The Edmonton Oilers bid farewell to Rexall Place

Tonight the Edmonton Oilers played their final game in the building they have called home since 1974. Though its future remains uncertain, Rexall Place has been an important part of Edmonton for more than 40 years.

Farewell Rexall Place

The subject of its own, drawn out arena debate, Rexall Place was eventually built in the early 1970s. It opened on November 10, 1974 and the Oilers played their first game in the building that night. They won that game over the Cleveland Crusaders by a score of 4-1. For more on the history of Rexall Place, check out this great deep dive from David Staples.

Farewell Rexall Place

In addition to tonight’s celebrations at the building itself, the Oilers and the City held a rally in Churchill Square today. All former Oilers were invited to attend, and more than 100 did. The event was hosted by City Manager Linda Cochrane and was a nice opportunity for fans to join with the Oilers to say thanks to Rexall Place.

Farewell Rexall Place

Mayor Don Iveson, Jason Strudwick, Ryan Smyth, and Mark Messier all shared a few memories and tributes to Rexall Place.

Mark Messier

I thought it was very fitting that the crowd did the wave today at the rally given that Rexall Place is the venue in which the wave was perfected.

The Oilers have been preparing for this all season long, of course. Here’s what they had to say about leaving the building earlier today:

“Hours before opening faceoff, media members and arena workers flooded the halls, snapping photos of the old barn. The current players laughed at the fond memories of their home building, while lamenting missed opportunities in recent seasons. The alumni shared stories with the media and with each other, some serious and others hilarious tellings of locker room happenings. The mood at Rexall Place’s final pre-game morning was more joyful and reminiscent than sad, but it is sure to be an emotional evening of goodbyes for all those with ties to a historic venue.”

You can see the pre-game, in-game, and post-game videos and other media here.

Farewell Rexall Place

Northlands itself also had some positive things to say about the building today:

“On behalf of our board, staff and volunteers we want to thank the Edmonton Oilers for an amazing partnership,” said Tim Reid, Northlands President and CEO.

They also pointed out that while the Oilers won’t be playing at Rexall Place anymore, there are still other events on the schedule including the 2017 Ford World Men’s Curling Championships next April which is the final qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But for pro hockey at least, tonight was the end.

Oilers Superfan

For the current team, next season and the brand new Rogers Place can’t come soon enough. It hasn’t been a great season, but at least they ended on a high note tonight with a 6-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

You can see more photos from the lunch time rally here.

The Edmonton Oilers look to gain an edge with analytics & hackathons

The Edmonton Oilers are mining for gold, and they want you to help them do it.

Last Thursday they launched the Oilers Hackathon 2.0, an analytics competition that hopes to harness the collective intelligence and passion of Oilers fans to surface valuable information that could ultimately help to improve the team.

The Oilers challenge for Oil Country in the newly launched Hackathon 2.0 is to conjure up the proper methodology to solve one of four questions the team’s analytics group has created. Naturally you’ll need the statistical information to back-up your formula and that’s why the Oilers are opening their information vault to anyone with an analytical mind and a love of hockey.

The hackathon is a great opportunity for math-geeks-slash-hockey-fans to engage with the team in a different way. But as Kevin Lowe told me when we discussed the competition, it’s also a recognition that having data is just part of the puzzle. “It’s all find and dandy to have the data, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” The Oilers no doubt have some ideas about what to do with it, but they know others do as well.

oilers hackathon

This idea of tapping into the “wisdom of the crowd” is hardly new, and one of my favorite stories on the topic comes from Don Tapscott’s book Wikinomics. In the first chapter, he tells the story of Goldcorp Inc. and the decision by its CEO Rob McEwan to tap into the expertise outside his organization. McEwan told his head geologist the idea: “I’d like to take all of our geology, all the data we have that goes back to 1948, and put it into a file and share it with the world. Then we’ll ask the world to tell us where we’re going to find the next six million ounces of gold.”

It was a gamble, but with the company struggling McEwan was determined to try something different. The “Goldcorp Challenge” was launched in March 2000 with $575,000 in prize money available. The contest was a big success, as Tapscott explained. “Not only did the contest yield copious quantities of gold, it catapulted his underperforming $100 million company into a $9 billion juggernaut while transforming a backward mining site in Northern Ontario into one of the most innovative and profitable properties in the industry,” he wrote.

The use of statistical analysis in sports is not new either, and thanks to Moneyball many people have at least heard about analytics being applied to baseball. Though he is most often associated with politics these days, New York Times writer Nate Silver actually got his start with baseball. “I have been a fan of baseball – and baseball statistics – for as long as I can remember,” he wrote in his book The Signal and the Noise. He started creating statistics for the game when he was just twelve, and while working at KPMG he created PECOTA, a forecasting system for baseball player performance. There are good reasons that baseball has been at the forefront of analytics, as Silver explains:

“Baseball offers perhaps the world’s richest data set: pretty much everything that has happened on a major-league playing field in the past 140 years has been dutifully and accurately recorded, and hundreds of players play in the big leads every year.”

While baseball is a team sport, it is unlike hockey or basketball or most other team sports in that it proceeds in a linear fashion. You could argue that a batter or pitcher in baseball is more responsible for his or her own performance than a forward is in hockey. It’s therefore a little easier to test empirically a hypothesis in baseball than it is in hockey.

Still, that hasn’t deterred NHL teams from delving into the world of analytics (though there have certainly been ups and downs over the years). David Staples, a guest of the Oilers Analytics Working Group (AWG), wrote about its creation back in March:

Some pro hockey bosses have little time for “Moneypuck,” the notion that NHL teams can use advanced statistics to gain an advantage. Others are more open to this cutting edge work. But there’s no doubt that interest in the field is exploding.

The Oilers formed the AWG a little over a year ago as a result of an advisory group on analytics coordinated by the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension. Members of the AWG include Kevin Lowe, Nick Wilson, and a number of other members of the Oilers operations team, Cult of Hockey blogger Bruce McCurdy, University of Alberta professors Corey Wentzell and Bruce Matichuk, AICML’s Randy Goebel, and Daniel Haight of Darkhorse Analytics. The group meets monthly, though someone is looking at the data almost every day. The Oilers have purchased reports and other sources of data in the past, but with the AWG, they’re considering data and analytics more aggressively. They see hackathons as a key way to extract value from all of the data.

The Hackathon 2.0 offers anyone who is interested the chance to delve into more than 1 GB of CSV data going all the way back to 1918. That’s 1 GB of pure text, roughly equivalent to 1000 thick books, and much more than was available during the first hackathon. For a data geek like myself, it’s pretty exciting. Hardcore hockey fans also seem to like the idea. “This is entirely fascinating. I cannot believe it’s really happening,” wrote Justin Bourne on theScore’s blog. Some have even started analyzing the data. Not everyone is as optimistic, however. Well-known Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow wrote, “while I applaud the effort, I’m not really sure that I think they’re going to get a whole lot that’s useful out of it.”

My sense after talking to Kevin Lowe and Nick Wilson about the hackathon is that they are realistic about the potential for data analytics. “It’s about knowing where to spend your time and resources,” Kevin said. “The findings are not earth shattering, but it’s a little bit of knowledge that you can hand over to the coach that at the right moment he can use, or so that he has more confidence in his decisions.” Nick agreed. “It’s a two or three percent contribution, like everything else.”

That said, there is some optimism that a fan will come up with something the Oilers just haven’t thought of, with some nugget of gold. “What’s unique about math applied to sports is the undiscovered, the lingering moneyball,” Nick said. “There’s incredible fans, incredible intelligence in this city,” Kevin agreed.

A total of 400 entrants had registered for the hackathon as of this morning. If you want to participate, you’d better move quickly – the deadline to register is tomorrow. After filling out the form, you’ll receive an email with a link to download the data. From there you’ll have until February 15 to submit your methodology for answering four challenges set forth by the Oilers AWG. You can see the full contest details here.

If you don’t get the opportunity to participate this time, don’t worry, the Oilers are keen to do additional hackathons in the future. “It’s not a one-off, and we definitely want to do more,” Nick told me. That’s probably a good strategy, given that new data is available all the time. As technology improves, you can imagine all sorts of new statistics being tracked. For example, cameras could help to track the number of strides a player takes per shift, or the number of times he pivots on the ice.

I’m planning to participate in the hackathon, though for me it’ll be more for fun than anything. I have already enlisted the help of my Dad who is a much bigger hockey fan than I am, based on some advice from Nate Silver: “Statistical inferences are much stronger when backed up by theory or at least some deeper thinking about their root causes.” In other words, it helps to know a thing or two about hockey!

Edmonton benefits from seconded Oilers employees during the lockout

oilersThe players and the owners get the spotlight whenever the NHL lockout is discussed, but the lack of hockey affects many more people than that. At many teams, the employees that run the organization have been laid off or have had to take pay cuts due to the lack of revenue coming in. But for many of the Oilers staff, secondment to other organizations throughout the city has been a welcome alternative.

“Our biggest and most valuable asset is the people we have recruited and trained,” Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge told me. “The worst thing you can do is lay people off.” He knows it is not only difficult for the employees, who would have to go out and find new jobs and deal with everything that goes along with that, but also for the Oilers who will still need talented people once the lockout ends.

The Oilers have done two key things to retain staff during the lockout. The first is that the senior executives all took a sizable pay cut, and the difference is used to ensure that all employees who make less than a certain amount of money per year still earn 100% of their salaries. That leaves the folks in the middle, and that’s where the secondment idea comes in. During the last lockout in 2004, a few Oilers employees found temporary homes at other organizations. One of the employees had a connection with the company that suggested the secondment, and the Oilers decided to give it a shot. “This time, everyone was prepared,” Patrick said.

The Oilers currently have 22 employees seconded to other organizations in Edmonton (that’s about 30% of the folks in the middle). Pennock Acheson Nielsen Devaney took six accountants on board, and other employees have gone to Body by Bennett, the Winspear Centre (including Tony Bao, who the Journal and Sun both wrote about), Williams Engineering, West Edmonton Mall, and a number of other local companies and non-profits. The employees stay on the Oilers payroll, earn their full salaries, and retain all of their benefits, and the Oilers simply invoice the companies for part of the employee’s salary. Most employees have two week notice periods with their temporary employers, so if the lockout were to end the Oilers could be back up and running at full capacity in short order.

Regardless of what happens with the lockout, the employees will likely be back with the Oilers full-time in February as the organization ramps up to sell season tickets for the 2013-2014 campaign. But that may not be the end of the secondments; Patrick indicated that the Oilers may explore the idea for the summer too.

There’s a risk that the Oilers will lose some of these people, but it doesn’t seem likely. “It’s about good commerce in the city,” Patrick told me. It certainly does seem like a win-win-win. The employees get to keep their jobs and paychecks, and they’ll be exposed to new ideas and approaches along the way. The employers get to take advantage of some talented individuals, which is a big deal in Edmonton’s tight labour market (it took just ten days to place the 22 individuals). And the Oilers get to retain their employees and will likely experience a jolt of energy and fresh ideas when they all return.

Actually, they’re probably experiencing that already. Every two weeks the team gets together to swap stories and to share the things they have learned. “Having a culture where everyone is learning is important”, Patrick said. While I’m sure the Oilers would rather be in the middle of a season right now, the opportunity for employees to learn new things from other local organizations probably isn’t such a bad thing.

Could this happen in other cities? Sure, but it’s no surprise that it’s happening here. As Todd wrote, Edmonton is “an unusually open city: open to ideas and open to change.” There’s a spirit of collaboration that makes partnerships like the ones the Oilers have forged possible.

Scared of social media? Follow Batman's lead

batman One of my favorite movies is Batman Begins. Near the beginning of the film is a scene in which a young Bruce Wayne goes to see crime boss Carmine Falcone. As their conversation comes to a close, Falcone says:

This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand.

I love this quote and often think of it when I come across an organization that seems to have trouble with social media (or citizen journalism, if you prefer). Pushback against social media, whether it’s against blogging, social networking, photography, Twitter, or something else, is almost always the result of fear caused by lack of understanding. Social media is a disruptive force, so if you don’t understand how it can be beneficial, it’s not surprising that it may at first seem scary.

The other reason I love this quote is that Falcone is wrong, of course – Bruce Wayne does eventually come to understand the crime world. It wasn’t easy, and it caused him to question himself and the way he perceived the world, but he became a better person because of it – he became Batman.

Getting over your fear of social media is simple:

  1. Admit that you don’t understand social media.
  2. Set out to rectify that.

In short, just follow Batman’s lead.

The natural result of completing those two steps is that you’ll be able to embrace social media and benefit from it.

Here are a couple of examples where local organizations didn’t follow Batman’s lead. Instead, they pushed back.

Century Hospitality’s Hundred: Everyone is a reviewer!

hundred bar kitchen Last Thursday, Sharon and I went to Edmonton’s new resto-pub downtown, called Hundred. It’s the latest member of the Century Hospitality family. As you may know, Sharon and I have been to dozens and dozens of restaurants in the last few years, and we’ve taken pictures of and reviewed all of them. So I was definitely surprised to find myself being questioned about taking photos at Hundred.

We follow a few simple guidelines when photographing our restaurant experience. First, we try to get pictures of both our dishes and the interior of the restaurant (sometimes the exterior too). Second, we do our best to avoid disrupting other guests – that’s why we never use the flash. We bought little tripods and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get decent photos in low-light areas.

We were following both of these rules at Hundred when I was approached by the manager, Dean. He asked if he could help me, and I said no, just taking some photos. He then told me that I couldn’t just take photos without getting permission first. When I asked him why, he stumbled a bit and then said he had no way of knowing whether I was from a competitor or not. He asked what the photos were for, and I said a review on a blog. That seemed to confuse him, and he asked again. I gave him the URL for Sharon’s blog, and sensing that it wasn’t going anywhere, asked him for a card and promised to send him the link.

I think that Dean simply felt that he had lost control somehow. When he learned that I wasn’t from the Journal, Vue Weekly or another conventional publication, he immediately got defensive about my activity. That suggests to me a lack of understanding about social media. For an organization that tries so hard to be hip and trendy, I find this a bit disappointing.

Dean – what you need to remember is that it’s not just the mainstream press that will be talking about your restaurant. Real people will have conversations about it too. Social media enables these conversations to be written down and shared, and that can be scary at first. The correct response is not to try and prevent them from happening, but to learn about social media and figure out how you can participate. Learn how to track mentions of your restaurant online, and comment on reviews and photos when you find them. I’ll help you get started – here is Sharon’s review, and here are my photos.

The Edmonton Oilers: I’m blogging this!

edmonton oilers logoDave Berry is an editor at Vue Weekly, and was also one of the main contributors to the Covered In Oil blog. That makes him one of the unique few that have a foot in both the old and new media worlds. On Sunday, October 12th when the Oilers played the Avalanche, Dave was in the press box and with some time on his hands, decided to liveblog the game. He was approached by the Oilers’ press guy, and was told that blogging wasn’t an acceptable use of the press pass. He was told to stop and delete the post, and that if he didn’t he’d be ejected from the building.

You can read Dave’s account here. And via Battle of Alberta, here’s a cached version of the post Dave was writing.

Maybe Dave got in trouble because of his witty writing, or maybe he got in trouble because he failed to read the fine print on his press pass, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Oilers press team wasted an opportunity to improve, an opportunity to understand social media and use it to their benefit.

Instead of threatening to kick Dave out of the box, they should have stopped and tried to learn more about what he was doing. Obviously they can’t issue press passes to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that Dave didn’t need a press pass to live blog the game. He could have done that from anywhere. The Oilers need to figure out how to work with bloggers, not against them.

I don’t know enough about the way the system works to comment beyond that. I think the Oilers may be restricted by the league in how they can engage with the media both offline and online, at least to a certain extent. I fully expect to hear from either the Oilers or the NHL one of these days, due to my creation and updating of the Edmonton Oilers account on Twitter. When asked if the NHL would try to protect Twitter accounts as intellectual property, Michael DiLorenzo, the NHL’s Director of Corporate Communications, simply said “not yet”. I’m hopeful for a positive outcome – after all, Michael himself is on Twitter.

Social Media is here to stay

The question is not whether bloggers, photographers, and others who publish things online should be ignored or treated like the mainstream media. The question is simply, what’s the best way to work with them?

I think it’s simple. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, and then find someone to help you. Stop being afraid of social media, and start embracing it. Follow Batman’s lead.

Hockey season returns: on the ice and in the blogs

nhl logo With variations depending on where you look, a few main categories tend to dominate the 130 million or so blogs available on the web. There are plenty of news and political blogs such as the Daily Kos, especially with the upcoming U.S. election. Some of the most highly-trafficked blogs focus on entertainment, such as TMZ. There are also lots of technology and business blogs, such as TechCrunch. And of course, there are millions of personal blogs written by people just like you. The Alberta blogosphere (blogs written by Albertans, taken collectively) has its fair share of blogs in each of these categories, as well as another popular category – hockey blogs.

Not only do Albertans love to watch hockey, they apparently love to write about it too! There are dozens of blogs about hockey in our province. At least 20 of them focus on the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, or both. Perhaps the most well known of all of these blogs is The Battle of Alberta. Written by Calgarian Matt Fenwick and Edmontonian Andy Grabia (with various contributors from time to time) the blog covers all things related to the Flames and Oilers, and frequently hosts passionate discussions in the comments section. The Battle of Alberta was created in September 2005 and averages 1500 page views per day.

Edmonton writer and National Post contributor Colby Cosh doesn’t write solely about hockey, but he does post quite often about the Oilers on his blog. Other popular blogs devoted to the Oilers include Covered in Oil, Lowetide, Hot Oil, and Irreverent Oiler Fans. Don’t worry if you get hooked reading these blogs – many of them frequently post in the off-season, and there are plenty of other Oiler blogs you can check out. In fact, there are so many blogs that write about the Oilers that they have given themselves a name – the Oilogosphere.

There are quite a few blogs for Flames fans also. Some of the more popular ones include Five Hole Fanatics, Completely Hammered, Hit The Post, Inside the Flames, and Igniting the Flame.

The great thing about these blogs is that they’re written by passionate fans. These bloggers generally aren’t interested in making money, and as a result tend to post things that you wouldn’t necessarily find in your local newspaper. For instance, The Battle of Alberta has done an excellent job of pointing out the rhetoric coming from all parties involved in the potential new hockey arena in Edmonton. Also unlike newspapers, Alberta’s hockey blogs are free of any restrictions on format or content. You’ll find team analysis, game recaps, statistics, news and rumors about trades and signings, discussion of articles in the mainstream media, and much more.

And from time to time you’ll even find some humor amongst the blog posts. The members of the Oilogosphere like to use their own terms to refer to players, plays, and other things such as the Colin Campbell Wheel of Justice – which refers to “the method by which the length of NHL suspensions is determined.” You can find an up-to-date glossary on The Battle of Alberta – they update it each season.

I’m quite excited for the return of hockey, and I’m sure Alberta’s hockey bloggers are too!

The Oilers begin their preseason tonight at home to the Canucks. You can find the game notes and a live stream here. The Flames get underway tomorrow night at home to the Panthers.

Edmonton Oilers Arena Feasibility Report – Link Roundup

edmonton oilers Earlier this week, the nine-member committee studying the feasibility of building a new hockey arena in Edmonton released their report. It contains no surprises, and recommends that if a new facility is to be built, it should be built downtown. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it on the news, but there are lots of excellent blog posts on the story that should not be missed. Here they are, with quotes.

From Covered in Oil:

The other question, whether a new arena would be better off in another part of the City will have to go unanswered, as the Feasibility Committee didn’t seem to even bother to look anywhere else.

From Grandinite:

If I get the underlying logic of this development, bringing people downtown will bring in cash. but that cash will flow out of the area if the owners do not live downtown. Sure, money will be spent at restaurants and casinos, but where do the profits go?

From Colby Cosh:

I’m not too clear after reading the summary just what is wrong with the existing Rexall Place. I was looking forward to some clear public explanation of this, but all we’ve been given is a lot of wind about “downtown revitalization.”

From The Battle of Alberta:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

We already have a hockey shrine in Edmonton. It’s called the Northlands Coliseum. You might remember it. You won five Stanley Cups there.

A arena without a history of accomplishment is not a shrine. It’s a mall with seats.

From Fighting for Taxpayers:

Dr. Brad Humphreys, the foremost expert on the economic benefits of professional sport teams and arenas has proven that there is not an economic growth, but merely a shift of where the money is spent.

From daveberta.ca:

Of course I want Edmonton’s downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won’t automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article’s have alluded). I’m still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown.

From Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying:

There will be a new arena and it will be downtown, any alternatives have pretty much been steamrolled over by the municipal government and the Edmonton media. There will be public funding, not direct tax increases, but by other means, and the province will give nothing.

From A Blog Of Pucks:

It would be an 18,000 seat 450 Million dollar arena. That’s great but once again I’ll ask the difficult question: Is this really going to make the wives like living in Edmonton any better? The committee better ask Pronger’s better half first.

And finally, this one isn’t a blog but an article at CBC today:

A new downtown Edmonton arena to replace Rexall Place could threaten one of the biggest annual events in the city, say officials with the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The owners of Rexall Place, Edmonton Northlands, are ruling out the possibility of keeping it open as is, if a new arena is built.

“We can’t have two competing large-scale facilities,” Jerry Bouma, chair of the board, said Wednesday.

Also, be sure to check out this interview with Brad Humphreys.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned.

Daryl Katz wants a new arena in Edmonton

rexallDaryl Katz, founder of the Rexall pharmacy company, announced yesterday that he had acquired 100% of the outstanding shares in the Edmonton Investors Group (EIG), making him the new owner of the Edmonton Oilers (pending league approval which is widely expected to come without any problems). Here’s what the somewhat reclusive Katz said in yesterday’s statement:

“Like the EIG and all Edmontonians, I want what is best for the team, the
community and the city. I want to help secure a world-class building and
continue the EIG’s legacy by bringing the Cup back to Edmonton.”

Today he held a press conference with select members of the media, which I listened to on 630ched. It was the first time since he started pursuing the Oilers last March that we’ve heard him speak about his motivations. I found most of his answers to be fairly simplistic, without much meat behind them. He said “I can’t comment on that” quite a few times.

One thing he did make clear, however, is that he is eager to see a new arena built in the heart of downtown. He wants the Oilers to play at the centre of the community.

Katz has suggested he’d be willing to commit $100 million towards the construction of a new arena. With estimates for the project ranging from $250 million to over $500 million (and possibly as high as $1 billion depending on the scope), there’s a lot of funding that will need to come from somewhere else. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe it should come from taxpayers. All Katz said today was that “there are lots of ways to fund real estate.”

I’m glad Katz is the new owner of the Oilers. Almost everyone associated with the team seems to like him, and I don’t think there’s any question that he’s got Edmonton’s best interests at heart. He also seems fairly level-headed about things, making clear today that he wants to read a pending report on the feasibility of a new arena before making any decisions.

That said, I hope his eagerness to build a new rink in Edmonton’s downtown does not turn into blind determination. Katz needs to be able to say no if it becomes clear that a new arena will only happen with significant public funding, at the expense of other, more important public projects.

Why not move to Edmonton?

Post ImageI’d like to take a moment to share with you some figures, statistics, and other information about the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As most of you reading this are probably aware, I live in Edmonton. I was born here, moved away for most of my youth, and have been back since 1998. I love the city, and while it is not without its faults, there are much worse places to live.

  • Edmonton is the capital city of the province of Alberta.
  • Edmonton is the sixth largest metropolitan region in Canada according to the 2006 Census, with a population of 1,034,945. (Source)
  • It is also the northernmost North American city with a metropolitan population over 1 million. (Source)
  • The population density of the Edmonton region is just 109.9 persions per square km. This is half the population density of the Calgary region, 1/7 of the Vancouver region, 1/8th of the Montreal region, 1/2 the Ottawa region, and 1/8th of the Toronto region. (Source)
  • Edmonton is home to West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping mall, and the third largest in the world. (Source)
  • WEM also holds the world record for the largest car park. (Source)
  • Edmonton receives 2,289 hours of sunlight each year, making it one of Canada’s sunniest cities. (Source)
  • There are more than 60,000 full time post-secondary students studying at schools in the Edmonton area. (Source)
  • A very impressive 66,000 new jobs are projected to be created in the Edmonton region between 2006 and 2010. (Source)
  • Edmonton did not make the 2006 list of most expensive cities in which to live (the list contained 150 cities). Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal all made the list. (Source)
  • Edmonton was named the Cultural Capital of Canada for the year 2007. (Source)
  • The annual Fringe festival is the largest alternative theatre event in North America. (Source)
  • Edmonton’s 60,000-plus elm trees make up the largest concentration of disease-free elm trees in the world. (Source)
  • Alberta is North America’s only rat free area (not including the territories). (Source)
  • Edmonton has 225 kilometers of designated bikeways, and 41 off-leash parks to walk with your dog. (Source)
  • The River Valley park system is the longest urban park in North America, 21.7 times larger than New York’s Central Park. (Source)
  • Edmonton is home to five professional sports franchises, including the very successful Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos. (Source)
  • Air quality in Edmonton is rated as good (the best level) at least 90% of the time for any given year. (Source)
  • Edmonton leads the nation in effective waste management. For example, the city’s curbside recycling program has reduced by 60% the waste sent to landfills. (Source)
  • Edmonton is down right beautiful at times, as you can see in the thousands and thousands of photos available at Flickr. (Source)

I could go on, but that’s a good start.

I look at #4, the population density, as a good thing. It may be a negative thing for hockey players and other celebrities seeking anonymity, however. One other negative that comes to mind is that we have a relatively high homicide rate, though it’s not as bad as rural regions of Alberta. Aside from that, what’s so bad about Edmonton?

Why do the wives of hockey players not want to live here? Is it just that Chris Pronger and Michael Nylander married nutcases, or is there more to it?

I don’t get it. However, unlike a lot of folks out there, I don’t think the blame falls entirely on Kevin Lowe’s shoulders. There’s got to be more to it. I’ll have more on this at SportsGuru this weekend, and I suspect my Dad might too.

What’s missing?

Oilers lose ten straight

Post ImageJust got back from the Oilers game. The Blues were in town tonight, complete with a bunch of ex-Oilers like Dvorak and Brewer (both of whom got points tonight). The Oil came into the game having lost their last nine games, and I was hoping my presence would stop the streak from going to ten. It didn’t.

You can read a game recap here. Dickson scored the tickets from a friend, and they were excellent – section 136, row 3. I don’t think I have ever sat that close before. We were right near the attacking zone blue line. It’s quite different seeing someone get crunched on the boards when you’re that close, let me tell you!

We also had club access, which is basically a mini-concourse downstairs. The club access is really nice because the bathrooms and bars are far less busy than those on the main concourse. We didn’t see any food vendors though, so maybe you still have to go back upstairs for that.

Anyway, we lost in overtime (I was hoping to see a shootout). That makes ten straight, just one away from matching the franchise record. The only positives now are seeing the young guys get some experience (and goals).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Smyth – Heavyweight Champion of Puck Tipping

Post ImageI’m still sad that Ryan Smyth is no longer an Oiler. I was happy to read about him in an article on NHL.com though. Author Evan Grossman calls Smyth the “heavyweight champion of puck tipping,” and has some excellent quotes from Smyth and Brodeur:

“That guy is unbelievable,” Brodeur said. “You can count all his goals over the season and I don’t think you could add them up to the blue line.”

Smyth says it’s all about practice:

“It’s the old cliché, practice makes perfect,” said Smyth, who was traded to the Isles from Edmonton at the trade deadline. “I do it every game day, at every morning skate, just tip pucks.”

After losing their fifth straight game last night, I think it’s safe to say the Oilers are definitely missing Ryan right now.

Read: NHL.com