EDMONTON - The news broke Sunday morning.
Both the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos sent out simultaneous news releases announcing a fascinating new sports event — the Edmonton Cup.
“Oilers-Eskimos Stage Historic Match For Ultimate Bragging Rights,” the release was labeled.
The teams announced they’d agreed to go head-to-head in a unique two-game total-point series to determine the winner of the Edmonton Cup.
Game 1, it was announced, would be hockey, held June 7 at Rexall Place while Game 2 would be football at Commonwealth Stadium June 29.
The release stated that the team with the highest combined number of goals and points would be crowned champion the next day at the Eskimos home opener against the Toronto Argonauts.
A video was produced and put up on both teams websites, opening with Oilers’ president Patrick LaForge addressing the media.
“This is going to be a monumental sporting event in a city that is already rich in sporting traditions,” declared LaForge, the man who is generally given credit for inspiring the Heritage Classic.
“We are thrilled to accept the challenge — even though our first concern was the safety of their players,” responded Eskimos new president and CEO Len Rhodes.
There were clips of the Oilers throwing the football around in practice, and of Eskimos’ head scout Ed Hervey, making fun of himself the day he swung his helmet at a Stampeders’ player in a Labour Day skirmish in Calgary, as saying he hadn’t been in a good fight in a long time.
The Oilers produced forward Darcy Hordichuk, an all-star quarterback in high school.
“We can likely score every 30 seconds, so one hundred goals is not out of the question. And with our athletic ability, we can keep it to 30 points on them at Commonwealth,” said Hordichuk.
The Eskimos produced their own secret weapon.
“The Oilers don’t realize I was called The Wall when I used to play goal,” said centre Gord Hinse. “I will stone them on the ice while we run up the score on the turf.”
The two teams announced that the loser of the match would donate $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Edmonton.
A few hours later, of course, the two teams used the social media to admit it was all a practical joke and that they’d both be donating $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs.
But it was an interesting couple of hours with people pointing out how great it was the these two organizations which once were winning Stanley Cups and Grey Cups in abundance, could have some fun like this together.
Indeed, this may have turned out to be something to bring these two teams back to working together again for the benefit of both and especially of the community.
Remember when Edmonton became the City of Champions in the first place? The Oilers and Eskimos won Cups the same year. Thousands came to get their pictures taken standing between the two Cups at Commonwealth Stadium with free hot dogs and pop and entertainment.
Remember the annual Carnival of Champions, with dunk tanks, games galore and autograph signing sessions, etc, featuring players on both teams, produced by Lois and Ann, the wives of Eskimos GM Hugh Campbell and Oilers GM Glen Sather respectively?
In recent years, with the two teams at the opposite end of the standings, it’s like they’ve almost been at war, ambushing press conferences, scheduling against each other on occasion and such.
Here’s hoping this fun little bit of business on April Fools Day brings them back together.
“I think it will,” predicted Rhodes.
“Pat and I used to work with Molson’s at the same time. He was in sales and I was in marketing and we got to know each other.
“This was his idea. He phoned me. I said ‘For sure I’m in.’ Gord Hinse was working in the gym and Ed was in football ops, so we did the video.
“When I came to Edmonton I reached out to him. I invited him over and gave him a tour of our place. He said he’d never had one before. We’re now working together on 50-50 licensing. We had a scheduling conversation about our annual dinner to make sure the Oilers wouldn’t be playing that night. That went well. We have the same fans. He’s invited me to be his guest at the Oilers final game of the season Thursday.”
Rhodes had never heard of the Carnival of Champions before the conversations started by the April Fools project but had been backgrounded within an hour when he asked employees for the history.
April Fools could be the end to two organizations being such fools and bring them back together again.
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