The City of Champions Debate is Back

A petition campaign has been launched, and at least one councillor is warm to the idea

It was prophetic that the Oilers’ home opener saw the players skate out for their introductions while New Order’s iconic “Blue Monday” played in the background.

That’s because the Oilers’ quest for the Stanley Cup died on a Blue Monday, a one-goal Game 7 loss that has a lot of us wondering what we did wrong. Did we anger the universe in some way? Was a lucky jersey worn incorrectly? Should it have been washed? Should it not have been washed? Was a lucky chair moved out of place? Did we put our socks on incorrectly?

So, maybe it’s just a little too painful to discuss bringing back our “City of Champions” motto. But, just hours before the Oilers lost Game 7, the lobby group Common Sense Edmonton launched a petition, looking for Edmontonians to support their push to bring back the old tagline. The group is looking for 10,000 virtual signatures.

“The word ‘champions’ really resonates with a city’s spirit,” stated Will Vishloff, Common Sense Edmonton’s executive director. “For Edmonton, it’s not just about sports victories; it’s about our collective drive to be the best and support each other. Being called champions fosters a sense of pride and motivates everyone to strive for greatness. It’s a powerful reminder of what we can achieve together and it can uplift our community, inspiring a positive and proactive mindset.”

Common Sense Edmonton is known for being on the right side of the political spectrum, and has publicly opposed municipal tax hikes, the expansion of bike lanes and was loudly against a national park being placed in the River Valley, using the mantra of “keep Ottawa out.”

In March of 1988, “City of Champions” became the city’s official slogan, a movement championed (see what I did there) by then-mayor Laurence Decore.

In 2015, that designation was removed, and in 2017 a motion to bring City of Champions back was defeated in City Council by a 7-5 vote.

Would City Hall be more receptive today? At least one councillor is. A couple of weeks back, Ward Dene Coun. Aaron Paquette took to social media, asking his followers if he should make a motion that would call for Edmonton to be known as “The Greatest City of Champions.”

He confirmed that this wasn’t in jest — but that he’d pursue it “only if there was a real push from Edmontonians that this is something they’d like to see.”

Which brings us back to the petition. Would it be something that would spur Paquette to follow through and make the motion?

“I’m happy to take any petition in once it finishes circulating,” he wrote. “However, I suspect there’s a little less momentum around that this week.”

(Yes, we’re all hurting right now.)

The addition of “Greatest” is a nice touch — because there are more than a few municipalities around the world that have used the City of Champions tagline. Tampa. Pittsburgh. Los Angeles. (In fact, Pittsburgh, with the great Steelers and Pirates teams of the late 1970s, was known by this moniker almost a full decade before it was adopted by Edmonton).

But, even with the Oilers’ loss, Vishloff thinks the time is still right for the petition.

“It’s the perfect time to bring back the City of Champions slogan because Edmonton needs that boost of pride and ambition more than ever. Since the slogan was removed in 2015, we’ve seen a dip in the positive energy that once defined our city. With everything going on now, we could really use a unifying, motivational identity to rally around. Restoring the City of Champions slogan can reignite that spirit of excellence and bring our community closer together. The Oilers’ playoff run brought back a bit of that old magic, and we saw amazing examples of hospitality, kindness, openness, and that welcoming attitude that defines this city.

“We have a good reason to be hopeful this time around because the atmosphere and public sentiment have changed. Back in 2017, the push to bring back the slogan didn’t have as much momentum. Now, there’s a strong grassroots movement with a lot of Edmontonians showing their support. People are vocal about wanting a strong, unifying identity, and the growing support could very well influence Council to reconsider their stance. Plus, they predicted we’d be talking about it again and here we are!”

Andrew Knack is the only current member of City Council who was in the chambers for that 7-5 vote back in 2017. He was one of the seven who voted against bringing back The City of Champions’ moniker.

Explore Edmonton, the organization charged with promoting Edmonton as a tourist destination, is staying out of the motto debate. When asked about “City of Champions,” the organization stated that comment was best left to the city’s councillors.