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The pressure is going to be wild.
The noise from outside the Scotiabank Saddledome will undoubtedly make its way into the Calgary Flames locker-room. The intensity of their rivalry with the Edmonton Oilers runs too hot for the Flames to block it all out.
And even among the Flames, there’s debate about how you navigate all that.
Riding the inevitable emotional highs and lows of a potential seven-game series against your most hated rival has its pros and cons.
To block out the outside noise, or to let it in? That’s the big question.
Wayne Gretzky picked the Calgary Flames.
Until the puck drops Wednesday on this best-of-seven edition of the Battle of Alberta, that must mean the early bragging rights go to the southerners.
Yeah, that is the same Wayne Gretzky who heydayed for the Edmonton Oilers, leading that team to four Stanley Cup parades in the 1980s. When the Great One, now a studio analyst for TNT, unveiled his playoff bracket prior to the opening round, he crystal-balled this collision between the provincial foes, a long-awaited renewal of what was for a spell the best rivalry in hockey.
And then he predicted the Flames would win it.
The Oilers replied on Twitter: “Ouch, Wayne.”
“I’m sure they don’t like it,” said former Edmonton resident Milan Lucic, one of five players in this series who has worn both sweaters, choosing his words carefully. “But he’s just giving his expert opinion.”
A look at how the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers match up for their second-round NHL playoff series:
Don’t call it the Battle of Alberta.
That’s what Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter would prefer, at least.
Calling it a “battle” implies the series will divide people, but Sutter believes his team’s series against the Edmonton Oilers is going to bring the province together.
He’s made his share of headlines for his sharpshooting ways.
On Tuesday, Elias Lindholm was being hailed for his defensive handiwork.
Lindholm, the first-line centre and leading marksman for the Calgary Flames, is a Selke Trophy finalist for the first time in his career.
“Not very surprising,” said Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Imagine watching Johnny Gaudreau on a breakaway against the Edmonton Oilers on a 360-degree screen.
Starting on Wednesday, Telus Spark is opening up their Infinity Dome theatre to all ages for the Battle of Alberta playoff series. Usually reserved for science films, the dome theatre’s 8K resolution screen will give Flames fans a new immersive way to watch.
The Red Lot viewing party near the Saddledome will remain a ticketed event due to “incredibly high demand,” according to the Calgary Flames.
Tickets will still be free but have to be secured in advance, according to a press release. Fans are able to get two tickets per person on Wednesday at 9 a.m. online.
Those without tickets will not be permitted entrance under any circumstances, the organization stressed. Tickets also have no cash value and are now non-transferable.
“We understand that demand for RED Lot tickets will very likely outweigh supply, and would like to reiterate our tremendous gratitude for the extraordinary support of the C of Red,” the release reads.
The Red Lot opens two hours before puck drop on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Calgary Flames fans may still be catching their breath after Sunday night’s wild overtime win in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars.
But the NHL moves fast, and attention is already turning to Wednesday’s opening game of the massive Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers.
If the Red Lot was bumping for Round 1, it’s only going to get more turned up.
The series against the Oilers could play out very differently than what we saw against the Stars. You’d expect more scoring and there are key players on both sides who have already picked up bumps and bruises that could impact their availability and/or effectiveness for Round 2.
Here are five burning questions we’ll be keeping an eye on…
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers both faced stubborn, defensive-minded opponents in the first round. Both teams required seven games to dispatch the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Here are the key numbers for the Flames and Oilers after one round.
Before you go calling him a traitor, before any accusation of playing both sides, hear the man out …
Perry Berezan is fiercely loyal to the Calgary Flames. He did, after all, skate for five seasons at the Saddledome. He is a proud alumni and past playoff hero.
And yet, Berezan is willing to admit that he’s also been pulling for the arch-enemy Edmonton Oilers.
Because he, like hundreds of thousands of others, was desperate to see another best-of-seven edition of the Battle of Alberta.
“I’ve been waiting for this ever since I moved back here. This province needs this so bad,” said Berezan, a full-time Calgary resident since the mid-1990s.
An editorial by the Edmonton Journal on Tuesday:
Naysayers may scoff that it’s just a game played by grown men, that there are more serious matters at hand like the war in Ukraine, inflation, the climate crisis, Alberta politics and homelessness. But after what we’ve gone through the last two years, this Battle of Alberta is like a tonic for the soul.
Yes, the Oilers made two perfunctory playoff appearances during the pandemic, but watching them play on TV in eerily silent, empty arenas was simply no fun even if they had managed to win a few more games. As we’ve already witnessed during the first round, playoff hockey is meant to be experienced communally, at frenzied arenas, packed bars or raucous fan plazas or in living rooms surrounded by friends and family.
Regardless of who comes out on top in the Battle of Alberta, the local business community stands to be a big winner.
It’s not just the sports bars and obvious watering holes that will benefit from the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers renewing their NHL post-season rivalry for the first time in 31 years.
Pat and Betty, at 1217 1st St. S.W., is a new Quebecois Italian bistro that opened its doors on Jan. 1 and they are seeing a surge in traffic before and after games, even though there is not a single television in the 15-table joint.
“You can throw a rock and hit the Saddledome from here,” said James Martin, managing partner. “It’s been real convenient for people to stop in and have a quick bite before the game and fill up so they can go and get rowdy down there.”
The business is critical for a restaurant that rolled the dice during the pandemic to build and open while restrictions still put a major crunch on capacity and hours. To this point, the gamble has paid off and the Flames’ early post-season run has helped extend their early success during a normally slower spring period.
Calgary police are expecting more hockey fans out on the Red Mile and across the city as the Calgary Flames take the ice against the Edmonton Oilers this week for the first post-season Battle of Alberta in 31 years.
Crowds along 17th Avenue S.W., known as the Red Mile during Flames playoff runs, grew throughout Calgary’s opening-round matchup against the Dallas Stars, with thousands of fans flooding the road after Sunday night’s series-clinching overtime win.
And those crowds are only expected to get bigger starting Wednesday night, when the puck drops for Game 1 of the cross-province tilt.
“It’s safe to assume there will be an increase in the volume of fans and we expect everyone to have fun while being respectful of the neighbourhood, businesses and other participants,” said police spokesperson Lindsay Nykoluk Monday.
This year’s much-anticipated Battle of Alberta matchup between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers also has high stakes for the cities’ mayors.
If the Flames win the second-round series against their cross-province rivals, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi will wear a Calgary jersey as well as full Flames face paint at his next council meeting. If it’s the Oilers who prevail, it will be Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek in council chambers donning an Oilers sweater with her face painted blue and orange.
Gondek wouldn’t commit to a prediction for the series, but she said she’s confident it’s the hometown Flames who will emerge victorious from the long-awaited tilt.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing Mayor Sohi wearing the Flames ‘C’ on his face,” she told reporters at Calgary city hall Monday.
A Battle of Alberta with a shot at the conference finals at stake. Does it get any better than that for sports fans in this part of the world?
With their win in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars on Sunday evening, the Flames booked their ticket to Round 2 of the playoffs and did their part to ensure that Albertans get the matchup they’ve been dreaming about for 31 years.
The matchup also guarantees that an Albertan team will be playing in the third round for the first time since the Oilers went to the Stanley Cup final in 2006. So yeah, tensions are going to be running high around these parts for the next little while.
Here are five things to know about the Flames-Oilers series…
There have been moments during Johnny Gaudreau’s time in Calgary when he’s had a reputation for not producing in the playoffs.
That’s a stigma no hockey player ever wants to have attached to their name.
On Sunday night, in the biggest game of his career and one of the biggest games in the last three decades of Calgary Flames history, Gaudreau put any doubts about his playoff proficiency to bed.
When his team needed him the most, Gaudreau stepped up. Twice.
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