With a new battlefield in Edmonton and some new faces in Calgary, will a rivalry that has been dead for over two decades come to life again?
There’s a fresh new arena in Edmonton and a new atmosphere. 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid gets named captain of the Edmonton Oilers just the other day and the team signed veteran forward Milan Lucic during the off-season. Will this struggling team have a different aura about them than what we’ve been seeing the last 10 years? There has also been some significant changes to this Calgary Flames team. With some new faces in the crease and some new faces behind the bench, will there also be a different atmosphere in the C of Red?
Now, I wasn’t exactly alive per se in the 80’s to see the original Battle of Alberta in full force. But from what I’ve seen, heard, done extensive research on former players, and heard from my dad (thanks pops), whenever Calgary and Edmonton played, it was a MUST see game. These two were always the top contenders in the western conference and, quoting my dear father, “Every team was scared when they had a road trip in Alberta.”
Off The Ice
Here is a look at some of the off ice behaviors. During the rivalry in the 80’s and early 90’s, it’s hard to believe that these players didn’t actually hate each other off the ice. I mean in reality, I’m sure they didn’t, but it’s fun to believe it.
Look at Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks. Kesler got into fights with both Perry and Getzlaf before being traded to the Ducks and would end up playing with Perry and Getzlaf. Perry and Kesler got into two fights, both in pre-season, so that’s when you know players aren’t very fond of each other. After kesler got traded, him and the Ducks players would laugh and joke about their fights and Perry even posted a picture on twitter of the two. I mean no offense to Kesler, but it is Ryan Kesler. Is it that hard to believe that he got into fights with players on a team that he would eventually get traded to?
As fun as it is to imagine the on ice rivalry translated to off the ice, it doesn’t quite seem that way if we compare some of the off ice behaviors from the more significant players on both teams.
Let’s start by looking at
. These two have been battling each other in a no longer existent rivalry for the last 6 years. But then you see them doing fun ATB commercials together, and they seem to genuinely get along in real life. Well, not real life because hockey is still real life, but you get what I mean.
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We also have Johnny Gaudreau, who should be getting signed any day now (I hope), who just a few weeks ago played with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers at the World Cup of Hockey for Team North America. Those guys all seemed to have a good time with each other. Gaudreau even played some shifts with Nugent-Hopkins and played a lot with McDavid. That seems very Johnny-eque; just gets along with practically everyone (except Brad Marchand).
The Young Ones
Then there is Sam Bennett and Connor McDavid. Their parents houses are just ten minutes from each other and they were friends in the minors since they played together for seven years before their respective drafts; McD at first overall pick in 2015 and Bennett at fourth overall in 2014. They also won gold together for Team Canada at the world under-18 men’s hockey championship in 2013. So clearly, there are some off-ice relations between these two teams. Except Lucic. He doesn’t get along with anyone.
On The Ice
There are a few style differences, if you will, when it comes to these two teams. Let’s look at both captains, for example. We have Gio vs McDavid. I want to first put out a disclaimer that this is in no way discrediting the Oilers kids’ ability. He will definitely be in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday and he is without a doubt a huge part in the Oilers rebuild. However there is still a difference on how these two captains became captains.
McDavid, was a first overall pick, played about half a season in the NHL, gets named captain. Then there’s Giordano on the other side of this who went undrafted and played in Russia for a year before finally getting his chance as an NHL regular. After spending years with the Flames and making his mark as a promising leader, he eventually got his chance at captaincy. Again, this isn’t to discredit McDavid in any way, these are just the differences between the two teams.
Now let’s look at two of the alternate captains with Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan. Lucic, a veteran forward, who the Oilers signed in the off-season, gets named an alternate. Again, this isn’t to discredit the player. He is a veteran player with a lot of experience that he can contribute to this team. Then there is Monny on the other hand, who the Flames drafted in 2013, and has shown tremendous leadership and maturity, given how young he is.
"“He’s not even close to his prime yet and he’s showing unbelievable poise and great maturity,” former Flames coach Bob Hartley mentioned."
New Arena, New Era
“This rink is just pure hockey.”
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers played their last Battle of Alberta at The Coliseum in Edmonton on April 2nd, 2016. Formerly known as Rexall Place, The Coliseum is special because it has a lot of hockey history to it. Just think of the players who have played in that building. You have Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, and that’s just to name a few. Some were saying the end of The Coliseum was like the end of an era. “This rink is just pure hockey,” Shawn Horcoff, former Oiler told NHL.com.
Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it’s time for a new atmosphere, a new feel of the game. Changing arenas will definitely do that for you. After not making a playoff appearance for a decade now, maybe a new battleground will give the Oilers that spark that they need to get back in the game and revive this dead rivalry.
A New Generation
Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t alive during the Battle of Alberta in full force in the 80’s. But that’s the same case in a lot of hockey fans today. All I know is that growing up a Calgary Flames fan, for some reason I hated the Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks. It’s not like they’ve ever done anything to hurt me, but I just have this deep built-in hatred for them. It’s probably in my blood, as a Flames fan. But I think that’s kind of special in a way. Maybe referring to a deep hatred as something ‘special’ isn’t the best thing, but hey.
This new generation of hockey fans, all us “millennials” have this fresh hatred for our rivals when we aren’t even old enough to have remembered the competitiveness in its’ prime. It’s a new generation of hockey fans with a rivalry being revived from our parents and from generations back. But maybe that’s enough to bring this clash back to life.