A photo of The outcome of the Oilers-Flames hockey playoff series in 1991, recorded on paper with ink. The Oilers and Flames are playing again on Wednesday night.
The outcome of the Oilers-Flames hockey playoff series in 1991, recorded on paper with ink.

Back in 1991, when morning newspapers pretty well set the news agenda for everyone else, what went on the front page of Thursday’s edition would have been the topic of weighty thought and robust discussion. After all, on Wednesday we can expect to learn whether the United Conservative Party (UCP) has told Alberta Premier Jason Kenney whether he gets to stay or has to go.

There are lots of ways that story could play out, but there’s bound to be drama and conflict, whatever the official vote count says, assuming there isn’t a mystery delay in coming up with the results of the UCP’s contentious leadership review.

Whatever happens, it’ll be news.

The same day, that evening at least, there’s this ice hockey game.

You know, the one where the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames are scheduled to meet up in the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time in 31 years. 

The sports reporters are billing that series the Battle of Alberta, writ large. It’s generating quite a bit of interest in Alberta. 

The opening game is in Calgary.

So which story will be Thursday’s big story?

Back in 1991, I can assure you, both stories would have made it onto the front page. Which one got the biggest headline might have been different in Calgary than Edmonton, depending on who won, where. 

That was then, though. This is now. 

Nowadays there’s not much question it’ll be the hockey match. 

I wouldn’t even bet the political story will make it onto the front page of an actual newspaper. 

That might or might not please Premier Kenney, I’m guessing, depending on what happens. 

Back in 1991, hardly anyone in the newspaper industry had heard of the Internet, except perhaps a couple of technology reporters. That was the year, by coincidence, when the World Wide Web was made available to the general public. According to the Wikipedia, 50 websites existed! 

As alert readers will be aware, there are somewhat more than that today, among them AlbertaPolitics.ca. About 1.2 billion, in fact. 

That development has played hell with the newspaper industry, as is well known. Many venerable newspapers no longer exist. Those that do are forced to do much of their business on the Internet, and that has led to a need to file stories more than once a day. 

So in 2022, Mr. Kenney’s fate will be old news by the time Thursday morning rolls around.

As a result, the dominant news story in Alberta – in whatever media it appears – will be about whoever won that hockey game. 

The other battle of Alberta – the one involving politics – will probably continue to generate headlines a little longer than the hockey series, though. The final game isn’t scheduled to take place for another year.

As for hockey, for whatever it’s worth, the Oilers beat the Flames in 1991. But they didn’t win the Stanley Cup. 

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...