Frontier Justice

This is Peter Fidler. At 32 feet high, he is one of the two most famous tall men from Elk Point, Alberta. In my ongoing attempt to catch up on news I missed last week, let's dig deeper into the stories of both Mr. Fidler and Mr. Souray.

The real Peter Fidler worked as a fur trader and explorer for the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Just like Sheldon, by the time Peter was in his late 20s, he was already considered an all-star in his chosen profession. From the presumably reliable peterfidler.com:

"Enthused over the new maps Peter had provided, HBC officials in London ordered that he continue his map-making and be sent on new expeditions.  From the summer of 1795 he spent the next seven years engaged in trading while surveying the northwest...It was also during this period that FIDLER, with the help of Akoi Makai, a Siksika Indian of note, created his famous map of southern Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Missouri River drainage system."
In 1802, Fidler agreed to try to help make a go of things in the fiercely competitive northwest, 205 years before Sheldon Souray would agree to taking on a similar task for the Edmonton Oilers:
"On Sep 18, 1802 the FIDLER party arrived at Lake Athabasca. Then, with his eight remaining men Peter built Nottingham House at Fort Chipewyan, less than a mile from the NWC Post. Now all three of the companies had houses at Fort Chip."
Although both men tried their best, over the next couple of years things only got worse:
"In November of 1804 the XY Company joined forces with NWC...Now indeed things were looking bleak for the HBC. All of the parties involved had suffered poor returns as a result of the competition. Before he departed for Cumberland that spring, FIDLER was warned in no uncertain terms that he should not return."
At this point in the story, the strategy for both Souray and Fidler was one of diplomacy. Fidler came back the following year to try to make a truce with the rival trading companies. Number 44, on the other hand, quietly requested a trade last summer, apparently. I'm sure he thought that there would be plenty of GMs who would love to have him at his current price, and that if Steve Tambellini was properly motivated, he could have Souray soaking up the California sun in no time at all. But time ticked by and it didn't happen.

I'm sure Souray's frustration was quietly building all year. In addition to being unhappy with his location, things were going worse than ever for the hockey team. And then an altercation with a star from another team put him out of commission all together. I think Fidler could probably sympathise:
"BLACK was hired by the NWC in 1803 and was sent to the Peace River country to intimidate and harass rival traders. In 1805 BLACK was sent to Fort Chip, and Peter FIDLER and his men became his primary target. On the day he arrived, BLACK and his men began by pulling up his garden and attempting to set fire to his house. Vastly outnumbered, FIDLER had little choice but to endure, and to 'turn the other cheek'. In fact his instructions from headquarters were to do just that. Peter made an attempt to negotiate a truce with MacKENZIE but it soon became obvious there would be no truce. There was little else FIDLER and SWAIN could do but capitulate. Nottingham House was abandoned in the spring of 1806."
Things don't get much better for either man from here on out. Souray brooded in the hospital for a couple months and then decided he was going to try to hurt the team by slamming management. It might all have been true, but it was immature and poorly thought out, and shockingly, it didn't help him get traded.

Now that he's cleared waivers, you would have to think that Souray has hit a new professional low. I hope he's been spending the last few days taking a long hard look at himself in the mirror (as usual, I'm sure). And if I were him, I think I might be considering looking for a new agent, too.

Meanwhile, back in the 19th century, Fidler wasn't doing so hot himself. He crossed paths with Samuel Black again in 1810, and I don't think "new professional low" was too far off the mark for him either:
"BLACK and OGDEN conducted a systematic campaign of intimidation, the former swaggering about with gun and pistols...They shot at the (HBC) company's weather-vane, fired at FIDLER's flag, cut down his stockades, carried away his firewood, stole his fishing lines and cut his nets, so as to try to freeze and starve him out.  Finally they forbade FIDLER's men to leave their house...On June 4, 1811, soon after FIDLER and his party embarked for Churchill, the Norwesters climbed over the stockade and set his buildings afire...In the fall of 1811 Peter sailed for England for a year's furlough."
It is very possible that Sheldon's complaints about the team were valid, and at the time, the Oilers popularity seemed to be at an all-time low. What could possibly go wrong? I'm not sure how a man over-values his professional worth so badly, but now he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. He has no trade value, and I think the damage he did with his bosses may be too deep to repair in time for the season to start.

Peter Fidler eventually settled down as the postmaster in Brandon,  MB and had himself 14 children. I don't know what comes next for Sheldon Souray, but I hear they've got some nice girls in Oklahoma.

No comments:

Post a Comment