RE­HASH OF CHAM­PI­ONS

Edmonton Journal - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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