Edmonton In '09: A Recap, Pt. II

So much has happened over the last 12 months, and 'I Heart' is here to revisit the best (& worst) moments...

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

IT'S been another exceptional year for the city of Edmonton, despite some unseasonably cold & record-breaking temperatures, an Oilers losing streak (or two), and that recession that everybody's been talking about.

But, as is our intention, I Heart Edmonton is gonna try and stick to the good that has graced our growing metropolis...more or less.

So, before I ramble on any further, let's recap some of my favourite or most memorable moments and experiences in my hometown during 2009! (Part 2 of 3):


Favourite Local Film of the Year
Although director Rosie Dransfeld was born far from Edmonton, her sobering documentary Broke (4/5 stars) was filmed right here in our city. Set at the inner city pawn shop A1 Trading, Broke lent us an inside look into how the poor get by, thanks to their "friendly pawnbroker." In this particular case that pawnbroker is David Woolfson, a Jewish immigrant with an ailing wife and children who don't even talk to him. He runs this shop on 111th Ave. & 94th St. on his own, but during the filming he gets some complimentary assistance from a self-confessed "psycopath" who's looking to straighten out his life. His name is Chris Hoard. Their bold personalities clash from time to time, fostering an unusual kinship that eventually turns sour, once the cameras stop rolling. Broke (see trailer below) opened the 2009 Global Visions Film Festival in Edmonton, on November 5th.


Favourite Non-Local Film of the Year
"As pun-filled ironic as it may sound, [Steve] McQueen's emotional epic of a film left me hungry for more." That's what I wrote in my review of the haunting and emotive indie film Hunger (4.5/5), which I saw at The Garneau on April 26th. Some of my other non-local favourites that I saw during '09 were The Wrestler (4.5/5), Drag Me to Hell (4/5), Star Trek (4/5), Inglourious Basterds (4/5) and Paranormal Activity (4/5). Click the links to read the reviews.

Local Podcast of the Year
It wasn't until June '09 that Adam Rozenhart and Scott C. Bourgeois established The Unknown Studio, but it already sounds like a well-oiled staple of Edmonton's preferred underground media. The local podcast invites special guests about twice a month to the "abandoned cabin in the woods" where they host the hyperlocal broadcasts, including 630 CHED's Dan Tencer, playwrights Simon Crowley & Mike Young, and Ward 5 City Councillor Don Iveson.

Favourite Non-Chain Coffee
Right on Sir Winston Churchill Square, adjacent from the Stanley A. Milner Library, is a cozy, yet spacious coffee shop called Three Bananas Cafe. It sells a wide range of food and specialty drinks, but their "regular coffee" is what hooked me...and such big cups!

Photo of the Year
When ESPN The Magazine launched its inaugural "Body Issue" on October 9th, the photo that snagged all the attention, amongst Edmontonians at least, was the one that featured three Oilers in the buff! That's right, naked as the day they were born...well, kinda. Objects cleverly curtained the private parts of Andrew Cogliano (right), Sheldon Souray (center) and Oilers captain Ethan Moreau (left) for the photo shoot. "I wouldn't have done something like that if it wasn't a respected sports publication like ESPN The Magazine," commented Cogliano about the provocative locker room snapshot. "It features top athletes and it's good for marketing the sport and the NHL." Other big-name sports stars to appear in the "Body Issue" included Dwight Howard, Gina Carano, Adrian Peterson, Carl Edwards, and Serena Williams.

Phase-Out of the Year
The "controversial" City Centre Airport has more than served its purpose over the last 80 years, with a rich history that includes it being recognized as Canada's first licensed airfield (1929). But on July 8th, after months of debating over the future of the public airport, city council finally came to a decision. The ground would see a "phased closure" until it is completely extinct, possibly in June 2012, when scheduled service licenses expire.

The city had been criticized for taking too long to decide the ECCA's fate, and then again when they chose to close it down in phases. But most locals welcomed the news, citing that the ECCA no longer served any real importance, with the Edmonton International Airport offering all and more than the City Centre could, for the most part. Plus, this meant that the 144 acres that the ECCA encompassed could eventually be used to expand the neighbouring NAIT, as well as business and residential development. This also means that the city, if it continues to host the Indy, will have to find a new location for the annual summer event.

Some '09 Sports Highlights
I guess after eight mostly unexceptional seasons coaching his former Edmonton Oilers, we had had enough of Craig MacTavish, who was fired from the team in April. In his place came Pat Quinn, officially welcomed to the franchise on May 26th. Quinn, who coached Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, coached his first game for the dynasty on October 3rd, though we lost 4-3 to the Calgary Flames. He is the Oilers' 9th head coach.

Although Texas-born Grey Cup winner Richie Hall was officially hired on as the 18th head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos (and the team's first-ever African-American coach) in December of '08, he didn't coach his first game until Wednesday, June 17th, when Edmonton beat the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders 45-12. Hall, who replaced Eskimos GM Danny Maciocia, was not successful, though, in taking the team to the Grey Cup finals, which were held in Calgary and won by the Montreal Alouettes.

Who says you can't go home? A few still-bitter Edmontonians, that's who! Although there was the ocassional hater, the majority of locals were ready to welcome back homegrown former Oiler Mike Comrie (pictured left with girlfriend Hilary Duff), who signed a 1-year contract (worth $1.125 million) with his old team on September 10th. Comrie, who last played for the Ottawa Senators, returned to the ice as an Oiler on the 18th, his first time in the copper-and-blue jersey since 2003. The Oilers won that game 4-0 against the Florida Panthers, and Comrie got an assist on each one.

Though the Oilers' '09 record is nothing to brag of there was a short period in December that had the rest of the NHL take notice, when the team broke the franchise record of most consecutive wins on an uninterrupted road trip! It started with a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings in Detroit, on December 3rd, and continued with four more straight wins, in Dallas (3-2) on the 5th, Florida (3-2) on the 7th, Tampa Bay (3-2) on the 9th, and St. Louis (5-3) on the 11th. Unfortunately, that then turned into a 4-game losing streak at home!

Not exactly a shocker within the curling community, Edmonton's own Kevin Martin won gold at the Tim Horton's Roar of the Rings tournament on Sunday, December 13th. That not only meant that Team Martin was tops at the Roar of the Rings--held at Edmonton's Rexall Place--but, more importantly, it meant a ticket to compete in the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. 16,000 curling enthusiasts witnessed Martin take out runner-up Glenn Howard (7-3) that afternoon, ending the 8-day trials with a 92% personal average.

Favourite Donair Joint
Okay, I know this is what you've been waiting for, right?! Based on a combination of taste, quantity, price and service, I'd have to recommend Lynnwood Donair & Burger (I heard they also offer an awesome mushroom burger!) (8764-149th St./ 780-481-5859), who fill their wraps with a tonne of meat at a decent price, quickly and with a smile. What more could you ask for?!

Local Song of the Year
When I first heard Jeff Stuart & the Hearts' "The Wire," via their MySpace page, I was hooked. Not just on the masterfully produced 4-minute pinnacle of their modest catalogue, but on the 6-piece musicianship known as Jeff Stuart & the Hearts. I got to hear the song, and most of the others from their 2009 debut Black Dogs Blue Giants, live on Tuesday, November 10th, when the alt-rockers hosted a CD release party at The Pawn Shop. I even got to meet Stuart himself during an impromptu run-in at the back of the Whyte Ave. venue, and ended up picking up the album that night. No regrets so far!

Runner-Up: Roots phenom Corb Lund & his Hurtin' Albertans kept it simple on "This Is My Prairie," the only track on Lund's Losin' Lately Gambler album that he didn't author on his own (co-penned with Harry Stinson).

The 'Dancing Dan' Fiasco
"It just makes me sick to my stomach to know that I received this violation ticket for what I enjoy doing," the man known as "Dancing Dan" told CTV News. You see, the eccentric local has become a West End staple, dancing to whatever plays through those oversized headphones on various street corners, usually down 178th St. But, in June, a Spruce Grove RCMP officer handed over a $402 fine to Dan, for "stunting." "As a result of public complaints Dan eventually got a stunting ticket for interfering with the motorists," said RCMP Sgt. Jim Martin. After an uproar over the expensive punishment, and local radio station The Bear offering to pay for the fine, the RCMP ripped up the ticket.
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