A recent survey of prominent sports agents done by ESPN reporter Craig Custance revealed that Edmonton is the city most often named by NHL players in their no-trade clauses.
Of the 10 agents questioned, all 10 named Edmonton as one the least desirable cities for NHL players.
But Edmonton is not the only city the players are railing against — Winnipeg came in a close second place in terms of cities to be avoided, with Ottawa and Toronto coming in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The only American city in the top five list? Buffalo.
Vancouver was the only Canadian city that was not included on the “avoid” list.
“It’s probably nothing that we didn’t suspect, but to have it laid out like that with quotes from the agents just detailing what an awful place we all live [in] was kind of sobering, I thought,” said Cam Cole, a sports columnist who covered hockey in Edmonton for 20 years.
“One agent called [Edmonton] a ‘complete nightmare,’” says Cole. “That was the most sweeping indictment in the whole report, I thought.”
“It’s kind of been sloughed off as some kind of arctic hell hole.”
Weather, track record can't compete with sunny skies and lower taxes
Some of the reasons given by players for avoiding Edmonton included:- The weather
- Too much travel
- Too much scrutiny
- The team’s poor record
- The low Canadian dollar (players are paid in U.S. currency)
- The higher Canadian taxes
Cole says Edmonton hasn’t always had trouble attracting top-quality players — pointing to the Oilers’ dream team streak when players like Gretzky and Kurri were on the ice.
“There was no reluctance to play in Edmonton in those days because they had a real good team, and they had no problem attracting free agents. I think that’s probably the hidden component here.”
“It’s kind of obvious that nobody really wants to go somewhere they don’t feel they have a chance to win — and Edmonton has looked like that place for a while, now. They don’t seem to be able to solve the performance aspect of the whole equation.”
Cole says there is little the Oilers can do at present but start turning their record around, although he noted the deck is stacked against them, given the difficulty in attracting talented players.
“Let’s just say, once you've got the choice, once you’ve worked towards and earned the right to determine where you’re going to play and where you’re not going to play, it’s completely within your rights to say ‘I don’t want to go there.’”
Listen to Cole's full interview with Edmonton AM host Mark Connolly: