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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

A brief history of the Battle of Alberta

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.



  • LannyMac

    I’m not old enough to have watched hockey pre 80’s. The games in that era were vicious and beautiful to watch those guys hated each other. Today’s version of hockey should be called something other. There just a talented bunch of boys playing shinny hard to watch most nights.

    • buts

      Hey lannymac, I bet if you were out there on the ice in what you call today’s era of shinny…..you would get your head taken off. One of the reasons there’s less contact is today’s players are fast, have there heads up and play smart.

      • Luter 1

        Hey buts, give me a break, your telling me just because guys are faster everybody needs to avoid body contact, their equipment is 100 times better so they are well protected. No it’s all about having long rich careers and I would take a true battle of Alberta with Fleury and the boys over 20 of these snoozfests

        • buts

          Sit at ice level during a game and you would know. Just by the very fact fewer and fewer 30 plus year olds can play in the league proves my point.of speed, then look at players carrying the puck when they get near traffic, heads up they get rid of it before a hit. Today’s skill level is off the charts and you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

          • Chucky

            One of the goofiest comments ever made is “you can’t hit what you can’t catch” as if the puck carriers got faster and the body checkers stayed the same speed.

          • canadian1967

            But Hitting isn’t really allowed in today’s game.
            What we used to do to each other in the 80’s and not even get a penalty for, would get you banned and Sued nowadays.
            I got a 1 game suspension in Midget in 1983 for Tomahawking a guy over the head and splitting his helmet and knocking him out.
            Try THAT nowadays. ?

          • Luter 1

            Your telling me that the Flames haven’t had at minimum 10 opportunities a game to throw a legal bodycheck over the past 15 games but chose not to? Sam Bennett and Hathaway then must be the fastest, elite players on our team as they don’t seem to have any problem throwing checks. Come on Butts, give me a break, sure the game is fast doesn’t make it better.

        • Redleader

          a Long playoff series would definitely renew the older rivalry, that’s why it’s not what it once was.when was the last time they met vs in playoffs?

          • mrroonie

            1991 which was before most of the teams’ current rosters were born. Oilers won game 7 in OT after Theo’s now famous OT goal celebration at the end of game 6.

          • HOCKEY83

            It’s true. Losing to the oilers in the 80’s would piss me off for 2 weeks. Now it’s more like oh well…just another loss to another crappy team. I’m more upset when the flames lose to the ducks or vancouver.

        • HOCKEY83

          The battle of Alberta was so great way back when because there was so much incredible talent on both teams straight up and down both line ups. Now what Alberta has is 2 teams with an ok top line and the rest garbage. Both teams go into a game now not knowing if they can trust the goalie they have in net. These 2 teams are junior hockey teams compared to the battles from the past. Most of you are outraged if a ref doesn’t call a tap on the wrist. back then you had to skate down the ice with 2 players hanging off your back. Clutch and grab was a huge part of the game. It took a stick to the teeth to get a powerplay. The teams will never be the same not because of the speed or the players worrying about how long their careers are but because of the cap and the fact that you can’t afford have as many talented players on the teams anymore. In this Salary cap era you would not be able to afford the 89 stanley cup champions. You would get less than half of those players on one team. These guys are still out there hammering each other but with more force due to the faster pace which is why the league is having so many injuries right now. It’s just very uneducated to say that it’s nothing more than a game of shinny.

      • deantheraven

        One of the reasons there’s less contact is rule changes and enforcement there of. Players now turn their backs when the go into the corners because it’s a foul if the opposing player hits you. back in the olde daze you had to keep your head on a swivel and be prepared to take a hit or eat some lumber.

    • Luter 1

      Surprised LannyMac, you sure sound like an old time-hockey guy, very intelligent observation for a younger guy because you are a 110% correct! I probably haven’t missed a game since their inception but with these multi-millionaires now, all making sure they don’t get injured or a boo-boo, phone each other after games to say sorry after too hard a hit! Hardest hits the Flames have thrown in the last five years were a couple beauties running into each other. Bring on the trashes but this team is soft as toilet paper. Great conditioned athletes but games are so repetitive and almost rehearst that they really lack excitement like say a fight (oh no someone might get a booboo – although a pummeling seems to have woke up Hamonic). Sleepy heads like Brodie, Ryan, even Backlund most of the year, are not character, heart and soul kind of guys but we seem to like them and keep them around. I fear Hanafin May be another as he goes out of his way not to be physical even worse than Hamilton who also shied big time from the physical game. These guys may as well be 5’6 how they play

      • Redleader

        I really liked how they played against Canadian s, Brodie ,Hamonic,Hanifin are playing well, Valimaki is a leader. , sign him long term now!!!! But I agree that Flames are pretty soft , must get meaner , Hamonic with a broken Jaw has more pushback than half the team .

    • jupiter

      The blood crew earned their pay back in the 80’s.One with a scraper,the other a grain shovel cleaning up the ice after every fight.Vicious and beautiful is a good way to describe it.You could also hear the players on the ice.Not family entertainment.As a fan your heart was pounding from start to finish,and you walked away spent.

    • Chucky

      It seems that the skill of an open ice bodycheck has been lost or at least has almost disappeared. I think that it is due to the desire to increase scoring and elimination of the 2 line pass offside. If you look past the nonsense of earlier eras when cheap shots and everyone was on the edge of dropping their gloves there were great open ice hits. This was because the game was played in two zones, allowing the long stretch pass made a lot of hits too risky. If the defenceman does not need to worry about anyone over the centre line until the puck is over the blueline then there are plaenty of hitting opportunities in every zone, in the modern game these opportunities are not available.
      So it isn’t that today’s players are faster or that they are a bunch of weak millionaires as much as the rules changed to get rid of solid bodychecking.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Ahh, those BOA from 80’s were some of the most entertaining games I have witnessed as a Flames fan. Things have changed since then, but here is hoping with Rittich getting the start tonight a different change is upon us!
    We need to see what kind of difference Rittich can make in our goaltending situation. It is only one game tonight but could be the start of Rittich’s ascent to the clubs #1 goalie. With his 5-1 record so far he has had a good headstart to get there. GFG! GRG!

    • Alberta Ice

      Totally agree Day1-Cfan. I actually rooted for the Oilers when they won their first 2 Cups and it was great to see them end the Islanders dynasty. But by the run in 1986, they and their fans (many of who were my friends) had reached the pinnacle of brazenness. So Steve Smith’s own goal was the ‘laugh is finally on them’ moment. Then throw in 1989 and the Cup win. Finally. Kind of hard to believe a Canadian team hasn’t won a Cup now since the Canadiens in 1993. In 2004, 2006, and 201l, the Flames, Oilers, and Canucks all had the heartache of losing in the 7th game of the Cup final. Yep, time for a Canadian team to break this trend. And if the Flames and Oilers go at it like the intensity of the 1980’s, that would be a really good sign for the future ahead. GFG.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    If we lose tonight it will be Koskinen that beats us, and by Koskinen I mean our lack of finish. Here’s hoping that changes tonight! GFG!!!!!! ?

  • Puck Head

    I was dubious about slotting in Hathaway at the outset of the season but it looks like he’s earned a spot on the roster. He brings an element of toughness and energy which is lacking. It might be time to give Rychel a shot as well. The Canadians out jack-assed us the other night with some of their antics in the third and got under some of our players skins. This can’t happen.

    Assuming we may see Prout today playing his role as a ‘peacemaker.’

  • KeepitReal

    It was my random chance that I flew from Calgary to Toronto back in the late 80’s. The McOilers were on that same flight. They had just played the Flames the previous night. What I’ll never forget as I watched them in the boarding area was that it looked like a Civil War re-enactment scene. Minus the period uniforms. Crutches, casts, slings, bandages, etc. Those BOA’s were all out warfare.

    • Albertabeef

      Goon hockey that killed careers. That old intent to injure, “break his legs” mentality that reduced Bobby Orr’s career along with others like Gretzky, Mario, Lindros, Neely and Gary Roberts had to have his neck vertebrae fussed together or retire when he broke his neck. That’s one I’ll never forget. Brain injuries really suck but I guess some people don’t care about other’s health as log as they were entertained by watching them get hurt.

  • Cheeky

    Rittich in, finally! Shut down McDavid and make the slow goons from up North (Kassian, Lucic) pay when they try to cheap shot us. Stop taking perimeter shots and drive the net. Win at all cost boys!…

  • Off the wall

    The 80’s. What a time warp.
    I grew my first mustache, wore some gaudy clothing and even have a picture of myself dressed up like Don Johnson from Miami Vice.
    I thought I was cool, but I was anything but..

    Hockey was so intense, the battle of Alberta was just that.
    It makes me miss Bob Johnson, I loved that man. Every day was “A great day for hockey.”

    It’s no wonder for 8 consecutive years, either club represented the Campbell Conference for the Stanley Cup finals. (1983-90)

    1986 was very memorable for me, poor Steve Smith throwing the puck up the middle of the ice, only to accidentally hit Fuhr’s skate and end up in their own net- it ended up being the winning goal against the Oilers. It’s not how I wanted it to end though.

    1988-89 was finally our year, however the Oilers- if I remember correctly, took us to 7 games. Whew, I must have lost most of my 80’s hair watching that series!

    But, It was fun watching each team play each other 8 times a year. Every game had its own story. Every story, had its own sweet or sour ending, depending on how you saw the game.

    It’s too bad the 90’s changed the scheduling, I think that’s where the infamous BOA lost its thrust.
    That, and both teams struggling financially and on the ice.

    Those were my fondest memories of hockey and I’ll never forget it. It takes me back to long hair and gaudy clothing— and a Otw guy who thought Don Johnson was the coolest man alive.? I do miss the excitement of the 80’s, hockey was so interesting and filled with stories.

    Maybe that’s why I love stories so much.

    Cheers FN

    • deantheraven

      Had me a couple o’ them suits too, OTW, but I always wore socks!
      What’s most impressive is that Flames 80’s legends then are still Flames legends now, with a personality vacuum throughout the 90’s and into the 2-oughts. That was a hard 2 decades to watch hockey. That’s probably what aged me out…
      Theo Fleury kept the spark alive, and that Iginla fellow was fun to watch. The rest…?
      here’s to the return of a real BOA, with goals, saves and occasionally shovels.
      GFG!

  • Off the wall

    Tonight’s starting lineup via Flames site:

    FORWARDS

    Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm

    Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Sam Bennett

    Dillon Dube – Mark Jankowski – James Neal

    Michael Frolik – Derek Ryan – Garnet Hathaway

    DEFENCE

    Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

    Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic

    Juuso Valimaki – Rasmus Andersson

    GOALTENDER

    David Rittich