Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Battle of Alberta

The Oilers and Flames' second-round series begins tomorrow, marking the latest chapter in Edmonton and Calgary's centuries-old "Battle of Alberta," Jeff writes.

Why it matters: This is the sixth postseason matchup ever — and first since 1991 — between two cities roughly the same distance apart as Boston and New York.

  • 1991: Oilers won 4-3 (first round)
  • 1988: Oilers won 4-0 (second)
  • 1986: Flames won 4-3 (second)
  • 1984: Oilers won 4-3 (second)
  • 1983: Oilers won 4-1 (second)

Context: Alberta is the fourth-most populous of Canada's 10 provinces (~4.5 million people). More than half of Albertans live in either Edmonton, which is the capital, or Calgary, which is the province's largest city.

The backdrop: The Edmonton-Calgary hockey rivalry dates back to the 1890s and both cities had teams in the short-lived Western Canada Hockey League in the 1920s.

  • The rivalry found new life when teams from both cities joined the NHL in the 1970s and took the league by storm. Every year from 1983 to 1990, one of the two made the Stanley Cup Final.

  • While Edmonton holds the edge in the playoffs (20-10), Calgary leads the regular-season series (130-111-19). They've fought 265 times in their 290 games — evidence of bad blood.

The big picture: Not only is this the first Battle of Alberta in 31 years — it's also just the fifth all-Canadian playoff series this century (not counting 2021's COVID format). The other four were all Maple Leafs-Senators in the early 2000s.

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