Similar to them Canadiens Leafs series last year, which is why the NHL rebalanced its playoff system almost a decade ago. Things like getting the Edmonton Oilers into the playoffs against the Calgary Flames. OK, Gary Bettman’s NHL was really only interested in getting Penguins capitals as often as possible and never really does anything to bolster Canadian teams, but it’s an indirect result at worst. The league wanted more established rivalries to happen in the playoffs, so they pinned all divisions together to make that happen more often, rather than leaving it to the chance of conference-wide seeding. But unlike last year’s Habs-Leafs, this “Battle Of Alberta” will take place in front of two packed, deafening buildings that will come as close to the bloodlust of the Roman Coliseum as we’ve seen on this continent in some time. That’s what happens when you get that series for the first time in 31 years between two teams whose fan bases hate the other miles more than anyone else. That says a lot about the fate of these two teams for decades and only adds to the frenzy that both teams and fan bases will feel.
Oilers-Flames promises to be great theater for a number of reasons. First, it has the best player in the world who single-handedly pulled his flawed team’s butt out of noose in the previous round, as Connor McDavid is definitely “on one”. The Flames just barely escaped the Dallas Stars’ chloroform frenzy but are poised for their first serious playoff run since 2004. Hell, we’re putting Matthew Tkachuk in the middle of one of the league’s biggest rivals since it’s just grilling . Have you ever given your preschooler Jolt Cola? Multiply it by a factor of 12. There are Flames fans in my life who I know absolutely drool at the idea of turning Mike Smith inside out and weird colors in the sun after a year in Calgary and then defected to Edmonton (mostly there He shit on Jarome Iginla’s Jersey retirement night. No greater crime could take place in Calgary. You could release a noxious gas into every night of the Calgary Stampede and people wouldn’t be so upset).
The Flames are one of the funniest teams in hockey. There’s no bigger show than McDavid right now, and it’s probably true that neither team is defensively good enough to tie up any of those aspects (to be fair, there’s probably no defense that can do anything about McDavid right now ). This should be a time. But one aspect is missing, and Gary Bettman has to decree that today: The Edmonton Oilers have to wear their 80s jerseys for this series.
The biggest decision a hockey team has made in recent years was not to sign a contract or trade. It was the Flames’ call to go all retro for both home and away kits. The stupidest was the Oilers’ decision not to follow suit. Worse, they sported this iconic third kit look for the playoff night.
I understand that the boredom and lack of emotion conveyed by these Tron knockoffs equates to feeling like either being an Oiler or watching the Oilers for the last 25-30 years. I acknowledge the symbolism. But that’s a crime, and a bigger one considering what this Flames Oilers series could look like any night. Look at this variety of colors, joy and life!
But now we would get all this in HD! Tell me this wouldn’t go off the screen at every bar that played it. We have NHL history to draw from, and Flames-Oilers used to define the league as a whole while also celebrating its exciting present thanks to their looks. Make McDavid whizzing down the wing look exactly like Gretzky did (ok, Gretz didn’t really “bounce” everywhere, but you get the idea). Make Tkachuk, who drove the whole city of Edmonton into a blind rage, look just like he did when Joel Otto did it. They could have one of their Stanley Cup playoff ads on the ice 5-7 times, connecting the present and future to the past that the NHL loves so much.
Instead, right now, even the vibrant and life-giving Flames red is being dulled when one has to compete against the emptiness of what the Oilers are wearing, making anything and everyone feel like an Alberta winter. The Oilers’ drab Star Trek maintenance crew outfits are the tail block/beaver dam for a true celebration of vibrancy and beauty. Don’t let that light go out, Gary. Do the right thing, you know it’s true.