Hockey’s Battle of Alberta might be the best rivalry in sports. The dispute between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers has raged on since 1980, though it’s been awhile since it’s been a terribly bitter affair. But it may be becoming a true battle once more.
The all-time battle
Heading into tonight’s game, there have been 234 all-time regular season Battles of Alberta (plus 30 playoff games spread over five series). The Flames have a 117-93-24 record in these regular season affairs.
The first regular season Battle of Alberta was Oct. 22, 1980 at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton. The Oilers beat the Flames 5-3, led by a pair of goals from Dave Semenko. Willi Plett, Brad Smith and Kevin LaValee scored for Calgary.
Historically, most of the biggest Battle of Alberta moments have been in the playoffs – notably the own goal scored by future Flames captain Steve Smith in the 1986 Smythe Division Final that led fans to shout “Shoot!!!” at him for the remainder of his NHL career – even when he played for the Flames.
As you’d expect, a handful of longtime Flames have a stranglehold on their Battle of Alberta leaderboard. Jarome Iginla played in 89 Battles and had 34 goals, Al MacInnis had 89 points, while Theoren Fleury had seven game-winners. Mike Vernon made the most starts in Battles with 61, but Miikka Kiprusoff had 33 wins and three shutouts.
The salary cap era
While the Oilers were superb during the 1980s and much of the ’90s, they’ve hit some tough sledding since the 2004-05 lockout in games against the Flames. In 76 previous Calgary/Edmonton games during the salary cap era, the Flames are 47-24-5.
Perhaps the most memorable recent moment for Flames fans came on March 22, 2014. Just weeks after the death of his newborn son, Emerson, Matt Stajan scored a penalty shot goal in an 8-1 drubbing of the Oilers. He had four points on the night and paid tribute to his son following the goal.
In the salary cap era, Mark Giordano has played in 50 Battles (easily leading the Flames). Iginla leads the Flames with 21 goals and 48 points since 2005-06. In that span, Kiprusoff leads Flames goaltenders with 46 Battles, 31 wins and three shutouts.
The McDavid era
While the Flames may have the historic edge, and even the fairly recent edge in the series, the Edmonton Oilers have Connor McDavid. Since McDavid’s arrival in 2015, the Battle of Alberta has become an actual battle. The Flames are 5-6-3 since McDavid’s debut, and the Oilers’ top dog has 15 points in 12 games against Calgary. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the only active Oilers player with more points against Calgary than McDavid.
While Flames fans may be a bit miffed at the Oilers’ lottery luck, McDavid’s acquisition has put the Flames and Oilers on relatively even terms talent-wise for the first time in decades and has set up the Battle of Alberta to be more competitive than it has been in years. That can only be good news for fans of both teams.