Tag: Edmonton Eskimos

Day 995: Little Rivalry On The Prairie

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Newcomers to the city of Edmonton inevitably have questions regarding our perpetual rivals to the south, or what has come to be known as the Battle of Alberta. They don’t ask me – I purposely sport a fanny-pack and 20 pounds of camera gear when I wander about the city so that tourists don’t talk to me – but they’ll ask somebody. The answer they’ll probably get is “hockey”, which is blatantly misleading and 100% wrong.

Edmonton and Calgary have held a semi-snarly relationship for much longer than the history of professional hockey in either city. Far from a rivalry of mere convenience (we are the only two major cities in the province), the Battle of Alberta extends to fundamental belief systems, to political preferential treatment, to bigotry, inclusion, and of course… money.

Which is truly the greater city? As a lifelong resident of Edmonton, my honest answer is that I don’t care. Both cities are gorgeous: they have the Stampede, we have the continent’s most impressive Fringe Theatre Festival. They have proximity to the magnificent mountains, we have an exquisite river valley. They are the economic home-base of the province, we have a gigantic mall.

But enough of the niceness. Let’s see how this got ugly.

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The Battle of Alberta extends for centuries before there was even an Alberta over which to battle. The Blackfoot Confederacy was the political union among the Blackfoot tribes who moseyed about southern Alberta and Montana, killing buffalo and living a northern version of the indigenous lifestyle of the American Indian. Up in the boreal forest that covered the northern half of the as-yet-undesignated province, the Cree and their allies (known as the Iron Confederacy, making the history of this region sound like a bad-ass Native version of Game of Thrones) lived a subarctic lifestyle, which involved trapping and fur-trading. Read more…

Day 411: Welcome To Nickname City!

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A city’s nickname holds, in my estimation, no appeal to tourists. Some may possess the kind of staying-power that shortens the legs on advertising execs’ pants, like The Big Apple, The Big Easy, The Easy Apple, The Windy City, or The Big Easy Sister Cities of Brotherly Love Of Wind. But more often, they don’t mean much to anyone, aside from the council members who voted for it and the guy who got paid to build the signs.

Edmonton, where I greet and curse each new day, is known as the City of Champions. This designation came about in the 1980’s, when the Oilers were winning a lot of Stanley Cups (hasn’t happened in 22 years and counting), the Eskimos were Canadian Football champs (there are eight teams in the league – everybody ends up winning eventually), and I think our minor-league baseball team was pretty good (they’re long gone now). We’d also gone through a tornado that killed three dozen people in 1987, so mayor Lawrence Decore slapped that slogan on all the signs leading into the city. But are we champions? I don’t see it.

The cities and towns in Iowa have their own nicknames, likely none of which truly identify the soul of their city. I don’t know, let’s have a look.

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Fort Madison, Iowa, is known as Pen City, which would be perfectly apt if the entire city – or even just a building or two – was constructed out of pens. Sadly, this is not the case. Fort Madison is the hometown for Sheaffer Pens though, which employed much of the town after its founding in 1912. But the company up and split for Shelton, Connecticut, leaving Fort Madison pen-less.

Well, almost. There’s still that other pen – the Iowa State Penitentiary, the most nefariously tough maximum security prison in the state. I’m not certain if this is the means by which Fort Madison residents wish to be identified, but for now, this is the pen they get. Read more…

Day 241: A Brief History Of The CFL

Despite my geographical position in one of the most tundra-ish of Canadian cities, I have found that the majority of my readers are located in the United States. I have also found that I possess a dependable disinterest for Canadian football, opting each and every Sunday (Grey Cup Sunday included) to watch NFL games instead. For me, the players are better, the game is more strategic and interesting, and the rules make more sense.

Nevertheless, Ms. Wiki decided to send me on a post route deep into the secondary of the CFL this morning, so it is for my home and native land that I pen this kilograph. Apologies to my fellow countrymen and countrywomen if I come off sounding a little bit cynical.

The history of football can appear deceiving. We are six months removed from the 46th Super Bowl, yet the 100th Grey Cup (the CFL championship) is right around the corner. Yet the game of football as we know it – at least in these two countries – was invented in America, right? So how could this be?

MAGIC?!?!?!

No, it’s rugby.

Oh. Well, shit.

Rugby-inspired football was actually first played by a British Army garrison in Montreal in the 1860s, and soon spread all over Canada. Okay, ‘all over’ Canada refers mainly to Ontario and Quebec; I think the rest of the country was busy trading beaver pelts and trying not to die of exposure to cold to put together a competitive rugby team. But the Canadian Rugby Union called the shots for every league and every team that mattered in the late 1800s.

The reason the CFL plays with 110 yards is because that’s actually correct. When the game was brought over the border to Harvard, they didn’t have a field large enough to host a proper game of rugby football, so they set their size at 100 yards, with less width and tinier end zones. The field size also explains the American reduction to 11 players per side, as opposed to 15 for Canadian (which dropped to 12 as the rules changed) – there just wasn’t room. The Americans also upped the number of downs to four from three because they wanted to see more offense.

This blows my mind a little. I grew up thinking that Canadian football was a bastardized form of the American game, when in fact the opposite is true. Read more…