I’ve never been to Stockton, California. Probably never will. However, I hear stories of the city from two extreme perspectives. I know a family that resides within the city limits. They speak of a great city with spirited folks that love the Central Valley as much as they possibly can. Art, history, culture, music, food — all abound. And then there’s the city I read about. #2 per capita in violent crimes, crimes against elderly on the rise, and most recently its nomenclature of becoming the largest city to ever file bankruptcy. These two worlds, one that I know from first hand recollection and the other from various news sources, couldn’t be more opposite.
Every city, in every state has it’s share of black eyes. No matter how large or how small — we’d be foolish to think it’s all sunshine and lollipops within every far reaching corner of the U.S. Since I’ve never been to Stockton, nor do I live there, I’m in no place to comment in right standing on what’s wrong or right in that city. It’s not my right. Instead I’ll champion the underdog. I’ll choose to take pride on behalf of a city that recently had a quiet, simple win.
Announced this week, the Edmonton Oilers decided to extend their franchise tag for another season with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. For the last seven seasons, the Oilers have had the ability to place young talent deeply in a professional hockey team in Northern California. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for a franchise and a city that shares the same name.
The Thunder, having a dual affiliate with both the Oilers and Sharks, were on the verge of being NHL shortchanged as the Sharks made the decision to tag the ECHL expansion club, the San Francisco Bulls, as their own. And without the Oilers, the Thunder might have had to seek a new team to blanket them.
And in the end, the Thunder win as do the NHL Oilers, who have the rare opportunity to have two leagues with which they can stash prospects. Scott Linesburgh at recordnet.com had this to say on the matter:
The Sharks are now affiliated with the San Francisco Bulls, an expansion team which will play at the Cow Palace in Daly City. The Thunder was one of eight franchises in the ECHL with dual affiliations, and Stockton coach Matt Thomas said the arrangement with the Sharks and Oilers worked well. But one of the concerns was getting playing time for the NHL team’s goalies.
Last season, Edmonton prospect Olivier Roy and San Jose product Thomas Heemskerk spent most of the season with the Thunder, and Thomas had to accommodate both with minutes in the net.
“Of course the organizations want their young goalies to play. And because of the needs of the goaltenders to play more, we all felt it was beneficial for there to be exclusive deals with one team,” Thomas said. “San Jose was a great partner, and it worked out because the Bulls were available and really wanted them. So this is working out for the best for everybody.”
Thomas said Stockton’s long relationship with the Oilers was an important factor.
“There’s a loyalty factor there between us,” Thomas said. “It’s been such a strong, productive relationship.”
Indeed, players at the goaltending position need the most nurturing especially when they are so youthful. Having two layers of professional play (ECHL and then AHL) is a bonus for the Oilers. They clearly agree, and thus have extended their agreement with Stockton.
Well done, city of Stockton, for showing us that every situation has a silver lining. And well done, Edmonton Oilers, for being a part of a special moment.