Edmonton, AB - Setting an unprecedented sporting spectacle, Oilers President and COO Patrick LaForge announced Sunday the Edmonton Oilers issued a challenge to the Edmonton Eskimos to go head-to-head in a two-game, total-point series later this spring. In addition to bragging rights (really, what else matters?), the City of Champions' Edmonton Cup will be presented to the winning team.
Edmonton Eskimos President and CEO Len Rhodes was quick to accept the challenge issued by the Oilers. Game 1 will see the squads pitted against one another on Thursday, Jun. 7 at Rexall Place in an all-out, full-gear hockey game. Game 2 will happen on Friday, Jun. 29 at Commonwealth Stadium -- again, full-gear and under authentic CFL rules, one night before the Eskimos take on the Toronto Argonauts in the club's home opener.
The team who collects the most goals and points combined in both games will be awarded the city's prestigious title.
Last week when the Oilers began a four-game road trip in Nashville, the club began its preparation by holding a lengthy, 45-minute football practice outside The Music City's Bridgestone Arena. With that in mind, in addition to an extra-special on-ice session last week at Rexall Place, they're heading into the mini-series feeling good about their game.
"I'm not too worried," said Jordan Eberle, who's a big CFL (Saskatchewan Roughriders) supporter. "We don't have much chemistry is far as plays and all that, but a couple guys have pretty good arms. We've got the speed advantage, so if we can get open, we'll get a couple TDs."
While the Oilers are diligently preparing on the turf, the Eskimos don't feel it's needed. It's a foreign surface to some, but Ed Hervey, ex-receiver and now a head scout with the club, insists his team has the natural, all-encompassing athletic edge.
"Practice? We're sitting around here talking about practice? We're ready for the game," he said. "What people don't realize is that I grew up on the ice. There are many hockey arenas in Southern California. And while I spent so many years playing football, hockey was my true passion. I have a shot that can't be stopped. Anyone who gets in the way of it, they can look forward to getting hurt.
"We know quite clearly that we're going to dominate them in both games. We want to come out and show them that we're better athletes than they are."
There's no shortage of experience on both sides. Darcy Hordichuk, who was a football prodigy during his younger years in squirts, carried his unbelievable off-ice ability well into his teens.
"Out of 10, I think I'd probably be a 10," he offered, nonchalantly. "In school, usually they'd only take guys in Grade 11 and 12 and I played as a Grade 9. With football, it's one of those things where if you can hold onto the ball and you've got the speed -- which, I think I've been blessed with and I have that natural ability to do two things at once -- you can have success.
"My heart wasn't there and I decided to go with hockey, even though I could probably play in the CFL as a running back or tight end. If you look back in high school and some of the records that were broken, you'll see my name beside them."
While No. 16 is primarily known as a hard-hand chucker in the NHL, his mitts have developed a pinpoint touch when it comes to handling the ball.
"As a kid growing up [when I was eight or nine], a quarterback got hurt one time and I ended up playing in a game to win us the championship. I've been playing quarterback lately because I don't like to get hit as much. I do enough hitting on the ice now, so it's nice to hang out in the pocket.
"As soon as our opponents put the skates on, that will be enough to take them down, so we're not going to have to do much," he added. "You've got to do a little more than run around and carry a ball in this sport. You've got to have the agility, speed, quickness and toughness. We've got all that and more."
On the other side, the Eskimos' on-ice ability isn't in question, either. At 6'4" and 300 pounds, non-import centre Gord Hinse has seen it all. Prior to his career in the CFL, he was a 12-year beer league veteran who grew up stopping pucks in Edmonton's local creases.
"Oh yeah, I can get in front of the rubber," said the man nicknamed ‘The Wall.'
"Eskimos, Oilers. There's always been that battle and we're going to determine, once and for all, who's the superior team. We feel that we're more well-rounded athletes, so that's going to be huge to our advantage.
"We're playing to win," Hinse added. "That's what athletes do. We're going to go out there and push some guys around. We've got to have the (series) sweep."
If the players' pre-competition trash talk is any indication, the Edmonton Cup mini-series will have a scorching intensity not seen since White Goodman's Globo Gym Purple Cobras dominated the court on ESPN 8, 'The Ocho.'
Hervey, who admitted he hadn't had a "good scrap" since Labour Day 2003 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, is ready to rumble once more.
"Take it easy? I don't know what that term means, to be honest with you. The only time I take it easy is with my niece."
Not surprisingly, considering the history of the Oilers and Eskimos, the community will benefit from this sporting spectacle. The losing squad must donate ten thousand dollars to The Boys and Girls Clubs of Edmonton.
Ticket information for the inaugural Edmonton Cup will be released later this week.