January 26 2013 10:21AM
"You suck worse than we do!" That loser's rallying cry is what the Battle of Alberta has, essentially, degenerated to for fans of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames for way too many seasons now.
Mired in mediocrity, or worse, the Oilers and Flames have thrashed away at each other in a scrap for provincial bragging rights that's too often resembled a purse fight between two teams going nowhere fast as images of the BOA, when it really was one, have faded. Feeble. Sad.
Oilers fans have been on the wrong side of that dispute so long they've been reduced to leaning on the memories of those five Stanley Cups -- or maybe that unlikely run to the Stanley Cup final after the lost lockout season -- when exchanging "your mommas" with their sneering Cowtown cousins. Most of the Five Cups brag, of course, happened before those exchanging one-liners via Twitter today were even born. Dusty stuff. Ancient history.
More recently, the Flames have had it all their way. In every one of the seven seasons since the lockout previous to this last one, including the year the Oilers turned an eight-place finish into a Cup final appearance, the Flames have finished higher in Western Conference standings. And, mostly, they've dominated the head-to-head season series between the teams.
They've certainly been better than the Oilers, out of the playoffs for six straight seasons, in terms of overall standings, even if better hasn't translated into anything but also-ran status as they've hung on to provincial bragging rights despite a slow but obvious decline. They, at least, have been able to feel better about themselves while looking down at the Oilers in the pecking order.
Yes, the Flames have sucked less.
TIME HAS COME
Calgary fans might want to tear out and post the final 2011-12 NHL standings on their refrigerators now and take a good, long look because Jay Feaster's team isn't going to get any solace from sucking less for some time to come, starting with this abbreviated 48-game campaign.
While the Flames have resisted the urge to tear it down to bare metal and start again, hanging doggedly in the middle of the also-ran pack these past three seasons rather than risking a frustrating and fruitless stroll through the desert, the underdog Oilers from up the highway have been taking it in the teeth and reloading. Short-term pain? How much would you like? Long-term gain? We are just now getting a glimpse of it.
That glimpse continues tonight in Cowtown when the Oilers face the Flames at the Saddledome on Hockey Night In Canada in the first meeting of the teams this season in the latest edition of the BOA – a head-to-head howdy-do that'll have to satisfy fans until a rematch April 1, of all days.
There'll be the usual trash talk and bravado from both cities, of course. There always has been, even when it's been a coin toss as to which team has sucked less. "We do!" "No, we do!" The way I see it, though, tonight will prove to be something of a benchmark for fans of both teams.
What we have here is a meeting between one team on the rise, the Oilers, and one team on the decline, the Flames. If that isn't already obvious now, it most certainly will be by the time April 1 rolls around – moving forward, it might be a long, long time until there's any dispute about that.
What will Calgary fans do without "You suck worse than we do" as a consolation prize?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.