REHASH OF CHAMPIONS
Like watching the Edmonton Oilers with a 3-0 lead in the third period’s dying minutes, Edmontonians thought it was safe to move on. But the City of Champions controversy has returned and that’s almost as inconceivable and frustrating as the Anaheim Ducks coming back in Game 5.
It was almost exactly two years ago that Edmonton city council voted to cast off what was seen as a obsolete tag line from several highway entrance signs, which like the slogan itself, evoke all the stylistic flair of a wood-panelled basement rumpus room in the 1980s.
Coun. Tony Caterina is calling for the civic rallying cry to be resurrected and the issue will be dutifully rehashed on May 30.
The issue’s return dovetails with the resurgence in popularity and on-ice success of the city’s NHL franchise. But with the Oilers still battling in the preliminary rounds after 11 years out of the playoffs, it seems somewhat premature to dub ourselves civic titleholders of anything — other than the rousing of sleeping dogs, recycling of worn-out material, or re-enacting the movie Groundhog Day.
Caterina insists he’s not reclaiming this hoary debate from the trash heap because of the Oilers’ coincidental return to glory. He reminds us that the slogan has nothing to do with sports at all, but is dedicated to the volunteers who cleaned up the city in the devastating aftermath of the deadly 1987 tornado. That claim has been around as long as the slogan itself, yet most people still associate the catchphrase with sporting achievement alone. Visitors too can be expected to continue mocking the self-proclaimed city of winners when its athletes fall short.
To erase any confusion, Caterina wants the moniker back, this time with an explanation of what it actually means. But slogans which require footnotes or explanatory origin stories automatically fail at the job of quickly conveying the intended message.
Muddying the waters, there are other communities which call themselves City of Champions and make no bones about the fact it’s because of sporting accolades. There’s Duncanville, Texas, Brockton, Mass., and Inglewood, Calif. to name only a few of North America’s cities of champions. That Edmonton would share the City of Champions name with various small- to midsized municipalities is yet another strike against it. If Edmonton really needs a slogan, let it not be a generic label but one that reflects a unique and compelling city.
Sadly, to outsiders and residents alike, it’s the endless bickering about whether Edmonton should be called the City of Champions that says more about the place than any slogan ever could.