Scoring Goals, Changing Leadership and Earning Fans: What Dems and Clinton's Team Can Learn from A Canadian NHL Team

Earlier this month, 18-year-old professional hockey phenom Connor McDavid scored five goals in his debut on the ice for the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers. The summertime prospects scrimmage normally draws little attention, but this year it drew 7,300 hometown fans.

McDavid was drafted by the troubled franchise just 10 days earlier. His selection was another big step forward, in a summer of big steps forward for the once legendary team from Canada's Great North.

McDavid's Edmonton Oilers have something to teach Hillary Clinton's Democrats. Both the Oilers and the Democrats have storied histories. Both imagine they are now making that history anew.

When I was young, the Oilers were hockey's dynasty.

Entering the NHL from the rebel World Hockey Association, in the 1980's the Oilers' free-wheeling offense changed everything. The record-breaking scoring heroics of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier inspired a generation of fans and players.

For my mom's generation in the 30s, 40s and 50s, the Democrats were America's only political party.

Their New Deal allowed miserly paid factory workers, banded together in unions, to enter the middle-class. And their Great Society rekindled that progress standing with church and community activists against racism and poverty. The courageous FDR and LBJ stood up to unrestrained capitalism and recalcitrant Southerners.

In the years since, the Oilers and Democrats both became accustomed to losing. More recently, despite what their respective records say (in hockey standings and presidential elections), both became convinced that star players were about to turn their losing ways around.

The Oilers drafted five highly touted forwards: Jordon Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl. Despite flashes of brilliance, their talents have produced few wins. Hockey experts claim that the team's players have been too small to take on their bigger rivals.

Similarly, the Democrats have put forward what they thought were star presidential candidates: Vietnam veteran Senator John Kerry; African-American Senator Barack Obama; and likely next year former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton. Despite their celebrity status, none to date has bought the economic calamities of the Conservative Era to an end.

There is hope. As an immigrant, I am an eternal optimist.

The Oilers began their momentous off-season on April 11th by posting a video. It was in part an effort to appease a disgruntled fan base; a few of them threw their beloved Oiler jerseys' onto the ice after seasons of losing.

After another bitterly disappointing season, the four-minute video told a story of obstacles and progress. It praised the "steadfastness of the faithful" and spoke of how "Oil Country" fans had "supported each other." It praised the '"hard work" and "sacrifices" to date.

And while the video harkened back to past "heroics," it also highlighted the "new heroes" who were making for "spectacular" and "prosperous" days to come.

The visionary words quickly formed the foundation of what seems destined to become a new era in Oiler hockey.

Earlier this year the team hired a new CEO, the widely respected Bob Nicholson and within a few days, a new General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, architect of the 2011 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup champions. A month after that, was the debut of a new coach, Terry McLellan, the winningest coach in the history of the San Jose Sharks.

The new team leaders were in place for the recent draft of new prospects and then earlier this month, the opening window to sign unrestricted free agents.

Within days, the Oilers remade their team. It included McDavid, as mentioned, a once in a generation center; Cam Talbot, a sought after up and coming goalie; Andrey Sakera, veteran standout defensemen, Eric Gryba, big bodied defensemen, and Griffin Reinhardt, a rough neck prospect defensemen.

The team was step by step attaining the size it needs to stand up to rivals and to allow it's talented forwards to blossom. One hockey reporter asked if the perennial cellar dweller was NHL playoff bound.

Will the Democrats and Hillary Clinton learn from the Oilers?

The Oilers video echoed the provocative work of a generation of new school communicators. Listen carefully and you will hear the lessons taught to us on stories by Geoffrey Nunberg, on metaphors by Anat Shenker-Osorio, on the need to embrace people's dreams and desires by Stephen Duncombe.

Will candidate Clinton articulate a story of obstacles and progress? Will she articulate how we work together to care for each other? Will her story's heroes be everyday people who work hard and sacrifice relentlessly? Will she embrace people's aspirations for fantastic progress?

So far so good. She purposefully opened the campaign on Roosevelt Island, demanding we continue the unfinished work and everyday people's aspirations for shared prosperity. And after the Charlottesville, S.C. massacre, she powerfully articulated why we must confront our unfinished work on race.

The question remains if the visionary words become the foundation of a new political and economic era or not.

If elected, many hope the new President Clinton will stand up to the powerful elites who hold us all back. Will she stand up to billion dollar fast-food and retail giants to establish a $15 wage standard? Will she stand up to those who subtle use of racial 'dog whistles' leave us as divided as ever?

Again, I'm an optimist. On both the Oilers and Clinton.

Mark Gomez is the founder of The Leap Forward Project at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. He is an OpEd Project fellow with the Center for Global Policy Solutions.