Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Edmonton's Image a mere product of Local Media and Citizens

Why does the City of Edmonton get a poor reputation around the league? You've heard it all. It's dull. It's boring. It's cold. It's basically an undesirable place to live, only ahead of Siberia.

The biggest cause of these false, completely ridiculous perceptions stems from the local media and the citizens of Edmonton itself. There strongly needs to be a change in the mentality of some Edmontonians dragging down the image of the city of Edmonton.

Hey, I'm not advocating we go to Calgarian's "rah rah rah, Calgary is the best...everybody that moves here wants to be here" that is quite prevalent in their media. Not at all. However, the city certainly can use some civic pride and appreciation of this very beautiful, very underrated city.

In hockey terms, this means Edmontonians should not resort to hysteria or question the city every time a player leaves via UFA.

This is the new NHL. There is a new CBA which allows players to jump to another ship at a much earlier age. More player movement is/was expected due to this CBA!

I'll start with some examples. First being, Doug Weight. His agent was quoted as saying, "If all other things being equal, I think Doug Weight would have been very happy to finish his career as an Oiler." Read between the lines. It's clear he is talking about the 40M/5 year deal Weight got from St. Louis. Personally, I never understood the grudge Oiler fans have had over Weight departing, many of them claiming Weight was a sell out. I don't think anyone with a right mind would choose a different path if they were put in Weight's shoes, and the guy after booed consistently over the past few years, and on the receiving end of a cheap shot by Patrick Laforge who compared him to a wimp, still has good things to say about Edmonton. An American - that loved it here.

So Weight left for more money - just like most NHL players. The rare time you'll find a guy like Ryan. Smyth that will take less than face value and has every desire to finish his career with his favourite team growing up as a kid. Anyways, money is one big reason players jump from one team to another. That doesn't mean they don't like the city they played in.

Money has landed cities like Columbus (Foote, Marchant), Pittsburgh (Recchi, Palffy,Leclair) , St. Louis (Weight, Ruchinsky, Guerin, Hinote, Legace, Mckee), Calgary (Amonte, Hamerlik), Carolina (Whitney, Oleg Tverdosky, Stillman) free agents. It doesn't mean these said cities have any more to offer than's just a simple fact that money wins free agents, regardless of whether the team will be competitive in the near future or not. So don't feel bad Edmonton. Weight, Guerin, Marchant, Joseph, Richardson, Niinimaa, Samsonov, Spacek were all players that loved Edmonton and playing here - they just left because of money and personal reasons.

Personal reasons. They also have an effect on free agents jumping ship. Like it or not, players are human. They have families, they purchase groceries, they love going out.

I'll start out with an example involving my cousins. My cousin (female, Masters dgeree at the U of A) married a man from California 6 years ago (P.hD Biochem). She moved there, and lived in a small town called Vacaville, a wealthy suburb of San Francisco for 7 years. Her parents live in Edmonton, and her desire of wanting her 2 sons to start school in Canada, the family of 4 moved to Edmonton this summer. Her husband is happy here, and it takes him 5 minutes to drive to work. The husband took a paycut, but he's enjoying it here as it took him over an hour to get to work in the Bay area. Just because they moved here, doesn't mean they didn't like the Bay area. In fact, they loved it.

Point being, like normal people, hockey players can have situations just like these. Just because Mrs. Pronger felt more comfortable in the States (read between the lines, it was her that promoted the move) doesn't neccessarily mean Edmonton is a undesirable city we are lead to believe by the Eastern media. Michael Peca is another guy who had good things to say about Edmonton, but preferred it out East. Why? In January, he claimed his wife had family back in the East, and the family was more comfortable there. He signed in Toronto, close to his home in Buffalo. Again, that doesn't mean the city of Edmonton is undesirable.
Nedved had to look for his wife's concern about being a model. Personally, he loved it here. Again, different situations for different people.

So why does the Edmonton media go hysteric when a player leaves? Hey, I'm not suggesting Edmonton is comparable to NY, LA, Phoenix, Miami in terms of what the city offers. I just don't see the need for the media to cry, "Nobody wants to play here." Let's take a look at the Vancouver Canucks. In the past 2 years, they have lost Anson Carter, Baumgartner, Malik, and Jovonovski. Money talks, Bullsh*t walks. Yet, I don't see a single article from the Vancouver media crying about players wanting out, or that the Canucks should focus more on developing their own players.

Perception/attitude by the local media have their share to blame. I don't understand they local media has to question recent free agent signing, Petr Sykora, on whether he really likes Edmonton or not. As Petr said, "Why wouldn't I like Edmonton?"

There is a long track record of players who have wore an Oiler uniform that love Edmonton. It's not the city for everyone, but which city is?

In Calgary, you hear the recent Flames fans propoganda: Every new player is happy, and loves the city, and are saying all the right things. These same fans compare to the situation of Edmonton, and arrive at a false conclusion that nobody wants to play in Edmonton. Um, not quite. Winning certainly helps the mood, but money is the ultimate factor UFA's leave. Just take a look at Craig Conroy. Speaking of Conroy, his wife was quoted in the Calgary Sun as "Some of the players wives don't like it in Calgary, particularily the American ones."

*Gasp* I thought it was only Edmonton that wasn't a fit for everyone. Difference is, the Edmonton media would make a big deal out similar comments if an Oiler wive said that, while those comments were discarded pretty quicky by the Calgary media. The Calgary situation is much different than ours. They haven't had any big name UFA's (other than Conroy) that they had to re-sign. Wait in 2 years, and we'll see whether all of Iginla, Kiprosoff, and Regehr who are bound to be UFA's, will say. Funny thing - when the team was missing the playoffs for 7 consecutive years, rarely was anyone in the dressing room "saying all the right things" about the city and the organization. I'd like to know when did Calgary become a tropical paradise after 2004, and how did I miss the shift?

With regards to the Edmonton media, stop creating a Armageddon every time a player leaves.

Doesn't opinions of players like Smyth, Stoll, Torres, Horcoff, Dvorak, Smith, Staios, Moreau, Pisani, Roloson, Reasoner, Sykora count for something? Or do we have to focus on the players that left for more money or found a city that is a better fit for them on a personal level?

As for the citizens of Edmonton that are complaining there is nothing to do here. These complainers are the ones sitting infront of their computer on summer day with beautiful weather, instead of going to world class festivals and places such as the Heritage days, Fringe Festival, Folk Festival, Capital Ex, Whyte Ave, International Street performers, Taste of Edmonton, etc. etc.

The image/perception of the city can be changed - by each and everyone of you


Foxy said...

What a fantastic post! You said it all.

Edmonton is a wonderful city with a lot to do, such as the festivals you mentioned. Plus, we've got a great symphony, a thriving theatre scene, tonnes of great independent restaurants - and of course, the best hockey team! What's not to love?

cantor said...

I was born and raised in Vancouver, but have spent significant amounts of time in Chicago, NY and San Francisco, now I'm in Edmonton. Edmonton can't compare with the cities I've lived in, but what I can't understand about this Alberta culture is the prevalent attitude that Edmonton sucks when compared to Calgary. I met a girl here from Edmonton that after studying in Calgary, she thinks it's the greatest place on Earth. I've been to Calgary, and I think it's not much better than Spokane, definitely not on my top 30 places in North America to live. You Edmontonians need to keep your head up; from an Alberta outsider, Calgary is NOT the cultural mecca or first class city they think they are. The world doesn't revolve around Alberta and if Calgarians got out of this province, they will see that their city is severely lacking.