Confidence is a funny thing. When you have it, you’re invincible and possibility abounds. When it’s gone it can feel as though it’s rolling away from you never to come back. Of course we primarily speak about individual self esteem but it can just as easily be analyzed in cities. In the case of Edmonton, I think this is the crux of the identity problem we possess.
I’ve said for years that Canadians are terrible at speaking up about who we are. We’re bashful and always, at least in our minds, play second fiddle to the US. Albertans, despite some outsiders who view us as the ‘brash’ west, are worse yet constantly harping on our lack of national clout or our deficiency of good weather. If there was a confidence meter though, unfortunately no one would rate lower than Edmontonians. A city full of growth, promise, assets and opportunity still sees itself as less than other cities in this country and beyond.
Though I believe the confidence issue has existed for years, former Oilers defenceman Chris Pronger leaving our fair town in 2006 seems to be the quintessential example of our lack of self-belief. (As a sports junky and Oilers fan you should be proud I got through two paragraphs without a sports reference!) Now I don’t believe #44 handled his departure well, but there has yet to be any proof that he left because he hated it here. Ignoring all the rumours, there may have been legitimate reasons for leaving and most cities would’ve brushed that aside and worried more about the affect to the on-ice product. Here, we’ve not only taken it personally but based solely on chatroom buzz have started to think “gee, if Pronger leaves it must be true that this isn’t a good place to live”. Confident cities would instead rally to the support of their hometown or, and perhaps better, just ignore the situation and move on with quiet assurance of knowing their town is alive and well. However, in these three years every time a player doesn’t sign here, agree to get traded (see Heatley, Dany) or leaves our automatic assumption is that it’s completely due to our inadequate city.
The Pronger debacle merely brings to light our long held self-image problem. For a city with many great assets and incredible accomplishments, we have much to brag about. As I said, Canadians in general won’t brag, but Edmontonians need to build their inner confidence about how great a city this is. We’re not perfect by any stretch but we’re worth believing in. Confidence starts from within and it’s up to us as Edmontonians to act with a quiet belief that says “we know what’s going on here and how great it is”. It’s then that people, both in Edmonton and beyond, will take notice. Running to the top of Manulife to yell to the world isn’t necessary but instead building that intrinsic conviction is key. Until that light goes on in all of us, outsiders will perceive us for how we see ourselves, as inferior.