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How did the Oilers have financial problems in the 80's?

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10-02-2013, 11:56 AM
  #1
Avengers
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How did the Oilers have financial problems in the 80's?

With all the success and Stanley Cups they had won?

was it because Pocklington was a crook?

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10-02-2013, 03:16 PM
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The 80s were a tough time in Alberta after a big boom in the 70s. World oil prices crashed and there was a real estate collapse too there.

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10-02-2013, 04:15 PM
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Where did you read they had financial problems? Are you confusing the owner's overall financial problems with the operations of the club? I was always under the impression that the team was Pocklington's only money maker.

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10-02-2013, 05:56 PM
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Pocklington's troubles started when the team was still at its peak. The building held just under 18000 and was generally sold out. MY tickets, which were probably about average price at the time, peaked at $16 per game. You also paid full price for exhibitions and about 50% more for playoffs. That is about $12-13M alone in ticket revenues just for the regular season.

Salaries were in $CDN. But say 86-87 the team salary total may have been $5M at most. Probably a fair bit less. I think we can do the math from here and see how much of a problem the Oilers were vs all of Pocklington's other business ventures.

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10-02-2013, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Fourier View Post
Pocklington's troubles started when the team was still at its peak. The building held just under 18000 and was generally sold out. MY tickets, which were probably about average price at the time, peaked at $16 per game. You also paid full price for exhibitions and about 50% more for playoffs. That is about $12-13M alone in ticket revenues just for the regular season.

Salaries were in $CDN. But say 86-87 the team salary total may have been $5M at most. Probably a fair bit less. I think we can do the math from here and see how much of a problem the Oilers were vs all of Pocklington's other business ventures.
Thats probably about right. I just read somewhere the Oilers total salary for their 1st Stanley Cup winning team was 2.5 million. Crazy!

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10-03-2013, 10:22 AM
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The Oilers didn't so much have financial problems, it was more Pocklingtons other business ventures. He sold off Gretzky to cover losses in his other businesses is my understanding.

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10-03-2013, 12:07 PM
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Moving this thread to the History of Hockey... carry on through the link here...

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10-03-2013, 12:19 PM
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The Oilers didn't have financial problems until maybe 1992ish? Salaries started going up, which in turn meant ticket prices going up. Imagine spending $16 or so in the 80's watching Gretzky and company dominating the league, then in the 90's, ticket prices start skyrocketing, and the team is running out a bunch of scrubs? No wonder they nearly relocated.

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10-03-2013, 02:08 PM
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When the Oilers couldn't meet Paul Coffey's salary demands, that was a harbinger of things to come. Still, the Gretzky trade was a shocker, even though the writing was on the wall long before that. Wasn't it sometime before the Gretzky trade that Pocklington was crying the blues about his money problems to the press, threatening to move the Oilers if the city didn't give him a tax break on Northlands.

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10-03-2013, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Boom Boom Bear View Post
Wasn't it sometime before the Gretzky trade that Pocklington was crying the blues about his money problems to the press, threatening to move the Oilers if the city didn't give him a tax break on Northlands.
I believe so, yes. The Amalgamation Agreement with the NHL was punitive in that the incoming franchises didnt receive broadcasting (and other) revenues for a period of time, not to mention being stripped of most of their players. Despite that of course the Oilers rocketed to the top in pretty short order however, Peter Puck being Peter Puck, they were going to have financial problems regardless as he used the clubs assets to bail himself out of trouble in other spheres of his business interests.

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10-03-2013, 04:55 PM
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They didn't. Pocklington was just a long list of owners who mismanaged his money, and the most talented team in hockey history. This was all Pocklington, not the Oilers. He was a meddler, and he was a guy who wouldn't let true hockey guys (Sather) run the team. Sather has said that he would have never traded Gretzky for an entire team.

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10-03-2013, 05:32 PM
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Imagine spending $16 or so in the 80's watching Gretzky and company dominating the league
Yeah, I remember spending under $20 in 1984 for a playoff game in Winnipeg against the Oilers. Gretzky had 3 goals and 4 assists. Not the best seats, but actually from high above, you could see Gretzky's game better. In the regular season, you could buy 7-11 tickets for $9 in Winnipeg to see the Oilers put on a clinic. Those were the days.

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10-03-2013, 05:55 PM
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In the regular season, you could buy 7-11 tickets for $9 in Winnipeg to see the Oilers put on a clinic. Those were the days.
Mustve been fun. For sure in the Upper Deck at that price which had one of the steepest pitches in the league as the uppers were added to the old Winnipeg Arena, not part of the original plan & configuration. Practically needed ropes & crampons to get to your seats. Leaned out to far, wind up doing a header straight down into the lower bowl huh LBD?

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10-03-2013, 06:48 PM
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Pocklington's troubles started when the team was still at its peak. The building held just under 18000 and was generally sold out. MY tickets, which were probably about average price at the time, peaked at $16 per game. You also paid full price for exhibitions and about 50% more for playoffs. That is about $12-13M alone in ticket revenues just for the regular season.

Salaries were in $CDN. But say 86-87 the team salary total may have been $5M at most. Probably a fair bit less. I think we can do the math from here and see how much of a problem the Oilers were vs all of Pocklington's other business ventures.
Don't know when you were going, but my tickets cots about 30bucks for bad seats on a bad night.

The financial problem lies with how Pocklington structured the business, he used the oilers get lots of loans from different companies and till this day he says the money went back into the oiler, but during his recent court trouble how he did business and where the money went waas pretty obvious.

Pocklington tried to run with the big boys and to run with the big boys he needed to spend money and he had more money going out then was coming in. Pocklington was a big fish in a smll pond who got eaten alive when he went to the ocean and he suffered losses. His first real big bad step is when he tried to enter the political arena and he wasted a lot of money.

there are a few things to factor into the oilers problems and they all start with Pocklington and how he did business

1) How did Pocklington get his money? HE started out as a used car salesman in Ontario before returning west.
2) To buy and expand his businesses he borrowed from many different banks with no fixed interest rates, WHen interest rates where low, he loved it and borrowed more money, but in the mid 80's when interest rates for borrowing were up at like 18.5% he stopped repaying many loans and started moving money around
3) The Gainers strike. Till this day he views himself as being the victim and blames the federal, municipal and Provincial governments for screwing him over. The politicians viewed him as a shyster who was trying to get them to bail out his other business.
4) Pocklington thought he was indestructible and untouchable and he thought he was the smartest guy in the room. He was part of a group of western business guys who all are now viewed as being blowhards and egoists-- Pocklington, Murrey Pezin and Nelson Skalbania are not viewed in the best of lights for how they ran their businesses and more importantly how their businesses were organized. The down fall of all three are taught as cases studies in some unis as examples of how businesses go wrong.
5) The Canadian buck was low in the mid to late 80's and some people do not realize how bad that affected revenues. Many players were paid in US currency
6) take a look at how Pocklington got into trouble during his bankruptcy hearing to get an idea of how he views himself and being not accountable to those of power. I have been through a bankruptcy and he for him to play dumb and blame the lawyer is funny.


Here are some facts. For home playoff games the oilers were making between 1.5m to 2.5m depending on the source per game. Pocklington took the money to bail out other business and to try to pay down the outstanding loans(mostly the interest) that is one reason why the coffey trade occurred. Coffey found out how much other top D-men where making he was the first one to try to force Pocklington to pay him more (at this time salaries were not public). Many of the agents Pocklington dealt with did not talk with other agents to compare who was getting what (this goes to how Alan Eagelson ran the NHLPA and that is another story)-- Coffey's agent found out what others were getting and he wanted it for Coffey ( there is more to the trade then just money--but it gets into the he said/she said arena)

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10-03-2013, 07:19 PM
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How did Pocklington get his money? HE started out as a used car salesman in Ontario before returning west.
Ya a real Hustler that one. Born in Regina I believe, had Grandparents in Carberry Manitoba and used to go around buying 20 + year old used cars from farmers n' such for like $25. Shipped them by rail to Ontario where he sold them $500+. Manitobas' cold dry winters, didnt use salt on the roads they way did in Ontario so they were in decent shape. Bought a Ford Dealership in Tilbury Ontario at 25, the youngest owner at that time. Expanded from to Edmonton buying another, moving back out west. A bit like how Jimmy Pattison of BC got his start through the car business only without scruples, no real moral compass.

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10-03-2013, 08:26 PM
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Don't know when you were going, but my tickets cots about 30bucks for bad seats on a bad night.

The financial problem lies with how Pocklington structured the business, he used the oilers get lots of loans from different companies and till this day he says the money went back into the oiler, but during his recent court trouble how he did business and where the money went waas pretty obvious.

Pocklington tried to run with the big boys and to run with the big boys he needed to spend money and he had more money going out then was coming in. Pocklington was a big fish in a smll pond who got eaten alive when he went to the ocean and he suffered losses. His first real big bad step is when he tried to enter the political arena and he wasted a lot of money.

there are a few things to factor into the oilers problems and they all start with Pocklington and how he did business

1) How did Pocklington get his money? HE started out as a used car salesman in Ontario before returning west.
2) To buy and expand his businesses he borrowed from many different banks with no fixed interest rates, WHen interest rates where low, he loved it and borrowed more money, but in the mid 80's when interest rates for borrowing were up at like 18.5% he stopped repaying many loans and started moving money around
3) The Gainers strike. Till this day he views himself as being the victim and blames the federal, municipal and Provincial governments for screwing him over. The politicians viewed him as a shyster who was trying to get them to bail out his other business.
4) Pocklington thought he was indestructible and untouchable and he thought he was the smartest guy in the room. He was part of a group of western business guys who all are now viewed as being blowhards and egoists-- Pocklington, Murrey Pezin and Nelson Skalbania are not viewed in the best of lights for how they ran their businesses and more importantly how their businesses were organized. The down fall of all three are taught as cases studies in some unis as examples of how businesses go wrong.
5) The Canadian buck was low in the mid to late 80's and some people do not realize how bad that affected revenues. Many players were paid in US currency
6) take a look at how Pocklington got into trouble during his bankruptcy hearing to get an idea of how he views himself and being not accountable to those of power. I have been through a bankruptcy and he for him to play dumb and blame the lawyer is funny.


Here are some facts. For home playoff games the oilers were making between 1.5m to 2.5m depending on the source per game. Pocklington took the money to bail out other business and to try to pay down the outstanding loans(mostly the interest) that is one reason why the coffey trade occurred. Coffey found out how much other top D-men where making he was the first one to try to force Pocklington to pay him more (at this time salaries were not public). Many of the agents Pocklington dealt with did not talk with other agents to compare who was getting what (this goes to how Alan Eagelson ran the NHLPA and that is another story)-- Coffey's agent found out what others were getting and he wanted it for Coffey ( there is more to the trade then just money--but it gets into the he said/she said arena)
You're clearly very plugged in on all of this.

I was just a kid in the 80s but several individuals close to me were involved, in anywhere from the business to the legal sides of things with those Pocklington/Skalbania/Pezhin/Barath-type shysters and it was not pretty. They probably screwed over the majority of Albertan real estate developers at one point or another on shady practices or failed projects.

For both Pocklington and Skalbania (not sure about Pezhin, Barath, and a few other smaller players), they basically HAD to move away because they could no longer secure any credit, we're having personal assets seized with high regularity by creditors, and perhaps most damagingly, there were literally zero investors left in the province willing to trust either of them enough to go into business ventures (and the majority of former partners taking various legal actions against them.

They were both SUCH arrogant ******, it would blow your minds to hear some of the shenanigans they got up to (for example, Pocklington whimsically deciding that he was going to become PC leader and then Prime Minister in the midst of a backgammon game with Skalbania. The reason for the game, moreover, was to decide who would keep the remainder of about a million dollars of a joint venture which they were dissolving and liquidating).

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10-03-2013, 08:43 PM
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Mustve been fun. For sure in the Upper Deck at that price which had one of the steepest pitches in the league as the uppers were added to the old Winnipeg Arena, not part of the original plan & configuration. Practically needed ropes & crampons to get to your seats. Leaned out to far, wind up doing a header straight down into the lower bowl huh LBD?
Oh yeah, surprised no one did a header. Beer was cheap too. Scary steep when you had one too many wobbly pops. The 7-11 tickets were in the north end if I remember. No upper deck there, but really steep too. Don't want a hangover having to climb that baby all the way to the top. Stop and grab a coke from the coke guy half way up just to make it. Add your mix when in your seat and sit back and enjoy. Now you gotta pay at least $75 to sit in the upper bowl at MTS. Plus $7.50 a beer...to watch cycling in the corner all night? No thanks.

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10-03-2013, 08:43 PM
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Well theres just a tonne of miscreant sports franchise owners in addition to Pocklington of course; the aforementioned Nelson Skalbania & Murray Pezim (thats P E Z I M btw, one time owner of the CFL's BC Lions). Bruce McNall, Harold Ballard, Spanos, Cuban, Marge Schott, Lonie Glieberman, list is endless but ya, Peter Puck would definitely rank in my Top 10 if not Top 5 All Time in the Hockey Hall of Infamy. Piece of work.

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10-04-2013, 07:39 AM
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Don't know when you were going, but my tickets cots about 30bucks for bad seats on a bad night.

The financial problem lies with how Pocklington structured the business, he used the oilers get lots of loans from different companies and till this day he says the money went back into the oiler, but during his recent court trouble how he did business and where the money went waas pretty obvious.

Pocklington tried to run with the big boys and to run with the big boys he needed to spend money and he had more money going out then was coming in. Pocklington was a big fish in a smll pond who got eaten alive when he went to the ocean and he suffered losses. His first real big bad step is when he tried to enter the political arena and he wasted a lot of money.

there are a few things to factor into the oilers problems and they all start with Pocklington and how he did business

1) How did Pocklington get his money? HE started out as a used car salesman in Ontario before returning west.
2) To buy and expand his businesses he borrowed from many different banks with no fixed interest rates, WHen interest rates where low, he loved it and borrowed more money, but in the mid 80's when interest rates for borrowing were up at like 18.5% he stopped repaying many loans and started moving money around
3) The Gainers strike. Till this day he views himself as being the victim and blames the federal, municipal and Provincial governments for screwing him over. The politicians viewed him as a shyster who was trying to get them to bail out his other business.
4) Pocklington thought he was indestructible and untouchable and he thought he was the smartest guy in the room. He was part of a group of western business guys who all are now viewed as being blowhards and egoists-- Pocklington, Murrey Pezin and Nelson Skalbania are not viewed in the best of lights for how they ran their businesses and more importantly how their businesses were organized. The down fall of all three are taught as cases studies in some unis as examples of how businesses go wrong.
5) The Canadian buck was low in the mid to late 80's and some people do not realize how bad that affected revenues. Many players were paid in US currency
6) take a look at how Pocklington got into trouble during his bankruptcy hearing to get an idea of how he views himself and being not accountable to those of power. I have been through a bankruptcy and he for him to play dumb and blame the lawyer is funny.


Here are some facts. For home playoff games the oilers were making between 1.5m to 2.5m depending on the source per game. Pocklington took the money to bail out other business and to try to pay down the outstanding loans(mostly the interest) that is one reason why the coffey trade occurred. Coffey found out how much other top D-men where making he was the first one to try to force Pocklington to pay him more (at this time salaries were not public). Many of the agents Pocklington dealt with did not talk with other agents to compare who was getting what (this goes to how Alan Eagelson ran the NHLPA and that is another story)-- Coffey's agent found out what others were getting and he wanted it for Coffey ( there is more to the trade then just money--but it gets into the he said/she said arena)
I had season tickets is section 10 row 27 and then section 25 row 25 from the WHA days through the 1987-88 season. My tickets peaked at $16 per ticket, maybe $18 at the most.

You are correct that the real issue was how Pocklington financed his businesses. That is almost surely why despite his threats he was never really willing to sell the Oilers until he absolutely had to. They were no only his cash cow for many years but also his only real asset to fund all of his other ventures. In the end it was actually his deal with the ATB that saved the team though so at least there is a bit of positive irony involved.

Pocklington did a lot of damage in the City beyond companies like Gainers. My father worked at Palm Dairies for many years. He retired just as Pocklington bought the company. History shows how well that worked out for a company that had been one of the largest dairy distributors in Western Canada.

I must say though that I think your $1.5-2.5M estimates per game are not realistic for the time. At the high end that would have been $100M+ in revenue just from the gate.

It was also not the case that many players were paid in US dollars during the 80's. Typically players on Canadian teams were paid in $CDN back then. The conversion issue was much more a problem of the 90's.

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10-04-2013, 04:55 PM
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Oh yeah, surprised no one did a header. Beer was cheap too. Scary steep when you had one too many wobbly pops.
Ya, the Winnipeg Arena along with Boston Garden & Chicago Stadium amongst others beyond steep. The Wpg Arena really wasnt all that old either when the Jets of the WHA came along. Built in 54/55. Replaced the old Shea's Amphitheater Arena which was built in 1909 & seated 5000, hosted several Memorial Cups etc and at one time was the only artificial ice surface between Toronto & Vancouver. Located where the Great West Life building now sits.

And so back on topic, Edmonton as well has a colorful
history of buildings, WHA Oilers taking to the ice here;



... called The Edmonton Agridome or "Cow Barn" because thats essentially what it was. Built in 1913. Sat 5000 & change for hockey in uncomfortable seats with lousy sightlines, water dripping down from the girders and forming "mounds" on the ice surface. The Oilers of the WHA played there from 72, moving into Northlands when it blessedly opened in 74.... around 78 or so, the Edmonton Oil Kings tried to make a comeback after being absent for many years, however they too were relegated to the Cow Barn and averaged about 500 fans per game, moving after just one season. Finally in the early to mid-80's they decided to demolish the old building & packed it full of explosives, twice as much as required in fact, and still that didnt bring her down. Had to bring in a wreckers ball & bulldozers..

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10-05-2013, 06:16 PM
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Ya, the Winnipeg Arena along with Boston Garden & Chicago Stadium amongst others beyond steep. The Wpg Arena really wasnt all that old either when the Jets of the WHA came along. Built in 54/55. Replaced the old Shea's Amphitheater Arena which was built in 1909 & seated 5000, hosted several Memorial Cups etc and at one time was the only artificial ice surface between Toronto & Vancouver. Located where the Great West Life building now sits.

And so back on topic, Edmonton as well has a colorful
history of buildings, WHA Oilers taking to the ice here;



... called The Edmonton Agridome or "Cow Barn" because thats essentially what it was. Built in 1913. Sat 5000 & change for hockey in uncomfortable seats with lousy sightlines, water dripping down from the girders and forming "mounds" on the ice surface. The Oilers of the WHA played there from 72, moving into Northlands when it blessedly opened in 74.... around 78 or so, the Edmonton Oil Kings tried to make a comeback after being absent for many years, however they too were relegated to the Cow Barn and averaged about 500 fans per game, moving after just one season. Finally in the early to mid-80's they decided to demolish the old building & packed it full of explosives, twice as much as required in fact, and still that didnt bring her down. Had to bring in a wreckers ball & bulldozers..
I watched lots of hockey in that old building as I grew up just east of it. To be honest though I never really heard it referred to as the Cow Barn.

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10-10-2013, 11:12 AM
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I had season tickets is section 10 row 27 and then section 25 row 25 from the WHA days through the 1987-88 season. My tickets peaked at $16 per ticket, maybe $18 at the most.

You are correct that the real issue was how Pocklington financed his businesses. That is almost surely why despite his threats he was never really willing to sell the Oilers until he absolutely had to. They were no only his cash cow for many years but also his only real asset to fund all of his other ventures. In the end it was actually his deal with the ATB that saved the team though so at least there is a bit of positive irony involved.

Pocklington did a lot of damage in the City beyond companies like Gainers. My father worked at Palm Dairies for many years. He retired just as Pocklington bought the company. History shows how well that worked out for a company that had been one of the largest dairy distributors in Western Canada.

I must say though that I think your $1.5-2.5M estimates per game are not realistic for the time. At the high end that would have been $100M+ in revenue just from the gate.

It was also not the case that many players were paid in US dollars during the 80's. Typically players on Canadian teams were paid in $CDN back then. The conversion issue was much more a problem of the 90's.
Numbers came from Sather a few years after he left

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10-10-2013, 06:26 PM
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I watched lots of hockey in that old building as I grew up just east of it. To be honest though I never really heard it referred to as the Cow Barn.
Reminds me of an internet argument I had with someone from out east about the name of the arena the old Stampeders played in, and where the Flames played their first few seasons before the Saddledome opened in 1983. This guy was adamant it was "Calgary Corral".

I said, "No, it's Stampede Corral."

He said, "I've never even heard of that name, it was always referred to as the 'Calgary Corral' in the papers."

I replied, "Yeah, well, it has always been referred to as 'Stampede Corral' locally because it says so in BIG ****ING LETTERS on the side of the building."

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10-10-2013, 06:41 PM
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I watched lots of hockey in that old building as I grew up just east of it. To be honest though I never really heard it referred to as the Cow Barn.
Opened as the Edmonton Stock Pavilion in 1913, then at some point in time re-named Edmonton Gardens... with a bouquet after a livestock show that would apparently rival that of the Cow Palace in San Franfrisky; aka The Cow Barn. Right there on Wiki Fourier. Edmonton Gardens.

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