On Monday, we learned that a historic Whyte Avenue business is closing its doors. After many years, the Elephant & Castle will serve its final beer on Dec. 21 and I can’t help but think back to my favourite memory at that bar.
What would you do for Oilers tickets?
In October 2003, fans were desperately trying to win contests for a chance to be part of history and score tickets to the NHL’s first regular-season outdoor game, the Heritage Classic. I found out the Elephant & Castle had a unique contest: all I had to do was keep my hand on the window outside the bar longer than anyone else, and I would win.
Seems simple, right? But here’s what the other contestants and I found out just before the contest started at about 11 p.m. on a Friday night, when we were all a few rounds in:
1. You must keep one hand on the window at all times.
2. You cannot change hands.
3. You have to stand at all times. No leaning against the window, no sitting.
4. Every five hours, you are allowed a two-minute break.
Immediately, the group of contestants dropped from 20 to 12. I was joined by my good friend Adam McKale of NOW Radio. We were determined to outlast the other competitors. As the hours passed, people around us kept dropping out and strategy became important. For McKale, it was about pacing.
“The toughest part of that contest was the FREE BEER! We were only allowed to use the bathroom every five hours… had to pace yourself.”
You also had to contend with the elements. At one point in the early morning hours, I ditched the winter jacket during my break, knowing that it would get hotter as the morning progressed. Sure enough, by 11 a.m., the temperature had jumped to 17°C, enough that one guy had to drop out after his hand slipped when he tried to adjust his jacket.
By morning, my legs felt like rubber, my arm felt like lead, and I was exhausted. But I had to keep my eyes on the prize, right?
Throughout the day, friends and even complete strangers stopped by to watch what we were doing. There were even a few members of the Calgary Flames. My buddy Ian MacKinnon of Virgin Radio swung by even though he had to stand on the street as he wasn’t of legal drinking age. Their support was so helpful, giving us the energy to push on.
After 23 hours, it was down to me, Adam and some other guy. We were pretty much delirious. But the end was in sight.
The pub manager told us that he hadn’t expected us to last that long and didn’t have the staff available to keep watching us for another night. So, the decision was made to stop the contest in the 24th hour, and celebrate with a beer… and a new contest. We had a mini-shootout to determine the winner of the coveted Heritage Classic tickets.
I’ve never played hockey in my life, so you can guess what happened next.
And the other guy? He celebrated like he had just scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
As a thank you, I was given a $100 gift certificate and tickets to any other Oilers game. But after 24-straight hours, I was still pretty devastated… until a good friend shared this story with her boss. A few days later, I was given a pair of tickets to the Heritage Classic – front row – and a chance to be part of history. Adam even managed to score tickets himself so all three of us walked away victorious after our 24-hour marathon.
Would we do it again? In a heartbeat… but Adam says it best…
“Would I do it again!? Absolutely! Anything for the Oilers. They can try and re-create the Heritage Classic each year, but there was nothing as fun (and as cold) as that first one.”
So to the Elephant and Castle on Whyte… I raise a glass to you. Thanks for an amazing story and giving me the opportunity to take in the Heritage Classic.
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