Local News

Saturday, Feb 01 2014 09:01 PM

Bakersfield and Edmonton share oil, hockey and little else

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    By Perry Mah/ Edmonton Sun

    The Edmonton city skyline.

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    By Perry Mah/ Edmonton Sun

    A cold Edmonton skyline is seen from Strathearn Drive on Jan. 29, 2013. It was a cold day if you worked outside with windchill hovering around -40c.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Couds break up over Bakersfield in this photo shot from atop the parking structure looking southeast from the intersection of 18th and Eye streets in 2007.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Nobody knows what happens when you mix Canadian oil sands petroleum with Kern River crude, but we may find out soon enough now that the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers organization has purchased minor league hockey's Bakersfield Condors.

Many fans, after hearing the news, were curious about what it might mean for Bakersfield to become a farm club for the Oilers. But what about that other thing? That oil thing?

The Oilers -- from a Canadian burg nicknamed Oil City -- buy a team from Bakersfield, an oil town if there ever was one.

Hmmm.

We're not suggesting that our friends to the north are engineering a hostile takeover of local oil fields.

But still, it got us thinking:

Who are these Edmontonians?

We began reading everything we could find on Edmonton, its history, geography and culture. How is it similar to Bakersfield? How is it different?

After an exhaustive investigation -- or what we sometimes refer to as a couple days of poking around -- we compiled a dossier that places the puck squarely in the net. Think of this as a friendly pickup game of ice hockey, an informal match that Canadians call a "shinny."

Edmonton vs. Bakersfield.

Somebody drop the puck.

 

Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River.

Bakersfield is on the Kern River.

The North Saskatchewan has water in it. Year round.

The Kern River does not.

 

Goal: Edmonton

 

The North Saskatchewan freezes over in the winter. But it's too dangerous to be recommended for a shinny. Plus, North Saskatchewan is darn hard to pronounce.

 

Goal: Bakersfield

 

A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.

A resident of Bakersfield is known as a Bakersfield resident. We tried Bakersfieldian, but it just wouldn't stick.

 

Save! Score remains 1-1

 

Edmonton has five adjacent urban municipalities: Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton, Beverly and Jasper Place.

Bakersfield has Pumpkin Center, Weedpatch, Lamont, Shafter and Oildale.

 

Goal: Bakersfield (for funky authenticity)

 

Edmonton's downtown

 

Bakersfield's downtown

 

Goal: Edmonton (even funky authenticity couldn't save us on this one)

Score: 2-2

 

According to Wikipedia, Edmonton's nicknames include The Big E, Oil City and Deadmonton.

We reached out to Alberta resident Allison Salz, a writer with the Edmonton Sun, for a Canadian perspective.

"The Big E and Oil City are less common than the one I hear most, which is E-Town," Salz said in an email. "Deadmonton came unfortunately during a time when we were the murder capital of Canada. (It was an anomaly, she insists.)

"But E-Town is my favourite," Salz added in her British English spelling. "I'm not sure why, maybe because it makes us sound cool. At least I like to think so."

 

It's OK, Allison. Bakersfield desperately wants to be cool, too.

We let Salz know that one of Bakersfield's claims to fame (and coolness) is the Bakersfield Sound, a style of rollicking country music pioneered by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and several other players and crooners.

Due to their influence, Bakersfield was known for a time as Nashville West. But it's a moniker rarely used anymore.

Bakersfield's most common nickname today is probably Bako and its loose variations, Bakes and Baked. There was an effort late last century to embed B-Town in the local lexicon, but locals flatly refused to buy into it. Maybe it wasn't cool. Or maybe it just wasn't us.

Some older residents might even remember the handle Bakerspatch, which is so not-cool it may someday become cool.

But not yet.

 

Both shots wide of the goal. Score remains 2-2

 

Moving on to weather, summertime highs in Edmonton typically are in the mid-70s.

 

We all know about Bakersfield summers, They are furnace-hot.

 

Empty-net goal: 3-2 Edmonton

 

Like Bakersfield, Edmonton has enjoyed an unseasonably warm January, said Salz. But the term "unseasonably warm" doesn't mean quite the same thing north of the Canadian border.

Typically Edmontonians see winter temperatures hovering around 14 degrees Fahrenheit, Salz said.

But it may dip as low as 20 below zero or even 30 below, temperatures that many in Bakersfield would view suitable only for woolly mammoths and chilling vodka.

"We've enjoyed above-zero temperatures (in January), which is very unusual," Salz added. "But I'm not complaining at all. It's been really nice. I wore sandals yesterday, and I can't even remember the last time I wore sandals in winter."

Salz didn't specify whether that was sandals with or without socks (which could substantially alter our image of Edmonton's coolness quotient).

One recent story in the Edmonton Journal advised residents to use beet juice to combat thick ice on a sidewalk. But there may be a downside. The sight of the blood-red liquid poured over a sidewalk is no way to ditch that Deadmonton label.

 

Bakersfield's highs during January have often been in the 70s.

 

Breakaway goal: Bakersfield

 

Hold on. Penalty called on Bakersfield due to chronic air pollution due to its frequent winter inversion layer. Goal nullified.

Score remains 3-2 Edmonton

 

The city of Edmonton spent $600,000 in 2011 to purchase an outdoor art installation made from 930 stainless steel spheres stacked to form an abstract cairn. As one might imagine, this purchase of outdoor public art using taxpayer dollars was not met with unanimous praise and support.

The art installation, known as the Talus Dome, has its staunch supporters. But it also has a Twitter account known as @TalusBalls, which rarely passes up a chance to crack wise about "how cold it is for exposed balls in the Edmonton winter," wrote Edmonton Journal Columnist David Staples.

John Mahon, executive director of the Edmonton Arts Council, which handled the Talus Dome project, told Staples early last year he was looking forward to the controversy dying down.

Even if it required a major distraction.

"I was just hoping we'd find something else to talk about," Mahon told the Journal. "I hope the Oilers keep losing."

 

Edmonton is not alone. Some Bako residents have been critical in years past when public money was spent on projects they viewed as extravagant. For years, critics of the county's administrative center on Truxtun Avenue labeled the building the Taj Mahal.

But we can't think of an art project purchased by local government that tops the Talus Balls -- er, Talus Dome project.

 

Goal off the post: Bakersfield

Score: 3-3

Tie!

 

In the interest of good relations between the two cities -- and because the referee (writer) may be extremely biased -- we will dispense with any overtime play.

Hand shakes all around.

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