THE OPENING OF LITTLE BRICK

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If you want to read about the last eight games of the Oilers’
season against the Western Conference, who are licking their chops in
anticipation of handing our local squadron their asses, this ain’t the article
for you.

This is about decoupling our city’s self image from our beloved
Oilers until they can get their shit together and give us something
to believe in again.

Consider yourself warned.

One of the really interesting phenomena surrounding the
Oilers is that they have such a large impact on our collective city
swagger.  For many Edmontonians the
Oilers are Edmonton and vice versa. I count myself among those people. If they suck I feel like I suck too on some level. Ridiculous but true.

So when the Oilers decide to steer the ship into the ground
and be last place for almost a decade our city’s self image
suffers as a result. “The Oilers suck therefore we suck” is a strangely
contagious attitude among our fellow hockey fans.

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The protracted arena negotiations put this negative attitude towards building Edmonton on public display. There is
a very vocal group of people in Edmonton who think that 100% of available funds
should be pumped  into pothole maintenance and the rest of the city can
crumble into dust. This isn’t an Edmonton-only phenomenon but what is missing here is an equally loud camp of people devoted to building wicked stuff in Edmonton to
counteract this draining effect.

Say what you want about the arena and how it was handled in
the public domain (read: poorly), but I personally have an infinite amount of respect for
Daryl Katz and Mayor Mandel for getting this done and taking what was a large
gravel parking lot calling itself “North Downtown” and building what will be the nicest arena in the NHL. Not in Toronto, NYC or LA. 

In Edmonton.

This does a world of good for the city, bringing people and
businesses downtown to what was a wasteland before. Spare me the economic white papers
from people who haven’t built a thing in their lives telling us all it’s a sink
hole for cash. You can’t quantify the impact on our civic image when beautiful
stuff gets built and gets a ton of public use. You gotta have stuff to point to
where you can show your aunt visiting from Thunder Bay “look at all our nice stuff here in Edmonton Auntie Helen.* We rule.”

The arena will be an international calling card for a
generation or two. Believe that.

*Not an actual aunt

SWAGGER ON 1.5 OUT OF 1000000

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Because of OilersNation and approximately 12.5 billion career tweets, I get to interact with a lot of hockey fans around
the world. And a great many of those people have been telling me Edmonton sucks
since we started the site back in 07. Phase I of hearing this all the time was
telling them “NO YOU SUCK” in various ways. Over the years the Oilers have
given us zero things to be jacked about but Oilers fans have done a remarkable
job of holding our heads high on social media and still finding ways to tell
fans of way better teams to stuff it. Phase II is to start doing something to change this incorrect perception of the best place on Earth.

Edmonton is a funny city – a great many of us that live here truly think it does suck. We are blessed with a globally hot
economy, tons of cool stuff to do and a population of friendly people and sexy women.
We are near enough to the mountains to make a weekend ski trip a certainty. We
have a major airport that can whisk you away to wherever you want to go if you
need a break from our winter deep freeze. 

But our swagger and self worth is a
fraction of what it should be. It’s like our spirit broke a long time ago, from a
combination of economic recession, Calgary swallowing our business community
whole in the mid 90s and yes, our Oilers sucking the ol’ banana for as long as
anyone cares to remember. 

This is bullshit of the highest order.

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They want to change the name of the City of Champions for
heaven’s sakes. But the defeatist set that wants this to occur is
fortunately torpedoing itself due to the cost of making new signs at the city
limits. This is so cringe worthy that it bears repeating – we are too cheap to
remove our self titled Champion status signs and declare ourselves “City of Whatever.” It makes my eyes cry tears of blood.

Edmontonians should not only find examples of champions in
their midst and praise them by all means available but we should be building city signs of solid platinum using The Expensive Sign Corporation if this is
how we decide we need to move forward.

A NEW ERA IS UNDERWAY

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There are flickers of hope though, in the gloom and doom.
There is a new trend of Edmontonians engaged in a flurry of activity, doing an array of wicked stuff — new restaurants, new artists, new designers. New
companies proudly pumping themselves and Edmonton on social media and in press.
It’s a new phenomenon in Edmonton and it represents the turning of a great new page in
our history.

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This needs to be encouraged and we can all participate in our own ways to making Edmonton better. From where I sit we need a lot more of this can do spirit to rebuild our civic pride, including:

1. Get cool stuff happening – build cool places for more
cool stuff to happen. 

2. Promote the shit out of it #1

3. Repeat as necessary until pride restored.

PROMOTING YEG

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OilersNation and Tourism Edmonton has been
collaborating for a couple years now – bringing
in the cool kids like the Royal Half (LA) Steve Dangle (TOR) and Violent
Gentlemen (LA.) We showed them around Edmonton, watched the Oilers get
shattered and found these trips had an interesting dual effect. 

Firstly it
brings cool people to Edmonton. From what I am told people were recognizing the
VGHC at the Crashed Ice and couldn’t believe that they were in Edmonton. Why
exactly shouldn’t they be here? Edmonton rules and – ah never mind. 

*grinds teeth*

Secondly, guess
what: everyone we brought in had a fantastic time and left saying, “Wow,
Edmonton is actually pretty cool. I had no idea.” It makes the heart swell with
pride when pro skateboarding legend Mike Vallely comes to Edmonton, declares it
awesome and goes to a local skate park and busts moves for shocked Edmonton
kids. Same when Kings of Cool VGHC roll through and say, “Man, I had no idea this
is what Edmonton is like. It’s great.”

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We need to build new things we can be proud of and amp up
the events that bring people to the city. Look at the value of the Red Bull
Crashed Ice. There were people lined up on Jasper Ave like World
War II had just come to a close. It makes the heart swell again, seeing how everyone was so proud of how the city looked
and how nearly 100,000 people came out to watch. It was probably one of the
highlights of the last few years and had zero to do with the Oilers, the Eskimos or West Edmonton Mall – our usual calling cards. 

For too long we have relied on our sports teams
for our swagger. They have failed us on every level for almost a decade – we need to move on to new things and restore pride in Edmonton. Then these athletes will understand they would be oh so lucky to be considered Edmontonians and represent us on the world’s stage.

Here
is another new thing.

LITTLE BRICK

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In wandering around the River Valley last summer, we found a
wicked old 1903 mansion once owned by a founder of Edmonton, JB Little. His once ballin house had
been abandoned to tenants who had been throwing the party of the century for
the past six years in it.

The ol’ girl was in tough shape. Broken everything, pipes
and wiring predating Jesus himself. A who’s who of asbestos. Plenty
of reasons why no one wanted anything to do with buying it and it sat on the market for months.

Here in the nicest part of Edmonton, in an area devoid of
anything to do except sit on your porch, was an absolute jewel – just a little
bit down on her luck. At first I thought, “Oh man, what a shame that we let
things like this get ruined,” but then after talking with much smarter men than
I we decided to do something about it.

And so, six months later, Little Brick Café and General Store launches
tomorrow. You can read all the facts about it here in the Edmonton Journal here. Coles notes: It is an amazing cafe in an amazing old house like you see elsewhere and think, “Why don’t we have these in Edmonton?” 

We tricked an Edmonton Champion and cafe king Nate Box into getting involved, and he and his team should be commended for doing such a great job getting it built and ready to go.

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The Little Brick team will be hosting some awesome stuff here. We will be
offering inexpensive wedding packages in the impossibly posh yard we are rebuilding over the summer. We will also be rolling out a kickstarter sponsorship
program for any companies/products from Edmonton and area looking for places to
demo their ideas and raise cash. We are also working on using Little Brick as a venue for a
whole new level of awesome that is being plotted in bunkers deep underground.

It’s only a small step, but it is part of a larger movement already underway in Edmonton. Rather than thinking, “Why would we let this awesome Edmonton landmark get so gross and inevitably knocked down?” and blame Lauren Pronger, we rallied a team and did
something about it, and it is the tip of the iceberg for the plans we have in
the coming years. But for now, we have a firm flag planted in the River Valley
and we can start moving outwards and upwards.

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Maybe you don’t want to build a restaurant or restore an old
brick house. Maybe you don’t want to start a business selling bespoke footwear or start a blog covering all that is happening in Edmonton. But there are many things we can all do to continue rebuilding our
civic image while the Oilers try attempt #1048 to rebuild themselves. 

I bet we
can be done faster.

  • SSB1963

    I was listening to that Montreal based show on NHL Centre Ice recently. The subject of the city of Edmonton came up, and one host said that he couldn’t think of anything worse than going to a game here. The other host asked him if he had ever been here, and he said no. Our reputation isn’t as good as is should be. I have always loved it here, and a lot of people that visit here like it too. Wanye’s article is a great start. We don’t have to shamelessly promote our city as the next NYC, like Calgarians do. There are only a few cities in the world that are in a class with NYC, London, Paris, etc. we need to promote what makes this city great.