BY JAMES LO & RACHELLE MULLINGS
First, upon admitting Alberta into the Confederation in 1905, the Federal Liberal Government decided to spurn Calgary, Alberta’s largest and far more Conservative city, and name the much more Liberal city of Edmonton as Alberta’s capital city.
Next, Calgary’s elite were slighted once again when a city just across the North Saskatchewan River from Edmonton, Strathcona, won the right to establish the University of Alberta. The municipalities of Edmonton and Strathcona were later amalgamated in 1912 into what is now known as the City of Edmonton. Calgary was not granted a university until 1966.
The first economic rivalry between the cities occurred over economic leadership with regards to the Oilpatch during Alberta’s early years. Calgary discovered nearby oil and natural gas deposits decades before Edmonton resulting in a much larger concentration of head offices of large corporations in Calgary to this day.
Today, the rivalry generally manifests itself during sporting events. During the late 1980’s and 1990’s, Edmonton and Calgary enjoyed one of the most intense and passionate rivalries in all of professional sports. The Edmonton Oilers versus the Calgary Flames. The Oilers became the National Hockey League‘s last reigning dynasty, winning a total of 5 Stanley Cups in ’84, ’85 ,’87, ’88, and ’90. The Calgary Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in 1989. Although not nearly as intense, the Western Hockey League has seen its fair share of battles between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen. The Calgary Hitmen won their last WHL championship in 2010 and the Edmonton Oil Kings are the current reigning WHL and Memorial Cup Champions.
However, the rivalry between the cities’ professional Canadian Football League teams is quite intense and even predates the province’s hockey rivalries. The Edmonton Eskimos enjoyed a series of glory years throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, winning 5 Grey Cup Championships in a row. They currently have won 13 Grey Cups. On the other hand, the Calgary Stampeders have enjoyed a fair bit of success as well winning 6 Grey Cup Championships.
Other Battle of Alberta match-ups include the Edmonton Rush versus the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League and the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas versus the University of Calgary Dinos.
More recently, the subtle rivalry has remained slightly ‘unspoken’ between residents as both city’s respective sports teams have failed to win almost any notable championships over the past few years.
The rivalry has also extended to international events. Most notably, Calgary has hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, is home to the annual, world renowned Calgary Stampede, and was designated “Canada’s Cultural Capital” in 2012. Edmonton has hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games, the 1983 World University Games, the 2001 World Championships in Athletics, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival and is nicknamed Canada’s “Festival City”. Both cities have even collaborated to host events including the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
By all accounts, the rivalry is as intense as ever. This has just been a glimpse into the countless numbers of other examples of the Battle of Alberta that rage on all around us each and everyday. And it has no signs of slowing down any time soon.
However, the truth of the matter is, both Edmonton and Calgary are both incredible places to live, work, and play, which only serves to throw fuel on the fire and further intensify this incredible rivalry. It should come as no surprise that both Edmonton and Calgary will lead Canada’s economic growth over the next couple of years. There’s no telling what could happen if these two powerhouses decide to team up in the future. Your move Mayor Iveson and Mayor Nenshi…
Because this is such a divisive topic around Alberta, we decided to ask our staff members who they would choose: Edmonton or Calgary? Let’s find out what they had to say, shall we?