Things That Medicine Hat is Famous For
Since its founding in 1883, the prairie city of Medicine Hat, Alberta has made headlines all around Canada for a number of different reasons. Below is a list of some of the things that Medicine Hat is famous for.
1. Its Name
One of the first remarks people make after hearing about Medicine Hat for the first time is that ‘Medicine Hat’ is a really weird name for a city.
There are a number of theories on how Medicine Hat came by its strange name. Although there is some contention on the subject, most people agree that Medicine Hat was named after an Indian legend involving a medicine man’s headdress.
2. Its Natural Gas
Historically, Medicine Hat has been famous for its large reservoirs of natural gas.
‘The Hat’s’ gas is such an integral part of Medicine Hat’s identity that it gave rise to two of the city’s nicknames: 1) The Gas City; 2) The Pittsburgh of the West (now defunct). English writer Rudyard Kipling described the situation during his 1907 visit to the city by saying, “This part of the country seems to have all hell for a basement, and the only trap door appears to be Medicine Hat”.
3. The Medicine Hat Tigers
Hockey fans from all over Canada know Medicine Hat for its junior ice hockey team, the Medicine Hat Tigers.
In addition to earning the respect of the international hockey community by producing some of the world’s best hockey players, including Trevor Linden and Lanny McDonald, the Tigers have made a name for themselves on the ice. In the 1972-73 season, the Tigers, with Lanny McDonald playing forward, won the WHL championship. Later, the Tigers won two consecutive national Memorial Cups in the 1986-87/1987-88 seasons, with Trever Linden playing forward. More recently, the Tigers played in the 2004 Memorial Cup Tournament in Kelowna, BC, and in the 2007 Memorial Cup Tournament in Vancouver, BC.
4. The Saamis Teepee
If you’ve ever driven through Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada Highway, chances are that you’ll remember seeing the Saamis Teepee, the tallest teepee in the world and Medicine Hat’s most prominent landmark.
The Saamis Teepee was originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. It stood in Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, where it housed the Olympic Flame during the opening and closing ceremonies. In 1991, it was re-erected in Medicine Hat, on the old Indian buffalo jump overlooking the Saamis Archeological Site (next to the Number 1 Highway). The Saamis Teepee has since become an icon for Medicine Hat and now serves as one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
5. The Downtown Gas Lamps
The historic nature of downtown Medicine Hat is characterized by the traditional gas lamps that line the streets. Since the early 1900’s, these gas lamps have been burning the local natural gas that Medicine Hat is famous for day and night. Today, the downtown gas lamps are a well-known symbol of Medicine Hat, as they feature on the City of Medicine Hat’s official logo, the road signs that welcome visitors to Medicine Hat at the city limits, and the overpass that crosses over the Trans-Canada Highway near the Saamis Teepee.
6. Its Sunny Weather
Medicine Hat is a popular retirement city- with 15.8% of the population being of retirement age (65 and over) compared with 14.4% in Canada- and with good reason. With an average of 2512.85 hours of sunshine per year, Medicine Hat is officially the sunniest city in all of Canada. Ironically, early Medicine Hat, being the location of the only northerly meteorological station to report the weather for many years, was famous across the Canadian and American prairies for its abysmal weather conditions.
7. Lanny McDonald
Eighteen-year-old Lanny McDonald joined the Medicine Hat Tigers in the fall of 1971. After leading the Tigers to a WHL championship title in 1973, McDonald went on to have an exceptional NHL career, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Colorado Rockies (under head coach Don Cherry), and the Calgary Flames (with whom he is most typically associated). In 1992, McDonald (along with his huge red walrus-style mustache) was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In a tribute to McDonald’s success, the Medicine Hat Tigers retired his jersey number 8 and hung it from the rafters of the Medicine Hat Arena, where it can be seen to this day.
8. The Esplanade
Built in 2005 as one of Alberta’s Centennial Legacy projects next to the historic Ewart Duggan House, the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre dominates the scenery of downtown Medicine Hat. The rolling tumbleweeds engraved on its granite exterior evoke a sense of false nostalgia for the bygone Old West in which the city was born, and the prairie colours of the theatre inside conjure up images of the coulees just outside the city limits.
9. Terri Clark
Terri Clark, the Canadian country singer famous for her trademark cowboy hat, hails from Medicine Hat. Although she was born in Montreal, Quebec, Clark spent most of her formative years singing, playing and listening to country music in the Hat. After graduating from Crescent Heights High School in 1987, Clark moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and launched a career in country music that would earn her critical acclaim in both Canada and the United States. Medicine Hat’s Terri Clark Park is named in her honour.
10. Kalan Porter
Kalan Porter is a Canadian singer-songwriter arguably best known for winning season 2 of Canadian Idol in 2004 (beating Theresa Sokyrka and Jacob Hoggard of Hedley in the finals). Born and raised in Medicine Hat, Porter divided his time between the Porter Buffalo Ranch just outside Medicine Hat (closer to Irvine, Alberta) and the Medicine Hat Cultural Centre (where he studied violin, viola and voice) before auditioning for Canadian Idol in 2004.
11. Its City Hall
The city hall is the cornerstone of downtown Medicine Hat. In a departure from the historic stone city halls typical of many other Canadian cities, Medicine Hat’s city hall is a modern architectural marvel. In fact, the architects behind the city hall, who drew inspiration from the colours and contours of the South Saskatchewan River valley, received the Governor General’s Medal for Architectural Design for their work. Built as a Medicine Hat Centennial Project in 1983, Medicine Hat’s city hall features 2 950 square meters of exterior glass, as well as a clock tower and fountain in the Ceremonial Plaza that faces Finlay Bridge.
12. Trevor Linden
Famous for his work ethic and respected for his character, Trevor Linden is one of Canada’s most celebrated hockey players. In 1986, 16-year-old Linden, a Medicine Hat native, opted to join the local Medicine Hat Tigers junior hockey team rather than attend Princeton University, which he was accepted to on a scholarship. After leading the Tigers to two consecutive Memorial Cup Championships (1987 and 1988), Linden was drafted second overall to the Vancouver Canucks (becoming the youngest player in the NHL at that time). In his 19-season career that followed, Linden played for the gold-winning Team Canada in the 1988 World Junior Championships, set a Canucks rookie record of 30 goals, became the youngest NHL captain at 21, and played in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
13. The Badlands Guardian
Discovered in November 2006 on Google Earth by Lynn Hickox, the Badlands Guardian is a valley less than 50 km east of Medicine Hat (closer to Walsh, Alberta) that, when viewed from above, bears a strong resemblance to the head of an Indian medicine man wearing a plumed headdress. An oil well and the dirt road that leads up to it give the illusion that the Guardian is wearing earphones.
14. Harry Veiner
Harry Veiner, a successful businessman and former owner of Hycroft China, was the mayor of Medicine Hat from 1952-1966. During his term in office, Veiner worked to give Medicine Hat a good name. A natural athlete, Veiner used his physical prowess to put Medicine Hat in the national spotlight by performing publicity stunts such as alligator wrestling. Veiner’s efforts were instrumental in attracting industries such as Northwest Nitro-Chemicals Ltd. and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. to the city. Veinerville, a small neighbourhood in Medicine Hat on top of Porter’s Hill, is named after Veiner, and the two main streets in Veinerville, Natalie Street and Shirley Street, are named after Veiner’s daughters. In addition, Medicine Hat’s Veiner Centre (which was closed due to flood damage incurred during the flood of 2013) was named in his honour.
15. St. Patrick’s Church
Built from 1912-1914, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church of Medicine Hat is one of the oldest continuously-poured concrete structures in Canada. With a 170 foot gothic tower and round French Gothic rose windows on the east and west sides of the church, St. Patrick’s is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival Style architecture in all of North America.
16. Canada’s Worst Driver
On December 15, 2008, Ashley van Ham of Medicine Hat was named “Canada’s Worst Driver” on the final episode of Canada’s Worst Driver 4. As many Hatters might testify, Ashley is not the only driver in the city whose driving skills leave much to be desired.
17. Medalta Potteries
The combination of an abundance of quality clay in the banks of the South Saskatchewan River and the 150 square mile natural gas reserve underground ensured that brick, tile and pottery production became one of Medicine Hat’s earliest and most successful industries. Booming with the establishment of Medalta Potteries in 1912, peaking when Medalta Potteries manufactured 75% of all Canadian pottery in 1929, and enduring throughout the recession of the 1930’s with the establishment of Hycroft China in 1938, the Medicine Hat ceramic industry has since slowed to a crawl. Today, Medalta, in the Medicine Hat Historic Clay District, serves as a relic of a once thriving industry.
18. Jim Marshall Murals
Prominent among the city art of Medicine Hat are the large-scale sculpted brick murals of Jim Marshall, a historic preservation advocate, member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and one of the Hat’s most renowned artists. More than three dozen of Marshall’s murals are scattered throughout the city and surrounding area, decorating churches, schools, businesses and government edifices.
19. The Richardson Family Murders
A shadow fell over Medicine Hat in April 23, 2006, when the bodies of husband Marc Richardson, wife Debra, and 8-year-old son Jacob, were found in their home in Medicine Hat’s quiet Ross Glen district. The parents, along with their son Jacob, were murdered the previous night by their 12-year-old daughter and her 23-year-old boyfriend, whose relationship they had opposed. Due to the horrific nature of the crimes, the bizarre backstory and the fact that the daughter, at 12-years old, had become the youngest multiple murderer in Canada, the story and its aftermath made national news.
20. The Medicine Hat News
The Medicine Hat News (formerly entitled The Medicine Hat Times, The Weekly Times, The Medicine Hat Weekly News, and The Medicine Hat News Ltd.) is Medicine Hat’s daily newspaper. It was founded in 1885 by Andrew M. Armour and Thomas B. Braden, the two Ontario-born printers who also founded the world famous Calgary Herald in 1883. The first issues of the Medicine Hat News were printed inside an old CPR boxcar on North Railway Street.