Earlier this summer, the Edmonton suburb of St. Albert announced plans to peddle the naming rights to Mark Messier Arena and Troy Murray Arena.  Earlier this week, St. Albert Mayor Paul Chalifoux (above) pulled the plug on said scheme after a firestorm of criticism. Trouble is, the jokes haven’t stopped, with a few more courtesy of the Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon.

In keeping with the quirky and charming provincial custom of displaying the world’s biggest honeybee or oil lamp, the City of St. Albert unveiled the World’s Biggest Grovel on Thursday.

It was a shapeless, colorless, charmless thing aimed with profound sincerity and great dollops of well-earned shame and embarrassment at Mark Messier and Troy Murray, two sons of St. Albert who put the bedroom community on the map with their NHL exploits, then moved on with their exceptional lives.

How could Messier and Murray have known their hometown would take dead, unstoppable aim at the title of World’s Tackiest City by asking the hockey stars, of all people, to dip into their wallets to pay to keep their names on a pair of community arenas the city had named after their heroes out of pure, unadulterated civic pride, back in 1992.

But that’s what happened in July. Which prompted a barrage of international scorn and derision, as anyone might imagine. Well, anyone, except the St. Albert city fathers, who were genuinely taken aback that Sports Illustrated, to name one high-profile publication, mocked the city for its stunning lack of grace.

It’s one thing to erect the World’s Biggest Pyrogy on a Fork, like the good folks of Glendon did, or to brag about having the World’s Biggest Star Trek Enterprise replica, as they do down there in Vulcan, or to swell with pride about having the World’s Biggest Pysanka, like they do in Vegreville.

But can you imagine the good people of Floral, Sask., sending word to the Big Guy, Ol’ Gordie Howe himself, that he’d have to come up with some serious scratch or that’s what would happen to his name on the hometown arena?