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GENE'S BLOG: Welcome back, Battle of Alberta

Gene recaps a pair of legendary matchups between the Oilers and Flames within a four-day span, reigniting the provincial rivalry to 1980s-level intensity

by Gene Principe / Special to

It started with a poke at a loose puck. That's it, that's all.

It happens countless times in a hockey game. However, the reaction this time wasn't the customary one. In fact, far from it. By the time it was all said and done that loose puck poking led to a lot of pushing, shoving, jostling, face-washes, name-calling and a pair of fights including one between the two goalies.

The final tally was four fighting majors, three roughing minors, two leaving-the-crease penalties, two game misconducts for a final total of 50 penalty minutes on the play (26 for Calgary, 24 for Edmonton). That was the main course in the week's second Battle of Alberta with the appetizer being delivered on Wednesday night.

It's been quite a week to rekindle the provincial rivalry on the ice. I can't remember a bigger build-up to a game in January than what we saw in the middle of the week. It stemmed mostly from the Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk fireworks from 18 days prior.

The battle was enhanced by the war of words. Zack called Matthew something and Matthew called Zack something. The verbal venom continued right through to game night. Then, before Kassian and Tkachuk could settle the score, in jumped Sean Monahan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The undercard was not a disappointment as RNH took on the bigger centreman in career fight number three. The game ended one point short of the Oilers intended plan. It finished in a shootout that just happened to include hockey's version of the bat flip on a stick toss courtesy David Rittich. More to come on that later.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at CGY 02.01.20

Fast forward to Saturday night and there are no friends on the ice, but there was one Buddy (last name Robinson). In case you Khaira, it was Jujhar and the recent Flames call-up that started the fisticuffs portion of the evening.

Within all this was a hockey game that needed to be played and won. No shortage of heroes to get that accomplished from Kailer Yamamoto to Connor McDavid to RNH, or how about Leon Draisaitl? A four-assist night to hit a league-best 83 points.

His play was on point and after the game he had one more point to make when asked by TSN's Ryan Rishaug on his reaction to Rittich's Wednesday night stick toss. "I thought it was disrespectful," said the NHL's top point producer. "We hit two posts in the shootout and he acted like he just won the Stanley Cup."

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Leon Draisaitl 02.01.20

As if the on-ice action hasn't alone been enough, but neither team has shied away from speaking their minds. It's given the fans even more fodder to go back and forth with their opinions on all the developing juicy storylines, and there have been many. For those of us who lived the Battle of Alberta in the 1980s, this is what we meant.

I know you can Google or YouTube the heyday of the good-old days, but there is no way to truly understand it until you live it. The new year has brought back a lot of old memories. Now new ones are being made but they look a lot like the old ones, which makes fans of all ages enjoy what's happening between the two teams.

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Mike Smith 02.01.20

It was interesting to watch all the post-game interviews from Oilers TV on Saturday night. To a man, each Edmonton player spoke about the feeling in the room, the fun factor in all this, the club sticking together, the belief in each other and so on. There can be scheduled team-building events or exercises, but nothing builds a team's bond better than what Oilers fans saw Saturday night.

Oh, and I forgot to mention Edmonton also won 8-3 and pushed themselves closer to the top of the Pacific Division. Welcome back, Battle of Alberta, and we'll see you again on April 4.

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