Battle of Alberta gets Even More Exciting


The Oilers have always had a rivalry with the Calgary Flames, but lately, things have only been getting better. (Courtesy of Flickr)

The “Battle of Alberta” rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames has burned deep for generations, ever since the Flames moved to Calgary and joined the Smythe Division in 1980. In the past month, the rivalry took a step that we haven’t really seen since Lanny McDonald’s luscious mustache was involved: true hatred.
The past month of Oilers/Flames has been another level. It started on Jan. 11, when the two teams faced off at Calgary’s Saddledome. Matthew Tkachuk of Calgary does what he has gained a reputation for doing over his short career: getting under the skin of opponents. This time it was Edmonton winger Zach Kassian, who was sitting in the penalty box when Calgary scored the game winner.

That game was just two weeks before Tkachuk was set to team up with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the Pacific Division team at the All-Star game. After the game on Jan. 11, Draisaitl, the NHL’s points leader, said he would “get off the ice” if he was paired up with Tkachuk in the 3-on-3 exhibition. However, not only did he not get off the ice, Tkachuk assisted on one of Draisaitl’s four goals in the two games. The Pacific Division won the tournament, and the whole team split $1 million.

Coming out of the break, the big story was that the two teams would play two times in a span of four days: Wednesday night in Edmonton and Saturday night in Calgary. Wednesday night was contentious with multiple fights, scraps and a bat-flip celebration from Calgary goaltender David Rittich after his team won in the shootout. Connor McDavid, hoc-key’s greatest player, stayed out of the physical part of the game, until he felt Mark Giordano hit him with intent to injure. Then, he began yelling and getting mad. Everyone on both teams were involved, not just the bruisers. Leading up to Saturday’s primetime tilt, Rittich added fuel to the fire when he got the start for the home team.

Saturday night was wild, making headlines across hockey, and was topped off with a goalie fight. Rittich was pulled from the Calgary net after giving up four goals and was replaced by former Oiler Cam Talbot. In the Oilers net was former Flame Mike Smith. The goalies were on the opposite team last year, and swapped jerseys this summer. There were a few fights in the first two periods and multiple scrums after the whistle, but nothing out of control. Then, with 30 seconds left in the second period, the Oilers went poking at Talbot after the whistle, leading to another pushing and shoving match. Then Tkachuk and Oiler rookie defenseman Ethan Bear dropped the gloves. Talbot was in the middle of all of this, while Mike Smith watched from center ice, which is goalie-talk for “Wanna go?”, and Talbot did. The two threw some punches and were both ejected for engaging in a secondary fight (a fight that begins after another fight has started).

If the season ended today, the two teams would play in the playoffs. That would be a hockey fan’s dream.