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37 FOR 37: TONGUE LASHING

Of all the legendary toe-to-toe tilts in the history of the Battle of Alberta, MacT vs. Harvey was one of the dog-gone wildest ones

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

From a northerners' standpoint, the scoreline was downright depressing - 4-0 Flames.

And only nine minutes remained on the Saddledome scoreclock to overturn the sizeable deficit and his team hadn't shown any particular signs of a quick renaissance.

So, in an owly mood to begin with, Craig MacTavish wasn't about to stand for any extracurricular guff. 

Certainly none from an oversized dog cheerleader with a porkpie red hat and long red cloth tongue lolling out of its mouth.

So, when that pooch got too bold, too sassy and ventured a tad too close, leaning over the glass, the Edmonton Oilers' coach felt an irresistible urge to reach up and … 

Yank Harvey the Hound's tongue right out of his fuzzy mascot head.

McTavish then nonchalantly tossed the offending object up into the crowd.

Over the years, the Battle of Alberta has produced its share of memorable toe-to-toes: Semenko vs. Hunter. Jackson vs. Peplinski. McSorley vs. Sheehy. Etc., etc., etc.

But MacT vs. a mascot?!

Well, it certainly spiced up a run-of-the-mill Game 47 on Jan. 20, 2003, in Calgary.

In fact, the incident sparked the listless Oilers into action, and over those final nine minutes they scored three times, turning a rout into a nail-nibbler, falling just short, 4-3.

Nobody would be talking about the game, or its result, afterwards, though.

"I'm taking auditions for a mascot the next time they come up to Edmonton,'' sniped MacTavish.

"And I'm going to get a ladder so he can stand behind their bench. And I hope it's 4-0 for us.

"Good thing (the tongue) wasn't a tie-down or he'd have been inside the bench."

Even minus his tongue, the Hound kept leaning over the glass, taunting MacTavish. Several Oiler players began squirting the beast from water bottles before security moved in to remove Harvey from the field of battle.

The homeside, naturally, got more of a kick out of the antics than its arch-rival.

"That was great, seeing Harvey go down there and bait their bench,'' laughed Flames' defenceman Robyn Regehr. "People talk about the Battle of Alberta dying down or not being the same ... all I know is I want to beat that team more than any other. I'm sure our fans feel the same way.

"If it were the other way around, if they were beating us 4-0, they'd want to rub our noses in it, too."

Unsurprisingly, the tongue-takedown received a blizzard of coverage worldwide.  

A couple of days later, prior to Calgary's next home game, TSN's James Duthie breathlessly reported, with HIS tongue firmly in cheek, that the Hound's tongue had been re-attached and all was well with the world: "(Harvey) is in the lineup tonight, but he might have to wear one of those cones so he doesn't lick himself."

Years later, MacTavish is still being quizzed on the incident, which has remained a standard when classic tales of the provincial rivalry are being bandied about.

"My daughter was a little worried,'' MacTavish once joked good-naturedly. "She wondered if I'd go after Barney next."

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