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That Sign Thing

I didn’t arrive in Edmonton until 1989, so I wasn’t around when the City of Champions signs went up around the city. I was, however, somewhat puzzled and disappointed when the decision was made to take that portion of the signs down and I’m certainly interested in seeing what happens when city council re-visits the issue Tuesday.

I don’t have a lot of emotional skin in the game in terms of the origins of the signs and my life certainly doesn’t revolve around how this thing plays out – it won’t change for better or worse no matter what happens – but I find myself pulling for the growing group that is pushing for a return of the moniker. There’s an item about it here.

City of Champions is a saying — whether you identify it with the Edmonton Oilers and Eskimos, other sports teams or individuals in the city or none of the aforementioned – and not an original one at that. Several cities have adopted it. It is three words incorporated into a sign welcoming people to the city. It’s a slogan, although I’m a bit hesitant to even use that word because it’s somehow taken on a extra-cheesy meaning during this debate.

Councillor Michael Oshry, who represents the area I live in but most certainly does not represent my thoughts on this particular issue, feels the city doesn’t need a slogan at all. “Slogans are out of date and they don’t work … at the end of the day the city means different things to different people and you can’t encompass what it means to everybody by a slogan.” The editorial board at the Edmonton Journal is onside with Oshry.

WHAT’S THE DOWNSIDE?

Oshry, who attaches the irritating hashtag #bringbacktherathole to any debate he engages in about the issue on Twitter, says slogans “don’t work.” Don’t work? Work as in, what? They’re words on a sign. How can they work or not work? If Oshry means they don’t fit, I’d like to know how they don’t fit. Do those words define everyone and everything in and about the city? No, of course not.

That said, is Edmonton not a City of Champions? Whether you’re talking about what happens on a hockey rink or in any other area of athletic competition, about culture, arts, education or about the unquestionable civic pride residents have shown in banding together through some unquestionably difficult times over the years, how is the saying, slogan if you will, City of Champions a negative? What’s the downside? Who is being excluded?

This city is defined by the people in it, not words on a sign. I get that part. No disagreement here are all. I just don’t get why that particular part of the signs came down in the first place. All the signs are dated as hell from top to bottom, so if the decision had been made to take them down in their entirety and update them, then fine. All good. But making the argument the words don’t fit? No sale here.

The look of this city as changed considerably since I arrived 27 years ago, and for the better in most cases – I was never big on that cement-pebbled look that made up a lot of building exteriors in the downtown area, not to mention the signs in question. I thought the signs were ugly the minute I arrived. The sentiment behind the “slogan?” I liked that just fine. Still do.

Where do you come down on this?

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • I’m happy for former Oiler Rocky Thompson, who hoisted the Memorial Cup as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires on the weekend. Thompson, known to many during his playing days as a wild-eyed tough guy when he broke in to the NHL with the Calgary Flames, always has been more than a willing set of knuckles. He’s a sharp guy who has paid his dues since entering the coaching ranks.
  • Like Todd Nelson and Geoff Ward, who spent many seasons as an assistant with Claude Julien in Boston, Thompson is one of many quality coaches who passed through Edmonton during tough times and didn’t really have a chance to shine and stick around.
  • I’m going with the Nashville Predators over the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the Stanley Cup final. Probably a bad bet given that the Predators are hurting, but I’d like to see GM David Poile hoist the Cup after all the years he got the job done on shoestring budget Music City and I know the honky-tonks down on Broadway will be rocking. Fun city.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • smiliegirl15

    We are not the City of Champions because of our sports teams. We are the City of Champions for reasons such as the mic failure during the playoffs, for raising copious amounts of money for charities and for being a super friendly population. The main thing I noticed when I moved here many moons ago was how friendly people were and I felt right at home. Still here so there must be something to that.

    • There’s obviously a component of this that is tied to the sports teams and nobody has to apologize for that, but you’re right, the name goes well beyond that. Civic pride, and all the things that go into it, tops the list. No “slogan” encompasses everything, but the term champions goes well beyond the field of play. Like I said in the item, I don’t see the downside.

  • geoilersgist

    The debates about a sign for a city are ridiculous. It shouldn’t have been removed in the first place. I live in cowtown and a few years ago they changed the slogan here to “Be part of the energy” (I think) from “heart of the new west”. To me it is more of a waste of tax dollars to change these things. Leave the slogans as they were.

  • positivebrontefan

    There is always some jerk who is pissed that something wasn’t their idea, so they want to change it. And we in our bleeding heart society cave to the people who cry the loudest about the stupidest things. How many people actually wanted it removed in the first place? 5%? And why? I, and most people I know, still refer to Edmonton as the City of Champions, for so many reasons beyond the sports team, but its funny how, the Eskimos win a Grey Cup a year ago, and the Oilers make the Playoffs and have some resemblance of a Cup Contending team, and now the City of Champions debate comes back. C’mon Man!!!

  • Derian Hatcher

    There are many hockey people I would love to have a beer with and Rocky Thompson is one of them. I love his enthusiasm and energy. Congrats on winning the Memorial Cup.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    About 50 clicks or so north of High Prairie, up where European farmers and French fur traders once settled the land alongside the Woodland Cree and other indigenous people, is the Peavine Metis Settlement. With a population is around 1,000, Peavine is a pretty typical community in that part of the province. Oil, gas and agriculture dominate the local economy, although you might be surprised to find out that that commercial fishing is also listed; there are lots of fish in the lakes around the area. One of the first, original “officially-recognized” Metis Settlements in Alberta, Peavine’s surnames reflect its French/European heritage: Laboucan, L’Hirondelle, Auger, Limoges, Chalifoux, Anderson, Cunningham, Letendre.

    It’s also smack-dab in the middle of a largely-unmined deposit of oilsands and, depending on what happens with the price of oil and/or climate change stuff in the next little while, Alberta may very well have another Wood Buffalo on its hands, this time in what’s called the East Peace.

    Peavine also considers itself to have a tradition of athletic excellence … so much so, in fact, that it gave itself a familiar nickname that you’ll see on its sign welcoming visitors on the way in to the community.

    “Welcome to Peavine Metis Settlement.”
    “Settlement of Champions.”

    I don’t know how long they’ve used that nickname, but it’s safe to assume that the inspiration was as much drawn from Edmonton’s use of it as the settlement’s notable success on local hockey rinks and fastball diamonds (there’s a hockey player and baseball player on the sign).

    In other words, it’s probably a nickname that’s used as much to invoke civic pride as boast of athletic achievement. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Anyway, I’m not holding this up as an argument for or against Edmonton re-adopting the slogan. With all due to respect to Robin’s well-argued points, I think that for a city the size and age of Edmonton’s, it’s probably best if we moved on from City of Champions and think something more creative and original. Surely we can move on from the City of Champions days.

    But it’s interesting to consider that there are other communities in Alberta, big and small, that have drawn inspiration from Edmonton’s usage of the slogan.

  • Ty Guy

    This is far better than when they decided to try change the city Calgary to Calgary city…..how many millions were burned changing out city vehicles to change them back in 6 months because everyone hated it….Calgary City…pffffftt

  • Gerald R. Ford

    The best civic pride-related sign I ever remember seeing was the one they had at the old Metrodome, a facility hated equally by opposing players who feared the unpredictable spongy turf and snow-coloured roof that made the baseball disappear, and by baseball purists everywhere, most notably Bob Costas. It wasn’t the greatest or prettiest venue, but it was all that the Twins fans had, and it served them very well over the years. The sign simply said:

    “Metrodome-Minneapolis… WE like it here.”

    I’ve always thought that would be a great slogan for Edmonton.

  • Alberta Ice

    Speaking of signs: I saw one down on the Idaho Panhandle some years ago advertising an auto repair shop. It said, “We meet the nicest people by accident.” In the 1980’s, Edmonton won a lot of championships (Oil and Esks) and it did reflect civic pride. Those dynasty years are long gone now- but oldtimers remember those years and the City of Champions sign with fondness and a grin.

  • That's My Point

    I’m all for Edmonton returning the “City of Champions” signs back. I was a bit upset when I saw the Pittsburgh Penguins had the “City of Champions” slogan on their jerseys in 2017.

  • Chipper

    Wasn’t the phrase “City of Champions” born from the response of the citizens helping each other after the Friday, July 31, 1987 tornado in Edmonton?

  • I honestly think alot of the dissent to bringing “City of Champions” back centers around the wish of city council members wish to appeal to younger millenial voters who grew up in the participation ribbon era. For them “winning” is too adverserial and lacks a sense of inclusion and/or diversity. The problem is that if you’re everything for everybody you have no real sense of identity, which is kind of where we are as a city.

    City of Champions is a great starting point. The trick would be to put some context into the meaning so as to have broad appeal yet still contain the essence of who and what the city is all about.

    • Derian Hatcher

      I’m with you… In this world of “selfies” and many, many people begging for attention, one way or another, humility remains a very under rated trait that is extremely refreshing when exhibited.

  • Heschultzhescores

    That saying should have been copyrighted. Because everyone like to Copy E-town. Our way of singing anthems, Our outdoor classic hockey game…Our slogan “City of Champions”. “Home of the leaders” might be available.

  • McPlayoffs

    For those of us old enough to remember and were around Edmonton in 1987 I believe that mayor Laurence Decore made a statement that the people of this city responded in the aftermath of the tornado like a city of champions. That was a devastating day in the City of Edmontons history, similar to the Fort Mcmurry fires and the Calgary floods. The slogan did the same for that incident as the “hell or high water” slogan mayor Naheed Nenshi made during the floods. I’m surprised this isn’t more well known and everyone (including city council) doesn’t know this. They assume it refers to our sports teams because of the coincidence of our dominent professional sports teams at that time. Ask people directly related to that horrible incident if they would have changed it. Ask them if they cared if it was “cheesy”. Ask the first responders, people who lost a loved ones that day, people that lost everything or suffered injuries that day if a slogan made to commemorate the heroism and heart ache feels out dated. I bet I know the answer. I don’t see the city taking down the plaque honouring constable Elio Faraone because its “out dated”. Nor do I see them changing park benches, ball diamonds, or other parks donated in someones honour for that reason. Stop worrying about what other cities think of us, start educating on the true meaning and bring back that cheesy outdated slogan that honour us old enough to remember. Because it never should have been taken down.

    • WhiskyBuzz

      This ^^^^

      Anyone who lived in Edmonton during the Tornado knows the true origin of “The City of Champions” and how everyone responded during this crisis.

      30 years on, I still remember that day and will forever call my hometown the City of Champions.

  • McPucker

    We recycled ‘Orange Crush’ this year. Why not ‘City of Brotherly Love’?

    We were toronado’d where I worked and I worked through the weekend. It was gratifying to see cranes going from site to site pro bono. Cranes and emergency vehicles being refueled pro bono, and everyone just anxious to help.

    The liked the sign. I didn’t the point of removing it, but now I don’t see the point of bringing it back. It would then be tied to the Oiler’s (but if I was on City Council, I’d vote to bring it back).