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Flames-Oilers A Great Sports Rivalry

Bruce Penton looks at rivalries in sport
bruce penton sports

For a sports fan, there’s nothing quite like a great rivalry. For a hockey fan, that’s defined by the Battle of Alberta.

For the first time since 1991, a National Hockey League playoff series involved the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. The last two weeks of May featured the two Alberta rivals, and it not only provided an intense on-ice event, but an equally intense off-ice showdown. Case in point: a bar in Red Deer, located within one kilometre of precisely half-way between the province’s two major cities, has a dividing line smack dab in the middle of the establishment — Flames’ fans on one side, Oilers’ on the other. Sharpen the tongue but leave the hardware at home.

Alberta’s hockey fans, non-hockey fans, people of all ages and all stripes have an opinion about the Battle of Alberta. There are always bragging rights at stake, and politics even enters the fray, because the governing UCP has its strength in Calgary, while the opposition NDP is strongest in Edmonton.

The vast majority of fans simply enjoyed the friendly back-and-forth, although some obviously took it more seriously than others. On the world stage, the Battle of Alberta hardly registers as a well-known sports rivalry, but in Canada, it’s by far the biggest. Football might have its Blue Bombers-Roughriders battles, or its Argos-Ti-Cats confrontations, but nothing compares with Oilers-Flames. Globally, however, Yankees-Red Sox ranks up there, as does the Federer-Nadal battles on the tennis court. The best baseball hatred, however, might be between the Dodgers and Giants, both of which were born in suburban New York before moving to the West Coast in the late 1950s.

What are your favourite sports rivalries? How about Ali-Frazier? Those of a certain age will remember that one. Followers of Premier League soccer in the UK will say there’s nothing more intense in the world of sports than Manchester United and Manchester City. On a smaller scale, Pats vs. Warriors in southern Saskatchewan certainly gets fans’ blood boiling. Tiger-Phil was pretty good on the PGA Tour, a full generation after Arnie-Jack. If you need full names on those golf references, you’re not a true sports fan.

Winning is all that matters to the competitors in these rivalries, but for fans, the buildup and the trash talking is what elevates these battles from the mundane to the can’t-miss.

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on only one food truck outside at an Oakland A’s home game as a sad sign of the times: “Used to be there were eight or 10 to choose from. Pretty soon it will be just a guy selling day-old churros and two kids with a lemonade stand.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Kiara Thomas was arrested and charged with assault in Laurel, Mississippi, for punching an umpire at a 12-year-old girls softball game, WLBT-TV reported. The capper? In her mugshot, Thomas rocks a ‘Mother of the Year’ T-shirt.”
  • From the ‘What????’ department, found in Phil Mushnick’s NY Post column: “During a recent Michigan-Minnesota women’s softball telecast, ESPN’s Lisa Byington advised, ‘The last thing you want to do is walk the leadoff hitter, especially with nobody on base.’”
  • Headline at “Sportsnet apologizes for interrupting gambling commercial with hockey.”
  • Patti Dawn Swansson, on news that wrestler Ric Flair will climb into the ring this summer at age 73: “Hey, if Mick Jagger can prance around on stage and pretend he can still sing at age 78, why can't Ric Flair pretend he can still fake fight?”
  • Bob Molinaro of (Hampton, Va.): “It’s reported that after one year as an NBC football studio analyst, former Saints quarterback Drew Brees is out. Hardly enough time to know he was in.”
  • RJ Currie of “Over the last five playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 0-9 in elimination games — 0-4 in Game 7. Even my 1990 VW is better in the clutch.
    •   Headline at “Stanley Cup ‘Playoffs Participant’ banner raised again at (Toronto’s) Scotia Bank Centre.”
  • Headline at “Nike to Kyrie Irving: Just do it … with another shoe company.”
  • Dwight Perry again: “Former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was paid nearly $3.3 million in base salary, $2 million in bonus pay and just over $7.2 million in other reportable compensation in 2020, according to the university’s federal tax returns. Looks like he’s perfected his bank shot.”
    •   Vancouver Giants coach Michael Dyck, to Kamloops This Week, on why he wouldn’t criticize the officiating after a 4-2 WHL playoff loss: “With the price of gas these days, I can’t waste money on fines.”
  • Another one from, on Steph Curry completing his degree 13 years after leaving Davidson: “Hopefully, he can find work now that he graduated.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.