Oilers vs. Flames is the NHL’s best rivalry you should make time for

Hockey’s Battle of Alberta between the Oilers and Flames has been a staple for 40 years, and now is the perfect time to get in on the fun.

The hatred between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames runs deep. Their rivalry, the Battle of Alberta, has stretched between the two cities for over a 100 years, and between their hockey teams for at least 40.

It’s one of the most historic rivalries in the NHL, and for good reason. The bad blood of decades old remains between these two franchises, bubbling over nearly every time they take the ice together, even so that NHL golden boy Connor McDavid instigated a major scrap during a game in 2018 to the surprise of many.

The 2019-20 NHL season has already seen incredible drama unfold during a Flames, Oilers meeting in mid-January before the All-Star break. Besides a wild 4-3 game, tensions ran high during an altercation between Oilers’ forward Zack Kassian and Flames’ forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk’s hit enraged Kassian, who was suspended for a pair of games for instigating the altercation. When asked after the suspension came down, Kassian showed no mercy to his opponent.

“I’d do it all over again,” Kassian said. “After speaking with [head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety George] Parros on the phone, he explained how the hit was not dirty. So that gave me some clarity on what you can do and can’t do now, so I put that in the memory bank.”

The NHL’s All-Star break did nothing to douse the flames of the rivalry, as McDavid, Tkachuk and Leon Draisaitl were set to play together for the Pacific Division during the event. When asked what he’d do if he had to share ice time with Tkachuk, Draisaitl was clear: “I would get off the ice.”

Draisaitl reiterated before the All-Star Game that his comments were taken out of context and the pair did team up for a nice goal during the weekend to help the Pacific Division win the $1 million prize pool.

However, Kassian’s suspension will end before the Oilers face the Flames on Wednesday night, meaning we are primed for another contentious and explosive contest between these two rivals. The case can absolutely be made that Kassian deserved a few more games on his suspension for what was — by the letter of the NHL’s rulebook — a legal check by Tkachuk, and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety had to know just what game he’d make his return in.

Why else would Parros, the head of the Department of Player Safety, be set to take in the upcoming game on Wednesday, if not to see the showdown set to ensue?

Wednesday’s game isn’t just a revenge game either for Kassian and the slighted Oilers. The matchup holds significant playoff implications, as Edmonton and Calgary are tied at 57 points in the standings, both three points behind the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Pacific Division.

This season, the Pacific has been a tightly contested race between five teams — with the Oilers, Flames, Coyotes and Golden Knights all deadlocked at 57 points as February rolls into view. The margin between first and fifth in the Pacific Division is three points, a spread that could drop a team out of the wild card if the Central gets its act together in the next few months.

Including Wednesday’s contest, the Oilers and Flames will play three times before the season ends, with a game coming at the start of February then the team’s won’t see each other until April 4. As the matchups stand today, the Oilers and Flames would play each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not a certainty, of course, but no doubt an exciting future possibility.

As it stands, however, there is no better time to get in on this rivalry while it’s still hot. In a light week coming off All-Star weekend and in the midst of the bye weeks of half the league, Wednesday night’s matchup between the Oilers and Flames should be appointment viewing for any hockey — or sports — fan looking to spice up their late-January winter blues.

Follow FanSided NHL for more news, analysis, opinion and unique coverage about hockey in all forms throughout the entire 2019-20 NHL season and beyond.