Oilers hockey club ‘living the dream’

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Backed by cheering fans and pumped up by profits from their still-new arena in Norway’s oil capital, the Stavanger Oilers hockey club claimed their third national championship in a row on Monday night. Rival Oslo club Vålerenga was deeply disappointed, while the Oilers are “living the dream” of all hockey clubs in the country.

The Stavanger Oilers beat Vålerenga on Mnday to once again win the national hockey championship on Monday. Here, player Mathias Trettenes in a duel with Jonte Berg. PHOTO: Carina Johansen / NTB Scanpix

The Stavanger Oilers beat Vålerenga to once again win the national hockey championship on Monday. Here, player Mathias Trettenes in a duel with Jonte Berg. PHOTO: Carina Johansen / NTB Scanpix

It was another bitter setback for the Oslo club, which dominated Norwegian hockey for years with the most victories. They lost to Stavanger by a score of 1-0 after putting up what celebrity coach Espen “Shampoo” Knutsen, the former NHL player, called “an honest attempt” to break the Oilers’ winning streak. Stavanger’s Jean-Michel Daoust scored in the first period, though, and Vålerenga never caught up.

“The guys gave it their all, no one can contest their effort,” Knutsen told newspaper Aftenposten. “We poured it on in the third period and we were good, but now it’s of course very, very disappointing.”

The Stavanger Oilers’ championship victory was their fourth in the past five years and it set off popping champagne corks at the club’s profitable new arena in the prosperous city dubbed as Norway’s oil capital. It was a victory on home turf, or ice in this case, that played out before a packed arena of more than 4,000 spectators who clearly were ready to party.

“How does this feel? It’s indescribable,” Tore Christiansen, one of the club’s major shareholders, told TV2. Oilers’ coach Petter Thoresen called the victory “so beautiful. The best team won in the end, before Norway’s best fans.”

The Stavanger Oilers play in a new arena that opened in 2012 and attracts large crowds of paying spectators. The arena, owned by the shareholders that revived the club during the past 10 years, is also used as a concert venue. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

The Stavanger Oilers play in a new arena that opened in 2012 and attracts large crowds of paying spectators. The arena, owned by the shareholders that revived the club during the past 10 years, is also used as a concert venue. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

And arguably in the best facilities enjoyed by any club in the nation. The Oilers’ arena opened in 2012 at a cost of NOK 240 million and is widely considered to be a major reason for the enormous boost in the club’s fortunes. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported on how the arena, which carries the name of sponsoring bank DNB, has made it literally cool to go to hockey games. The team itself has attracted strong players and ticket income has soared. Operating revenues were up 95.9 percent last year to NOK 94.6 million (USD 16 million), reported DN over the weekend, while operating profits rose an astonishing 247.6 percent to NOK 14.6 million. Pre-tax net was up 36 percent.

For a hockey club that was technically bankrupt in 2004, the Oilers’ resurgence has been remarkable. It’s backed by Christiansen, an investor and entrepreneur in Stavanger, and two other leading businessmen, hotel owner and investor Rolf Smedvig Hodne and Åge Westbø, founder of investment fund Skagen. Together they own 80 percent of Oilers Holding, which owns both the arena and the club operations through two subsidiaries.

The investors lost nearly NOK 50 million from 2004 to 2011 but profits have rolled in during the past two years. “We investors have no plans to take out any dividends,” Christiansen told DN, “but we do want the club to manage on its own.”

Jan Tore Kjær, director of Vålerenga in Oslo, is full of admiration for the Stavanger club, mixed perhaps with a bit of envy. “The Stavanger Oilers are approaching NOK 100 million in annual revenues, that’s fantastic,” Kjær told DN. Vålerenga, by comparison, generated NOK 17 million last year and plays its matches in the run-down Jordal Amfi arena that it leases from the city. It was built for the Winter Olympics in 1952.

Vålerenga’s home “is the last venue left” from the Oslo Olympics 62 years ago, Kjær notes, calling it “a shame” and equating it to a “world record in after-use.” He’s among the minority in Oslo hoping the city, backed by the state, will spend at least NOK 35 billion on a new Winter Olympics in 2022, because then Vålerenga stands to get a brand new ice hockey arena estimated to cost NOK 634 million.

Meanwhile, Vålerenga intends to keep hoping for revenge against the Stavanger Oilers and for a new home of its own. The Oilers, Kjær told DN, “are living the dream we others have.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund