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The Battle of Alberta

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01-07-2004, 07:46 PM
  #1
Oilers Hockey
 
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The Battle of Alberta

Hi everyone. I was inspired by a piece from the NHL Network a few days about the Battle of Alberta - and I wanted to post my take on the whole ordeal. I've wrote two parts so far, and they are kind of long, so please bear with me.

I would also appreciate any feedback too, especially from fellow Oiler fans. I'm pretty proud of taking the initiative to write about this, and I'll try to add a new part everyday. I hope you like what you read, because I am going to write about the BOA up until now.

Thanks alot! I understand if you don't want to read it; it is fairly long. But I'll start with 1979.

__________________________________________

First, the 80's must have been an awesome time whether you were an Oilers or Flames fan. Teams feared their road trip through Alberta and this place was known as Death Valley. Both Alberta teams were successful in those days when hockey was just a game and not a corporate business. Both teams made the Stanley Cup finals for 8 straight years, with the Edmonton Oilers winning 5 Stanley Cups in the years 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990, and the Calgary Flames rewriting history and being the only team to win the Cup in the fabled Montreal Forum, in 1989.

BOA - 1979-1982 - The Beginnning of a Dynasty

The first "BOA" was played on October 28th, 1979 between the Edmonton Oilers and Atlanta Flames. The Oilers were fresh out of the WHA and struggled to adjust to the NHL, while the Atlanta Flames enjoyed success from years of patience to build a winner. The first meeting took place in Edmonton where the Flames beat the Oilers 7-3.

That year the Oilers were the only WHA team to make the playoffs, promptly getting swept in three games to the powerful Philadelphia Flyers. A skinny 19-year old kid named Wayne Gretzky was turning heads in the league and people knew many great things were to come from this guy.

That same year the Atlanta Flames posted a respectable 35-32-13 record for 83 points, and met the Rangers in the playoffs. They battled hard, but unfortunately the Rangers had victory in 4 games. The Flames were struggling to stay afloat in Atlanta and were on the verge of folding, and much to the dissapointment of the Atlanta fans, an owner was finally found. He moved the team to Calgary, Alberta, where people appreciate hockey for what it is, and effectively creating a rivalry that would become legendary in the future.

For the first time ever, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames faced off in the 1980-1981 season at Northlands Coliseum. The Oilers beat them 5-3. Not many games were played between them that year, because oddly, the Flames and Oilers were in different divisions. The Flames moved to the Smythe division in the 1982 season, but we'll get to that later.

From what I've been told, in those early years the BOA did not exist on the same level as it does today. In their first year in Calgary, the Flames had a 39-27-14 record, and with that record the Flames rolled over the Chicago Blackhawks in 3 games. The Flames then beat the heavily-favored Flyers in 7, before bowing out to the Minnesota North Stars in 6 games. Still, reaching the conference finals in their first year as the Calgary Flames had a buzz of excitement in the city, Flames fans excited about their new team.

As for the Oilers, something shocking happened in the first round of the 1981 playoff. The 14th placed Oilers, winning only 29 games, were matched up against the 3rd place Montreal Canadiens. No one gave Edmonton a chance, the Canadiens finished 39 points ahead of the Oilers, but no one could have predicted that the huge underdog Oilers would sweep the series in three games. This is the point when the Oilers started to come of age and let everyone know that they were an emerging powerhouse. They could not keep up with the defending Cup champs Islanders in the second round, but still took them to 6 games.

The 1981-1982 season saw something new emerge in this provincial rivalry, fierce competitiveness of hard-hitting rough games the BOA became known for. The Oilers overshadowed the Flames when Gretzky scored 50 goals in 39 games and went to break Esposito's record by tallying an unbelieveable 92 goals, a record that likely will never be beaten. Still, both teams would be feared by the others in the NHL, and whenever the Oilers and Flames played, that was the game to watch.

However, both teams failed to deliver the expectations their fans had on them. Calgary finished with a dissapointed 75 points, and when they met Stan Smyl and his Canucks, they were swept in three games.

The high-flying Oilers were a confident bunch. They faced the Los Angeles Kings and the first game was a nail biter that the Kings won by 10-8. The Kings took the series to 5 games, which was the maximum back then, and won. The Oilers were heavily favored to win, and it taught the Oilers a hard lesson, never underestimate your opponent.

BOA - 1983-1985 - Death Valley

After a short span of only 3 years, The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames became a model for excellence in the NHL. While the Flames never experienced the level of success that the Oilers had - yet - the games were nonetheless entertaining and every win was hard earned.

However, a trend began to develop between the two teams that would be unique to each. Their style. Both teams had weaknesses, because the Oilers style was offence first - who cares how many goals the opposition scores as long as you score more - and they had the firepower to do it. Calgary's style was an exciting defense first philosophy, and this is what differentiated the two teams to this day. Both teams goaltending were up to the task though, and Calgary had Mike Vernon, and Edmonton had just signed an young and excited Grant Fuhr.

That year Calgary's Kent Nilsson posted an impressive 104 points. Lanny McDonald - aquired from the Maple Leafs the year before- scored 66 goals, the 2nd highest that year and only 5 less than Gretzky. For the second straight year the Calgary Flames faced the Vancouver Canucks and took the series in 4 games capping it off with a 4-3 overtime win at Pacific Coliseum.

The Edmonton Oilers finished the season with 106 points, good enough for 3rd overall in the NHL. They faced the Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs, and in what would become almost an annual tradition, the Oilers handily swept the Jets in 3 games.

1983 was the first year the real Battle started to develop. In the Smyth division finals, the Oilers and Flames met for what was to become the first true Battle of Alberta. In Game 1 both teams came out of the gate flying and it appears both team were evenly matched. The Oilers squeaked out a 6-3 win, and then the Flames broke down. It was apparent that the Oilers offense was too much for the Flames defense to handle, with the Oilers humiliating Calgary with a score of 10-2 and capping the series in Edmonton with a 9-1 victory.

The Oilers went to on sweep the Chicago Blackhawks in 4 games, setting up a heated battle between the two best teams in the league - the Oilers and the NY Islanders. The Islanders shut out the Oil 2-0 in the first game at Northlands. They also shut out Gretzky. The Islanders knew what it took to win championships, and the young Oilers were no match for them. The Oilers were swept in 4 games in the finals, and despite posting an excellent regular season record, alot of people started to wonder if the Oilers were chokers and if they could ever win.

In the beginning of the 1983-1984 season, the city of Calgary completed the Flames new arena, the Saddledome, a huge entertainment complex shaped like a huge saddle. The BOA became much more intense after the fires of last seasons playoffs, and it never cooled down after that. The Flames had taken a huge step forward by getting Al MacInnis and Hakan Loob into their lineup. As the season drew to a close, the Oilers had tallied 119 points and a convincing 57-18-5 record and the Flames a 34-32-14 record and 82 points. They were 1st and 2nd in the Smythe division. Both would be facing bad teams in the first round - the Canucks and Jets who both finished with 73 points. The Oilers swept the series with the Jets and the Flames faced the Canucks for the 3rd straight year and beat them in 4 games, the last game a 5-1 drubbing of Vancouver at Pacific Coliseum.

As predicted, the Oilers and Flames met in the second round. The first game in Edmonton was like everyone expected, rough , hard-hitting, and ugly. The Oilers and Flames split the series the first two games with the Oilers winning game one 5-2, and the Flames winning game two 6-5 in overtime. In games three and four in Calgary the Oilers dominated the Flames and took both games, putting a stranglehold 3-1 series lead over the Flames.

It was a wake up call for the Flames, they were on the brink of elimination and had to battle back with everything they had to stay alive and bring the series back to Calgary. In game five everyone expected a close game, and it was. The Flames scored 5 times on route to a 5-4 victory. They used their gaining momentum to a 5-4 overtime win in Calgary in game six and forced a game 7 in Edmonton. This time, it was anybodys game, it didn't matter that the Oilers had finished the season with 119 points, the Flames proved they were for real and woke up the Oilers. The Flames awoke a sleeping giant and the Oilers won game 7 and took the series with a 7-4 victory. For the second straight years the Oilers killed the playoffs hopes of the Calgary faithful.

The Oilers went on the sweep the Minnesota North Stars in 4 games, and with the Islanders beating Montreal in the Conference final, a rematch of last years Stanely Cup Final was made. The Islanders, winning 4 Cups in a row, were beginning to show signs of age, while the Oilers began to show signs of maturity and knowing how to win. Fuhr was the major reason why the Oilers took game one with a score of 1-0. The Oilers were showing the Islanders they were for real, and the teams split the series heading back to Edmonton. There was a fierce rivalry between the Oil and Islanders in those days and both teams hated each other. For games three and four Edmonton crusied past the Isles with scores of 7-2. The Oilers won the Presidents Trophy that year, so they decided game five to be in Edmonton as well. The Oilers won 5-2 with resounding chants of "Let's go Oilers, let's go!" and won the city of Edmonton their first Stanley Cup.

The 1984-1985 season went along with Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary posting excellent records. Gretzky, Kurri, and Coffey were three of the leagues top five scorers, Winnipeg's Dale Hawerchuk lets the Jets to a season best 96 points, and the Flames finished right behind them with 94 points.

The Oilers and Kings met in the first round and still had trouble with them like they did in 1982 when they were shell-shocked by Dionne and Co. They were determined not to let it happen again, and the Oilers swept the series even though two games went to OT.

The Calgary Flames met the Winnipeg Jets, and unlike previous years, this year the Jets were no pushovers. In the previous year Calgary had seen a large part of the Saddledome drenched in red from the Flames fans. This time, Winnipeg called upon its fans to wear white, and the response was overwhelming. Although the Flames lost the series in four games, they were part of creating a renouned and legendary tradition - the Winnipeg White Out. Thats how the whiteout started.

However, the Jets were in a tough division where they were cannon fodder the Oilers. the Oilers swept them in four, then beat the Blackhawks in six games, setting up a meeting with the Flyers in the finals and making their 3rd consecutive appearance. Hextall and the Flyers couldn't handle the high-octane style of Gretzky's Oilers, and fell in five games, and the Edmonton Oilers won their 2nd Stanley Cup.

Next up - 1986-1988 - "The Goal" and "The Spear"


Last edited by Oilers Hockey: 01-07-2004 at 07:51 PM.
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Old
01-07-2004, 07:55 PM
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The Rage
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So far so good. Keep it coming.

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01-08-2004, 02:26 AM
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excellent so far looking forward to part two.

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