‘We felt we needed to stand up’: Flames give an assist to pro-energy movement

Alberta’s beleaguered oil and gas sector got an assist from the Calgary Flames during Wednesday night’s game against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, thanks to two notable additions to the Scotiabank Saddledome ice surface.

The words “I (heart) Oil & Gas” were painted in two of the rink’s four corners, one at each end of the ice, in a show of support for the energy industry. It was the first time those words appeared in those spaces, normally reserved for on-ice advertisements.

The familiar campaign slogan appears on banners, stickers and clothing of Canada Action, a group that describes itself as a “volunteer-created grassroots movement” that supports the natural resources sector.

Canada Action founder Cody Battershill said the Flames reached out “a couple weeks ago,” offering to donate the on-ice advertising spaces to the group.

“It’s a new thing and they’ve generously decided to support us and to support our cause,” Battershill said.

“When you look at the companies and the people that are in that Saddledome and what really supports the community in Calgary, you look at all the investment into charitable organizations, community causes, schools and hospitals that come from the energy sector and I think it’s just fantastic for the Flames to be supportive publicly and to be proud.”

Calgary Flames president and chief operating officer John Bean said the team connected with Canada Action in recent weeks and “tried to brainstorm some ways that we might be able to lend some support to them.”

“What they’re messaging is something that we really believe in,” Bean said.

“The Canadian oil and gas industry is an important part of the Canadian economy and we’re really good at it. We lead from an environmental and technical point of view . . . and Canada’s got a lot to offer in that regard.

“It just seems like the sector is under attack and so we felt we needed to stand up and help raise some awareness.”

Multiple co-owners of the Flames, including Murray Edwards, Alvin Libin and Allan Markin, have business interests in oil and gas and other significant ties to Alberta’s energy sector. Edwards, the team’s chairman, is also owner and executive chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Flames forward Sean Monahan skates past the on-ice message.

Canada Action has recently organized a number of pro-pipeline rallies in Calgary and beyond.

One turned contentious last month, when heckling from the crowd gathered outside city hall prompted a Calgary city councillor to abruptly end his speech, shortly before Mayor Naheed Nenshi was booed as he delivered a short part of his remarks in French.

The group also co-organized a rally on Tuesday to counter a downtown protest of the RCMP’s actions in northern B.C. earlier this week. About 100 people had gathered to rally against the breach of a checkpoint gate erected by members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation to block access to a natural-gas pipeline project.

Battershill, who said his relationship with the Flames goes back a few years, called the gesture “a positive statement” that shows the Flames support “a strong energy sector.”

“Even if (the promos are) down next game, just having them up even once is very meaningful, I think. A lot of people that work in the industry, or their family and friends work in the industry, are just very appreciative of that positive beacon of support.”

But Bean said there’s no set date for when the ads will be removed from the ice.

“They’ll be in for a while,” he said.


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