Alberta’s Tale of Two Cities

By Jason Menard

Forgive a little literary indulgence here.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

As you know, that’s the opening of A Tale of Two Cities. And while the two cities to which the title refers are London and Paris, these lines also provides an apt description of the situations currently existing in Calgary and Edmonton.

The aforementioned epoch of belief is evidenced by the fact that yesterday star players like Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr have re-upped for five years apiece at less-than-market value. Why? They and their families believe in their franchise, believe in the city, and believe that the grass isn’t always greener.

And by taking less than what they would have received on the open market, they also allow Flames’ fans the opportunity to believe that their club can acquire and retain the pieces it needs to challenge for the Stanley Cup – this year and into the future.

The epoch of incredulity is taking place further north along Provincial Highway 2, where Edmonton Oilers’ fans are rivaling Buffalo Sabres’ supporters when it comes to frustration and sadness.

The Oilers keep taking hits – and yet it could be argued that they had the brighter future just over one year ago! The advent of the new CBA enabled them to bring IN a marquee free agent in Chris Pronger, they were able to trade for a number-one netminder in Dwayne Roloson, and they had talented youth who were ready for prime time. Two years ago, the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup final and all looked promising.

Oh what a difference a year makes. Pronger, under a veil of secrecy and misdirection, bolted the City of Champions to help hoist Lord Stanley’s Grail in Anaheim, Roloson proved to be mortal, and the promising youth showed that they were about as ready for prime time as the current dismal Saturday Night Live lineup. To add salt to the wounds, the club’s heart and soul was deemed too costly and peddled off to Long Island – only to have General Manager Kevin Lowe admit now that the move, in hindsight, was a mistake.

Free agency was supposed to provide a breath of fresh air, but fans’ hopes have been choked by Michael Nylander’s alleged reneging on a verbal deal and other free agents treating the idea of coming to Edmonton like they were being exiled to Siberia.

So while Edmonton suffers through its winter of despair, Calgarians continue to enjoy their spring – and summer – of hope. And it’s a wonderful thing to see for all fans of hockey.

After all, it’s so refreshing to see two players who are not just at the top of their game, but arguably amongst the upper echelon of their profession, choosing to leave money on the table for the sake of family harmony. It’s a wonderful thing to know that there are still people out there who put a premium on quality of life instead of just quantity. And hopefully their relative lack of selfishness will inspire others to make similar quote-unquote sacrifices for the greater good of the team.

Note, I qualified that last statement with the term relative and adding imaginary finger-quotes because the level of sacrifice is all relative. Personally, I think I could live quite nicely on seven million per season, as Iginla is, instead of the eight million per season he would have earned on the open market. But a million bucks per season isn’t anything to shake a stick at – yet still he shook his head no.

After all, would any of us begrudge a player from getting all they can? A hockey career, on average, is very short, so how could anyone fault a player from taking all that’s offered them? Would you turn down that money if someone offered you that in your chosen profession? No.

There’s still time left to change the text, but it looks as if it’s going to be a season of Light in Calgary, and a season of Darkness in Edmonton. One can only hope for Oilers’ fans that this Tale of Two Cities ends with a happy ending.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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