have athletes that will learn from it and rise above it, and you’ll have athletes that it’s just going to shatter them. And I think you can see some of that starting to happen,” said Nicolas Allen, a sports psychologist at River Valley Health in Edmonton.

A member of Canada’s fencing team for five years starting in 1997, Allen went from competitor to coach to trainer and eventually to psychologist. He has practised for almost six years now.

“If they use it the right way, they’ll flourish. If they use this as, ‘This is a challenge and we’re going to keep going and we’ll have that success.’ ”

For Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov, it’s especially tough; they were selected high in the draft by the Oilers because they were highly successful amateur hockey players. They are competitive kids who were used to winning before they got to the NHL.

With the Windsor Spitfires, Hall won two Memorial Cups as national major junior champions. Eberle was one of Team Canada’s heroes in capturing the 2009 world junior hockey championship gold. All four recorded 100-plus point seasons in junior, and the Oilers picked three of them with the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL entry draft.

“It sucks being in this position,” Eberle said more than once in his end-of-season interview with reporters on April 12. “Especially this year with the teams around you, teams like Ottawa and Calgary making (the playoffs), it is frustrating,” he said.

“We want to be there so bad. With the teams around us making it, you sit back and watch … it’s tough.”