It’s too bad the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have to wait until Jan. 29 to have at it again because the Battle of Alberta finally has some real raw emotion back in it thanks to the dust-up between Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk in Cowtown last Saturday. That’s unquestionably a good thing. It’s long overdue.
There is very little middle ground here. Oilers’ fans insist Tkachuk is a cowardly, spot-picking weasel who turtled and refused to fight when Kassian took exception to being targeted by him, doffed the gloves and started chucking. Calgary fans gleefully point out that Tkachuk gamed Kassian. The Flames not only scored the winning goal on the back half of a double-minor assessed Kassian in a 4-3 win, snapping cost the Oilers’ forward a two-game suspension. The good news is he’ll be back for the rematch.
Kassian has had his say. So has Tkachuk. The fanbases have had at each other pretty good on social media since then. Eric Francis of Sportsnet in Calgary even waded in and stirred the pot, suggesting the code dictates Kassian should have to fight Milan Lucic because he’s a sluggo who went after a “star” player in Tkachuk. It’s a pure troll job from the Calgary houseman, of course, a bit more gasoline on the fire. Francis said:
“If anyone owes anyone a fight, it’s Kassian with Lucic. Kassian is the one who broke the code by rag dolling a star like Tkachuk. And Kassian knows it . . . Kassian dummied a star player of the Calgary Flames. That does not go without retribution. So now we’re going to find out if Zack Kassian is capable or interested in taking on someone out of his weight class in fighting Milan Lucic in the opening minutes of their game on January 29th. I’m fascinated to see if he answers the bell.” The entire interview is here.
The unspoken truth about the fight that really needs to happen when Flames meet Oilers Jan. 29: https://t.co/9zZBarZBgH
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) January 15, 2020
I think the take by Francis is ridiculous, surprisingly so, from a veteran journalist, but he’s in the hot takes business. Offering his opinion is his bread and butter. He can say whatever he wants. Fine. Likewise, fans of both teams on sites like this one. Some of what’s said is over-the-top, some is pretty witty. Players from both sides have had their say. Lucic is here. James Neal is here. Players on both teams, to nobody’s surprise, have their guy’s backs.
That could and should make for some intense hockey and a jolt in the building Jan. 29. Like I said off the top, that’s a good thing for the fan bases of both teams. Bragging rights with a triple-shot of espresso. All that. Truth be told, I’ve been around long enough to know that games like this often don’t live up to the hype that’s generated going in. I hope that’s not the case here, but I’ve seen it go that way before.
Fans and media types can say whatever they want leading up to the re-match, but with 18 days between games, what we can’t have is anything beyond what we’ve heard from the players to this point. That doesn’t fly in today’s NHL. The “I’m going to get you” stuff of yesteryear always sells with fans, but it won’t go over at head office. It can’t. I’ll be surprised if NHL doesn’t have a word with both teams closer to the rematch. It’s wet blanket stuff, I know, but it’s the reality. Nobody can go in having called a shot.
If Kassian is all revved up and wants to go after somebody after cooling his heels for two games, have at it — do it, don’t say it. If Tkachuk can’t wait to square up with Kassian to prove he’s not afraid – I can’t see that happening — just do it, don’t say it. If Lucic wants to come calling on Kassian to send a message, fine. Just do it. Don’t call the shot. Just take it. Whether any of the above plays out or not, the next edition of the BOA has a chance to be a helluva game.
The best thing about all the back-and-forth between fans in Calgary and Edmonton since the last game is that charities in both cities have benefitted now that the rivalry has heated up thanks, in large part to Oilers’ fan Sam Costa. Zach Laing touched on it here and there’s another item here.
As intense as the BOA can be and as much fun as the chirping between the cities is, having all that energy and one-upsmanship result in so much good being done is a huge bonus. You can follow Sam on Twitter at @SamInYeg.