Many of us have been in that situation where the family is sitting around telling stories of the old days, when all of a sudden Grandpa will interrupt to tell his old war stories.
Maybe it was the Battle of Stalingrad, considered the bloodiest battle in human history. Or maybe it was the Battle of Normandy, which began shortly after the assault in Stalingrad. These are the stories which always have the children running from the room, and the parents somehow finding an excuse to avoid sitting through the never-ending tales.
But before these battles were even fought, there was a great rivalry brewing right here in Western Canada.
The first ice hockey match up between Calgary and Edmonton is said to have been played in 1895, when a team from Calgary took the journey up to the hated city of Edmonton. The visiting team was able to come away with a 2-1 victory, which caused so much outrage they wanted a rematch—creating what is known today as the Battle of Alberta.
These are the stories that most Albertan hockey fans want to hear about. We want to learn how the rivalry has lived through the 90’s, and carried on right through today. How the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, stepped on the ice for his very first Alberta matchup. And how the goalies were able to shut the door on streaking players. And wild shots from the likes of Mark Messier, Al MacInnis and, Joe Nieuwendyk. We want to re-live the moment when Steve Smith scored on his own goal in game 7 of the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs, costing the Oilers the series.
Today, Flames-Oilers matchups are some of the biggest games within the two teams’ schedules, next to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Everything is put on the line, the biggest hits are taken and the greatest scoring chances are made—and you are usually able to witness a great brawl between the teams. The winning team is able to take away points and—the greatest part of the rivalry—bragging rights. The losing team is already thinking about the next game between the two squads, and how they will be able to come out on top.
Aside from the rivalry between the two teams, you can always count on the fans getting into the matchup as well. Supporters of both cities make their way to the Pengrowth Saddledome or Rexall Place wearing their team’s colors on their jerseys, faces, and within their own hair.
The rivalry is so strong that even mayors from both Calgary and Edmonton have been known to get into the fun as well. In the past, the opposing mayors have made bets where the losing mayor would have to wear the winning team’s jersey for an entire day. No matter what the price or sacrifice, you can always find the same two teams and fans back at it in full strength for the next matchup.
So when you’re travelling through Alberta and taking in the sites, look far off into the distance and you just might be able to picture Wayne Gretzky on a breakaway against Mike Vernon, or Jarome Iginla firing a shot past Dwayne Roloson.
This is one rivalry that will forever be remembered—and one tale that will forever live on in the history of the National Hockey League and the province of Alberta.