As I rode from Maidstone to my current location, just outside Edmonton, the land began to transition from straight, flat, empty prairie to more curvy, undulating countryside resembling a flowing, patchwork quilt with patches alternating between golden brown and varying hues of green all stitched together with clumps of trees and hedges.
I have also become aware of an intoxicating, sweet scent eminating from the fields as I rumble along the highway. Is it clover? Lavender? Ah — I’ve got it: You know when you take your car through an automatic carwash; and you select the “Tri-Colour Shampoo” option; and you forget to close the car’s air vents (if you haven’t, and want to get full effect of this post, run out and do this now, before continuing… still reading? Come on, get going… back now? Great; let’s continue)? THAT’s what it smells like!
What’s this got to do with Eskimos?
Weeelllll, the hotel I am staying at just so happens to be the hotel The Edmonton Eskimos are staying at during spring training. So, there are Eskimos everywhere: Eskimos on the sofas in the lounge; Eskimos on the computers; Eskimos in the elevators; Eskimos in the lobby…
Now, this week is the last week of draft before the real training starts; and it’s a critical week because some career-altering decisions will be made as to which of the recruits make the cut and join the team. Up to now, they’ve been practising and training hard; but they are also being assessed. This is the big league (well, the Canadian big league), baby; and this is the last sprint to make an impression.
The guys are nervous; and rightly so. To be sure, there’s a lot of bravado and testosterone here; but there’s definitely concern.
Riding up in the elevator with one prospect, I ask, “So how’s it going over there?” (they’re training at the stadium next door). The kid looks at me, surprised at first, that I’ve asked (who am I?). His expression eases a bit; and he smiles; but the angst is obvious.
“I don’t know,” he says, looking at the bottom of the elevator door as it opens at his floor. “We’ll see. I hope I make it.”
Then, he’s gone.
Another source of anxiety is rental housing; and much of the banter in the lounge revolves around who has found a place to live in the area. I’m a bit puzzled by this–these are the Edmonton Eskimos; I would have thought finding an apartment would be the least of their worries. I asked Tory, one of the scouts, about this. He said it’s because there isn’t a lot of time available for apartment hunting. Ahhh… Now I get it. As any renter knows, finding a decent place can easily consume a few hours per day. Between the meetings and the training, these guys are working all day.
What about after they get back to the hotel, after practising? Eh, I’ve seen them when they get in; and I can tell they’re tired. If I were in their cleats, would I want to go into town to meet with a prospective landlord after training all day? Not bloody likely. That said, I give them full marks for using the technology. That’s why they’re using the computers (and tablets and mobiles) — they’re on kijiji! (in addition to keeping in touch with their families)
I have to say, having spent a couple of days with this football club — not that we were paling around; but one can’t help to get to know them just a bit because they were everywhere –, they are a respectable bunch of guys — friendly; courteous; respectful; tough; big (really big). I told them so when I left this morning; wished them all the best this season. No group hug, though.
Today, I’m heading to Calgary where I will meet with some bikers who have been to The North Country and connect with relatives I haven’t seen since I was a kid.
Oh, yeah; and The Blackhawks won The Stanley Cup and Donald Trump is running for president. Yawn.