Esks ahead of Oil in rebuilding

JOHN SHORT, SPECIAL TO THE EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Eventually, one of Edmonton's two major-league sports organizations will return to the throne room.

Especially after their gritty victory over the seasoned and capable Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it's likely that the Eskimos will make it first.

No doubt, it's easier to climb from the outhouse to the penthouse in an eight-team league, but at this early stage Danny Maciocia deserves all kinds of credit for the way his rebuilding project has started.

Last season, Maciocia stayed quiet about the team's lack of youth and speed but obviously he and Paul Jones were looking for quickness in every recruiting attempt.

Injecting so much youthful enthusiasm into a lineup carries a risk of missed assignments and costly penalties.

Already, the Eskimos have had a large share of both. Signs are clear that this phase of their growing period is coming to an end.

The only question is whether they'll have a playoff spot clinched before the Calgary Stampeders pull the chute altogether and nice man Tom Higgins gets his walking papers.

TOUGHER TASK

To say the Oilers face a tougher job- a helluva lot tougher - in their bid for new credibility is to state the obvious.

Accountant David Dorward, loyal to all things Edmonton, has an interesting theory about that: house prices.

That's right. House prices.

So-called experts blame K-Lowe and Mac-T for everything but global warning. Others blame our long winter.

There's also the claim that Mike Comrie, Ryan Smyth and Joffrey Lupul were made so miserable that others can't possibly forget the pain that these paragons of truth, humility and self-sacrifice were forced to withstand.

Dorward's thesis is based on the vast changes on the Canadian-American exchange rate, Edmonton's exploding cost of living and house prices published by the Edmonton Real Estate Board.

All salaries are still paid in American money. Canadian teams benefit. Players on this side of the border do not. Dorward produced an equation that showed a $400,00 home would cost $280,000 in U.S. funds.

Since then, the same home has multiplied in cost and the exchange rate is less favourable to the Yankee dollar than before.

In Dorward's equation, the difference from then to now (about five years) is about $800,000.

It's always tempting - and now we know also wrong - to say that athletes don't focus on such things because, after all, it's only money.

JUST CHECKING...

How long before some chat-room wizard spreads word that Brian Sutter took the job as coach of the Red Deer Rebels so he'd be ready to replace Craig MacTavish in Good Old Ourtown when the time comes?

Similar rumours floated around Brent Sutter's head for many years. No matter how often Brent denied being approached, the tale refused to go away. This one -equally incorrect - will have legs, too.

Sutter is a quality man. The NHL has room for him, but Edmonton already has a coach.

ALL ALONE

How many female Edmonton swimmers will compete for Alberta in the Western Canada Summer Games at Sherwood Park?

One. Deanna Matthews, 15, is at the Canadian age-group nationals this week in Montreal and will race in California at the North American Challenge Cup before returning home.

SOCCER HAS PROBLEMS

Is there still hope that soccer might catch on as a big-time sport in Edmonton?

I wish I knew. Ever since the Edmonton Drillers became part of the North American Soccer League nearly 30 years ago, I've been a big fan of the game. At its worst, it's a terrible bore. At it's best, it can be riveting.

The problem is easy to see but hard to fix.

Whatever Soccer Alberta doesn't mess up, Soccer Canada does. This unpleasant truth applies to players, teams, schedules and tournaments large or small.


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