Opinion
By Séamus Smyth

Another NHL lockout means a winter season sans hockey, which for the majority of Edmontonians equals an unfathomable level of sorrow. There is no other city whose identity is more infused with their NHL hockey club than the city of Edmonton.

Yet with no hockey this season, it may be the perfect time for the city dwellers to finally begin searching for other ways to define their winter lives that stretch beyond sticks and pucks.

The city of Calgary is in mourning just as every other Canadian city. Yet, the difference between the Southern Alberta hub and the north is notable. Unlike Edmonton, life in Calgary will go on.

Hockey talk will subside and Calgarians will happily find other activities to keep them busy while awaiting the resurgence of the NHL.

But the mood in Edmonton becomes borderline suicidal. During the Stanley Cup run in 2006, Edmonton was probably one of the wildest places on the planet. But when the NHL shuts its doors, as it has now done three times in the past 18 years, the city is a sprawling morgue.

The name itself, Oilers, is a direct reference to the oil rigs that are in relatively close proximity to the capital city. It is one of many reasons why the hockey club is so identifiable and precious to the 900,000 plus residents.

It is also why this freezing metropolis must begin finding other avenues of being entertained. The Oilers are more than just a sports club in Edmonton, but represent a distinct culture founded on a blue-collar mentality that associates entertainment almost strictly with alcohol, wings and hockey.

It would be beneficial and even healthy to the city and its inhabitants to finally break the ice on new ventures and hobbies that extend beyond the oil drop.

The city quietly boasts one of the most modern art galleries in the country. The city’s Princess movie theatre located on Whyte Ave is a rare and vintage experience that will go the way of its former competition, the Garneau, if the seats do not remain full over the winter months. The mountains are not exactly in Edmonton’s backyard like the way they are for Cow-town or Van-City, but they are still worthy of the three-hour trek.

There is of course Hawrelak Park that although in the summer is essentially a duck-feces collection agency, in the winter it is truly a remarkable sheet of ice that invites all to rejoice in its winter wonderland.

So rather than seek out where Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have been knocking back shooters while they await the green light from their employers, it would be amazing to see Edmonton begin to broaden its reputation. Even if it is just to begin supporting other local sports teams (besides hockey clubs) it could give the world a reason to begin associating Oil City with attributes beyond Stanley Cup ambitions.

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