Someone save me from another NHL season.

So here I am, basking in the late September sunshine, relishing a 27C day. That can only mean one thing — it’s hockey season!

Oh God, no! Didn’t it just finish last month? Or does it only seem like it?

I’ve actually grown to kind of hate the National Hockey League. I hate the grossly inflated size of the league. I hate the way the league has attempted to graft hockey onto any geographical area and arena that will have it. I hate its random, nonsensical approach to discipline for violent acts. I hate the fact the hockey season is spread out over three earth seasons. I hate the fact it only gets interesting when winter is on the way out.

But mostly, I hate how hockey has gone from pastime to obsession, obliterating everything else in its path. Take right now, for instance. Training camps are underway, and already the floundering local rags have devoted hundreds of thousands of words, gallons of ink and God knows how many trees to detailing the minutia of the Edmonton Oilers. From now until they are eliminated from the playoffs, the Oilers will be on the front page of the Edmonton Sun and Car Ad Daily a bare minimum of 100 times. The Edmonton Journal won’t match the Sun’s obsessive coverage, only because it doesn’t have the space. But today’s paper still managed a front-page picture of an exhibition game, and the paper’s only local sports columnist (Canada’s only sports columnist who has no opinions on anything) actually devoted his column to how much promise the Oilers show — after one exhibition game! Every game will be televised with the worst kind of small town ‘hooray for our team’ boosterism usually reserved for Texas high school football. Edmonton hockey fans will fill Rexall Place for every game, paying whatever the team asks for the right to sit on their hands and watch a thrilling tilt between Edmonton and arch rivals, Phoenix, then go out to their frozen cars in -30C weather and spend 40 minutes in the parking lot. They’ll pay whatever it takes for a beer because, hell, they’ve got wads of Fort Mac cash in their jeans, and they’ve got to spend it on something.

I’ll admit that I might get mildly interested in the Oilers sometime around February. I say February because, despite the fact it’s my birthday month, it is the dreariest, shortest-but-longest month of the year, and I always need something to distract me from the spirit-sapping tedium of an Edmonton winter. I hope they’re good — or, more importantly, entertaining. But otherwise, I don’t really care. I don’t care if the Flames are better than the Oilers, I don’t care if Toronto is lousy (although that would be my preference), I don’t care about Montreal, or Ottawa, or Vancouver, or Nashville (they still have a team, right?). Maybe joining a hockey pool would rekindle my interest in the NHL. But that would require actually paying attention to the league and the players, and that sounds like too much work.

I wish I enjoyed the popular obsession with the NHL. In this town, you can carry on hours long conversations with complete strangers if you casually mention the Oilers. But I just can’t bring myself to care about a billionaire’s plaything and his millionaire pawns. Wake me up when — if — they get to the playoffs. By then, it will be spring again.


Demise of Sunday paper sad indeed.

As a newspaper reader, and an old-school newspaperman, it saddens me to hear that the Edmonton Journal will no longer publish a Sunday edition. Having a newspaper to read every day is part of my DNA, and ever since the Journal added a Sunday paper — to much fanfare and great success — starting off Sunday with a leisurely read of the paper has been part of my routine.

When the Journal introduced a Sunday paper, it was a very big deal. Designed to go head-to-head with the Edmonton Sun (which has always had a hefty Sunday paper; as I recall, their very first edition was a Sunday paper) The Journal put everything they had into their Sunday paper. For years, it was a great read. Longer stories, better graphics, everything you expect from a big city newspaper.

But let’s be honest. The Journal Sunday paper is a shadow of its former self. Oh, there’s still good stuff in it on a good Sunday, only a whole hell of a lot less. What was once the Journal’s chance to really show off what it could do is now little more than a weekday paper with an additional section.

I suppose the writing has been on the wall for the Sunday paper for some time. Last Sunday’s paper had, by my count, about 18 paid ads. That’s not going to cut it, clearly.

The loss of the Sunday paper (hey, Journal … am I going to get a reduced rate as a subscriber?) overshadowed another development at the Journal — the end of TV Times.

This one was obvious for some time. Not many years ago, the TV Times was a cash cow for the Journal. Newsstand sales soared on Friday as TV viewers bought the paper solely for the hefty TV listings. Advertisers loved the thing. As a TV ‘bug” (as my mom used to say), it was one of my favourite papers of the week. (Years ago, the TV listings were printed as a couple of single, broadsheet pages that required a complicated, oragami-like feat of folding to turn into a TV Guide sized publication.) But now, TV listings are on screen on most TVs, so the TV Times got smaller and smaller until it was reduced to what it is now … a few pages of listings, and nothing else. Even TV Guide, once the most widely-read magazine in Canada, no longer produces a printed magazine, so it’s remarkable TV Times hung in as long as it has.

Probably the only place in town celebrating the demise of the Sunday Journal is the Edmonton Sun, which now has Sunday all to itself. Mind you, it will be a muted celebration; from what I’ve heard, the Sun is pretty much hollowed out now, with more empty desks than employees.

The National Post is suspending its Monday edition for the summer. As lame as the Monday Journal is, if that happened here I would have to rethink continuing to subscribe. One day without a paper I can live with. Two days would result in withdrawal so bad, I might be forced to read the Sun.

On Edmonton names, Harry’s revenge, and the ND loving Sun.

New constituency of Edmonton South West
What Edmonton South West looks like.

Legislature session, day 2:

I am disappointed by Edmonton’s MLAs. Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats… all of them. Here’s why.

The bulk of Tuesday’s session (the stuff that happens after the media stops watching Question Period) was taken up with a discussion of the new electoral boundaries commission final report, which was ordered to add new seats to the Leg, including one to Edmonton. You may remember the initial boundaries report, after months of study and deliberation, changed the landscape of Edmonton, with new boundaries and new constituencies (Callingwood, La Perle, North West). But the politicians didn’t like it much, so the commission said; “Screw it, we’ll just carve off a corner of Edmonton and give it one new riding.” Which is basically what they did, creating a dog’s leg, dog’s breakfast constituency called Edmonton South West, that seems to be made up mostly of empty space with pockets of population from as far south as the Calgary Trail north to the Whitemud.

The deed has been done, and no one seems to care about this newborn orphan. But what disappoints me is that no Edmonton MLAs tried to give this unloved newcomer a better name.

Most of Tuesday was taken up by amendments, as MLAs asked for, and received, renames for some constituencies. Strathcona became Strathcona-Sherwood Park. Calgary Montrose became Calgary Greenway. And Calgary Nose Hill became … I am not making this up … Calgary Klein. (This resulted in an interesting exchange, when ND MLA Rachel Notley questioned whether Klein was “part of history” and should be honored. An unidentified member asked: “Do you want him to die first? Is that it?”, to which Notley replied: “I wouldn’t go there.”)

Since Edmonton South West has no sitting member, and no one to speak up for it, it will be born with the dreary name Edmonton South West. Couldn’t one Edmonton MLA have stood up and asked for a better name for this baby?

How about Edmonton-McLuhan, after media guru Marshall McLuhan, who was born in Edmonton? Or maybe Edmonton-May, after aviation great ‘Wop’ May, or Edmonton-Dickens, after another aviation great, Punch Dickens. Maybe Edmonton-Page, after J. Percy Page, Edmonton Grads coach and former Lt. Gov. If you insist on a political name, try Edmonton-Murphy, after Emily Murphy, the first female magistrate of the British Empire.Or how about Lois Hole, although I don’t know if anyone would want to be the MLA for Edmonton-Hole. Just to get the legislature talking, maybe Edmonton-Chong, after Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame. Or Edmonton-Fox, after Michael J. Fox. Or Canadian nationalist and publisher Edmonton-(Mel) Hurtig. The Tories would love that one.

The bottom line is that there are dozens of worthy Edmontonians we could have named our new constituency after. But instead, because no one took the reins, we’re stuck with Edmonton South West. Missed opportunity for everyone

Elsewhere Tuesday, Calgary Varsity Liberal MLA Harry Chase must have enjoyed his day of revenge.

Chase spoke at length during first reading of the law on distracted driving, which bans the use of cellphones while driving. As Chase pointed out, he made an almost identical private member’s bill in 2005, which was shot down by the Tories. On Tuesday, Chase threw the words of Tories who disagreed with him back in their faces, gleefully quoting one Tory after another who disagreed with his bill, all of whom will no doubt agree with the government bill. That must have been a good day for Chase.

And finally, it’s time to call out the Edmonton Sun for what it is — a New Democrat supporting paper.

Seriously. In the story on the latest case of duckicide in Fort Mac, ND MLA Rachael Notley was quoted first and extensively, and her quote was used in a drop-quote in the story. Two pages later, in a story on the Auditor-General’s report on health-care accounting, ND leader Brian Mason was the only politician quoted, complete with mugshot.  That’s a lot of ink for the no. 4 party in the legislature. Could the Edmonton Sun be harbouring a soft spot for socialists … or are the other parties just doing a crappy job of getting their message out?