Break the Boyle Street curse. It’s time the Oilers paid Boyle Street the $5 million they promised

No more sweet Caroline. No more Moss pit. No more La Bamba, baby. The Oilers playoff run has ended with them coming up just short.

And as we sift through the rubble of this playoff run to figure out where it all went wrong, it might be worth pointing the finger at the Oilers’ ownership. Not for almost winning the Cup, but for how it treated some of the city’s most vulnerable residents this season. 

In February, the Katz Group, which owns the Oilers, took Edmonton’s largest homeless serving agency to court in order to not pay the $5 million they had promised. It's the end result of the Oilers forcing Boyle Street Community Services out of their home of 25 years just as the season was starting back in September. 

Connor McDavid is, of course, not Daryl Katz. Each player on the Oilers, no matter how highly paid they are, is just a guy working for a living, and they’ve done their jobs well.

Few who lined up around the corner from the Fan Zone to get inside to its watch party likely realized they were standing right where Boyle Street was located before the owner of their beloved Oilers reneged on its deal. I’m not trying to shame the fans.

Any and all shame regarding Boyle Street being forced from their facility and then welching on their $5 million promise should be firmly affixed to the people who can fix it – Daryl Katz and the suits at the Oilers franchise. 

The entrance to the Moss Pit in the Ice District on June 21, 2024. Photo by Duncan Kinney.

But let’s back up a bit.

Back in 2021, Boyle Street sold their property at 101166 105th Avenue to the Katz Group for $5 million. That money was going to be put towards the purchase of and renovation of a new facility for BSCS—the King Thunderbird Center or okimaw peyesew kamik in Cree.

It was time for Boyle Street to move out of their old, converted warehouse and into something more intentional. A renovated, purpose-built facility that would give the community members, many of them unhoused, Indigenous and dealing with multiple health issues, some dignity. Boyle Street is an incredible organization that does very important work, a shining example of what Edmonton can and should be. 

According to court documents filed in the Court of King’s Bench in November after Boyle Street sold their building to Katz, they signed a lease for $1 per month with the Katz Group. The Katz Group were now the landlords of Boyle Street Community Services and one of the conditions of the sale was that that would allow them to continue operating in the building until September 2023 - when they were expected to relocate. 

Another condition of the sale was a $10 million donation from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation to Boyle Street, to be put towards paying for their new facility. But the most important condition of the sale was the “backstop gift.” Boyle Street was in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise the money necessary to build the King Thunderbird Centre. The “backstop gift” was a promise by the Katz Group to give Boyle Street up to $5 million if they didn’t raise all the money needed for the building. 

Boyle Street did a fantastic fundraising job. They raised $8.5 million between December 2021 and September 2023, but it was around $5 million short. Then in September 2023, Boyle Street unexpectedly left their building. Their lease had run out but their new building wasn’t ready due to zoning issues and construction delays.

The Oilers, in all their generosity, offered to extend the lease to April 2024 (right when the playoffs would start) on the condition that they give up the backstop gift. Boyle Street, understandably, declined and moved out of the building. Their facilities and programs are currently decentralized in and around Edmonton as they finish construction on their building, expected to be completed at some point in 2025. 

The Oilers statement of claim alleges that Boyle Street didn’t do enough to fundraise on its own and was instead relying on the backstop gift. 

"The charity has not utilized its 'best efforts' in undertaking and completing the capital campaign," it said in an amended statement of claim filed on Nov. 24, 2023. The Oilers claim that Boyle Street breached their contract and that Katz Group doesn’t have to pay Boyle Street a dime. 

At this point the Oilers and Boyle Street are tied up in arbitration with no timeline given for when it will end. 

In May, the federal government announced that Boyle Street was going to receive $21 million through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program grant. This was the culmination of months and months of work by the staff of Boyle Street to secure the grant. 

This extended playoff run has been a cash bonanza for the franchise. You don’t have to pay the players’ salaries during the playoffs, which means that the Oilers have been raking in cash during this extended playoff run. 

Daryl Katz and the Edmonton Oilers have the ability to break the Boyle Street curse. Pay Boyle Street the $5 million you promised.