The Oilers understand it's a city devoted to the Thunder, a popular NBA team, and two prominent Division I programs (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State).
“You can look at that as a positive or a negative,” said former Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “The positive is people care about sports here and are active. They're involved. They're passionate. You hope some of those fans become hockey fans.”
The Oilers' master plan is to methodically build a winner, promoting prospects that hone their skills in Oklahoma City.
“They're sort of taking the philosophy of putting their guys in the AHL and letting them cook until they feel they're matured,” Funk said. “They want them to gain a lot of good experience before they bring them up. That's good for us and them.”
Having missed the playoffs the past seven seasons, the Oilers are in the early stages of a rebuilding project.
“The timing for us was perfect because they were kind of restarting and so were we,” Funk said. “It's a good arrangement for both parties.”
MORE FROM NEWSOK
This is the second of a four-part series examining issues that have affected Barons' attendance and the franchise's plan moving forward:
Friday: The Edmonton Oilers, the Barons' NHL affiliate, are committed to Oklahoma City. Oiler officials love the city, facilities and player living arrangements in Bricktown.
Saturday: Barons' vice president of sales Jon Beilstein, hired nine months ago after a successful run in Grand Rapids, is confident he can have similar success in Oklahoma City.
Sunday: San Antonio went through a similar CHL to AHL transformation 10 years ago. Attendance lagged the first five years but now is among AHL attendance leaders.