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It's a tale of two cities separated by 234 miles of farmland, political orientation, economic condition - and hockey.

Stockton lies at the northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley and Bakersfield at the southern end. Stockton votes Democratic and Bakersfield is solidly Republican. Stockton was clobbered by the housing bubble's burst, and the city government has filed for bankruptcy while Bakersfield is enjoying the oil boom.

Both cities have minor league hockey teams, the Stockton Thunder and the Bakersfield Condors, which play regularly. The Thunder's city-owned arena, in fact, figures prominently in the city's bankruptcy.

The two teams have a Dec. 27 game scheduled in Bakersfield and the Condors' management, which is known for its wacky promotions, has designated it as "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night" and plans to hand out phony million-dollar bills and Rolls Royce automobiles.

That's drawn expressions of outrage in Stockton media, as Bakersfield Californian columnist Lois Henry explores in a recent column.

The Condors, however, appear to be enjoying the attention - it is a marketing promotion, after all - and say they may make amends by offering Stockton's much-troubled city employees a discount on tickets to the game.



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