Calgarians rally troops for first Alberta battle in 31 years

After 31 years, Alberta’s two NHL teams will meet again in the playoffs and fans, politicians and businesses are all lining up for a piece of the excitement.

It’s been so long since Alberta’s last battle — where the Calgary Flames faced the Edmonton Oilers — most of the Flames weren’t even alive.

Each team’s preparation to face their provincial rival has added an extra layer of intensity to this next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin on Wednesday.

Flames fan Mark Gibson said the series will give the city the boost it needs.

“After everything we’ve been through…the city needs something to cheer us up and they’re doing just that,” he said, sporting his Flames jersey along the 17th Avenue Monday.

“Zero to a hundred, I’m 110 years old.

Flames fan Mark Gibson says he’s 110 out of 100 in his enthusiasm for the Alberta battle. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Others see the series as an economic stimulus opportunity – especially for the bars and restaurants lined along the city’s “red mile” on 17th Avenue SW

“It was definitely very busy at night,” said Karla Medkova, Porch’s general manager.

“People come here to watch the game. Sometimes they come here before the game before dinner and then they go to the Saddledome, but it’s very, very good for people to come here and we hope that this second series will be even better than that.”

Karla Medkova says the restaurant she manages on 17th Avenue SW in Calgary has had lineups every playoff night so far. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Medkova says sales have probably doubled or even tripled since the start of the first round against the Dallas Stars.

Every game night the restaurant saw queues, unable to get all the customers in, which was an exciting change of pace for the restaurant in its first year of operation.

“Here on 17th Avenue, I can’t wait to see the vibe,” she said.

The mayors make a bet

As is often the tradition between two opposing sports teams, the mayors of both cities made bets on the winning team.

The city council of the losing team shall wear the jersey of the winning city’s team at the first council meeting following the end of the series. The losing mayor will have to paint his face in the colors of the winning team.

The losing city council will also make a donation to the opposing city’s Kids with Cancer Society in recognition of Ben Stelter’s battle with brain cancer, according to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

“[Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi] is a wonderful man, and I think he would look great in red and black. So I’m looking forward to that moment,” Gondek said.

Mayors and councilors are still working out how the financial donation will work and the total amount, but it will likely be something that all of one council or the other will contribute, Gondek said.

The rivalry has also extended to athletes from other sports. Calgary native and Team Canada player Sam Adekugbe challenged Edmonton fan and soccer star Alphonso Davies to bet on Twitter.

The rivalry begins on a friendly note, but as the series begins on Wednesday, many say the friendliness could change.

“I don’t hate Edmonton that much yet, but I know after Game 1 I will hate them,” Flames fan Nishant Mehrotra laughed.