The first professional hockey rivalry between the two cities dates to the founding of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1921. Both cities received teams, Calgary the Tigers, and Edmonton the Eskimos. The Eskimos won the WCHL title in 1923, but lost the Stanley Cup to the rival National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators. Calgary also appeared in a Stanley Cup championship series in 1924, but lost to the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. After the demise of the WCHL in 1927, Alberta hockey fans turned to junior hockey. Both cities had teams in the Western Hockey League and Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Pro hockey did not return until the World Hockey Association arrived in 1972. Both cities received teams, but Calgary's Broncos folded without playing a game. The new Edmonton Oilers, then were left without an intra-provincial rival until a new WHA team, the Calgary Cowboys arrived in 1975, but they folded after two years. The short and sporadic nature of the Calgary WHA franchises made building meaningful rivalries more difficult. The WHA itself was unstable and merged with the NHL in 1979.
Oilers vs. Flames
In recent years, one of the most intense and passionate expressions of this rivalry is the frequent matchups between the professional NHL hockey clubs based in each city - the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
The Oilers joined the NHL as one of the teams making the switch from the World Hockey Association in 1979. They were soon followed by the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary in 1980, making the question of who would reign as the top team in Alberta a hot topic. The Flames were the dominant squad in their inaugural season, finishing with 39 wins and 92 points and making it to the conference finals. The following year the Oilers became the dominant franchise and never looked back. Wayne Gretzky was shattering NHL records (including his own), and the Oilers became the NHL's last dynasty, winning the Stanley Cup Championship in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990 with lineups that featured legends like Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, and Mark Messier. The Flames would not win the Stanley Cup until 1989, led by superstars Lanny McDonald, Doug Gilmour and Mike Vernon.
The Oilers defeated the Flames in the playoffs in 1983, 1984, 1988, and 1991, on their way to two of their five Stanley Cups. However, the Flames did get revenge; the infamous 1986 Battle of Alberta was decided by rookie Oiler defenceman Steve Smith accidentally scoring on his own goal (credited to Perry Berezan), which ignited the rivalry to a new level. The Flames were favored in the 1988 playoffs, but the Oilers swept the series and eventually went on to win the Cup. 1991 was last year the teams met in the playoffs, and it came down to the final game to decide the victor. Esa Tikkanen led the underdog Oilers to victory in overtime with his third goal of the game. It is often cited as one of the most exciting playoff series of all time.
Due to the sheer talent and skill exhibited by both teams in the mid to late-1980s, Alberta was considered a "Death Valley" for teams coming to play on a road trip, especially those from the Eastern conference. Even though 5 were won by the Oilers, an Albertan team won the Cup in 6 of 7 seasons between 1984 and 1990.
With the fortunes of both teams taking a slide during the 1990s, the rivalry cooled off. The passions ignited in the 1980s playoff sagas would only make brief appearances during the regular season. At this time, both franchises were facing financial hardships, and many experts were predicting the demise of all Canadian teams except the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. These fears were proved partially justified, as both the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets relocated to American cities, in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
It took well over a decade for either team to return to anything near the form they had exhibited in the 1980s. The Flames advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, falling in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames became the first team in the modern era of the NHL to defeat all three divisions winners en route to the Stanley Cup final. The next Stanley Cup final, (played in 2006 due to the NHL lockout of 2005) saw the Edmonton Oilers fall in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers became the first 8th seed in NHL history to advance past the semifinals, let alone make it to the Stanley Cup final. With the resurgent success as a result of these playoff runs, the rivalry has somewhat reignited.
The 2009–10 NHL season marked the first time either team has won every game between the two, the Flames were 6-0 in regular season games against the Oilers.
Oil Kings vs. Hitmen
Although not nearly as intense, the Western Hockey League intends to develop one for the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen. The junior clubs are owned by the Oilers and Flames respectively. Both cities have had several franchises throughout the WHL's history. The original Oil Kings franchise faced the Calgary Centennials from the league's founding in 1966 until the Oil Kings relocation to Portland in 1976. The Calgary Hitmen were formed in 1995, followed a year later by the Edmonton Ice. The Ice never gained a foothold in Edmonton, and left for the Kootenays after two years. The Hitmen survived their initial struggles to grow into one of junior hockey's biggest drawing teams. The modern Oil Kings joined the WHL as an expansion franchise in 2007.
It should be noted that there are currently five Alberta-based WHL teams. In addition to Calgary and Edmonton, there are also the Medicine Hat Tigers, Lethbridge Hurricanes, and Red Deer Rebels and they all play together in one division, making for many intense intra-provincial battles.
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