November of 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the opening of the old Northlands Coliseum, later renamed Skyreach Centre, later renamed Rexall Place, now back to Northlands Coliseum. As I wrote in my blog, I was just a rube from the sticks (the sticks being Edmonton), and I was in awe of the “magnificient” new arena. It was, and still is, basically a utilitarian building, designed so everyone could get a good view of the ice, and little else. But still, compared to what Edmonton had at the time, it was, well magnificent.
On Saturday, I joined the throngs of rubbernecking Edmontonians who wanted to be the first to see the new, even more magnificent arena, the generically titled Rogers Place. Back when Northlands opened, I was just a punk kid and easily impressed. Now I’m a jaded junior senior, and not so easily impressed.
Having now seen what all the fuss is all about, all I can say is … wow.
Just wow. It’s amazing what they can do with $600 million. I am so glad I got to see this place before the Oilers stink it up.
It’s open, it’s airy, it’s extraordinarily spacious. The worst thing about the formerly magnificent coliseum was that it appeared to have been built when the average person was 5’4″ and 140 lbs. This place is built for the wide-loads we have become. Despite the fact that there were thousands of people in the building, there was only one small space where there was a modest bottleneck. Northlands is ALL bottlenecks,.
The video screen above the ice is enormous (the biggest in the league, so we’re told) and has a clarity that is somehow better than reality. I think a lot of hockey fans will spend all of their time watching the screen instead of the ice.
While the rich tofts of course have suites and the best seats, the folks in the cheap seats (“cheap” being a relative term) are treated well. The upper concourse is every bit as spacious as the lower levels, and chock-a-block with places to eat and drink. The seats (which we were not allowed to sit in) are at a very steep angle, and no doubt short on leg room, but they were fully padded.
Design-wise, I can’t really see a flaw. There are dozens of exits, so leaving the building should be a snap. But there are also so many restaurants and places to drink that thousands of people might linger for a bite or a beer, alleviating the much-feared street congestion.
Many concession booths were open, and fully staffed.Yet virtually nobody was buying. Could it be that the food costs were so stupidly high, that the average schmo going to an open house for free was turned off by them? You could buy a burger and fries for $15, which is high, but not stupidly high. Stupidly high was the $5 charge for a chocolate bar! Seriously. Five bucks for a bar. The Oilers are free to charge whatever they want, but I can’t believe anyone would pay five bucks for a chocolate bar. (A bag of Old Dutch chips, by the way? A much more reasonable $4.50. Such a deal!)
But hey, I’m never going to buy an Oiler ticket (Oil Kings, maybe), and I’m never going to spend a penny on concessions. The only thing I care about is the building, and it’s a real gem, a game changer for downtown Edmonton.
As one of my sons said as we entered the building, “Is this still Edmonton?” Yep, it is. Maybe even the New Edmonton.
Judging the judge
The most scrutinized man in Canada today is Federal Court Justice Robin Camp. Justice Camp, of Calgary, is facing a rare public disciplinary hearing about his conduct during a rape trial in 2014. During the trial, Camp asked the alleged victim (whom he repeatedly called “the accused”) “couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” Now, that sounds terrible, and it is. But context is everything. Taken on its own, it sounds like a scold, an accusation that if the complainant wasn’t such a slut, she wouldn’t have found herself in that situation. But in fact, Camp was asking a question based on the circumstances the woman found herself in. He wasn’t saying, “you should have kept your knees together like a good girl,” he was actually asking why she didn’t keep her knees together to defend herself. It doesn’t excuse the rank stupidity of the question, but it puts it into some context. What the hearing has revealed, much more than Camp’s insensitive questioning, is a serious flaw in our legal system. Camp was appointed to the bench to preside in criminal cases like this one without having had any previous experience as a criminal trial lawyer. He was a corporate lawyer, with virtually zero experience in down-and-dirty criminal cases. And he got virtually no training in how to handle rape trials. The real disgrace here is not Camp’s question, but Camp’s appointment.
Greta Friedman, 92, the nurse photographed kissing a sailor in that famous American photo taken on VJ Day …Hugh O’Brian, 91, who played Wyatt Earp in the an old TV series from the 1950s … Isabelle Dinoire, 49, recipient of the world’s first partial face transplant.