Monday, October 17, 2005


We were so psyched for Saturday's Battle of Alberta game, which I caught live with three buddies in the 'Dome in Cowtown. But nothing sucks the life out of you like marching proudly into the enemy's building, only to have your team give you nary a reason to stand and cheer as you watch them get shut out. Witnessing the Oilers fail to muster much in the way of decent chances against the Flames capped off Saturday's miserable sporting day. Kipper was sharp but all of our shots could be seen from a mile away. The Oilers are in desperate need of a dangerous sharp-shooter to match Iginla, Sakic and Naslund if they're to stand a chance of keeping up with the divisional competition. But the real story yesterday night for me was the overall experience of going to a Flames-Oilers game in calgary.

Sporting our Oilers jerseys, we understandably endured a lot of drubbing. But we were quick to resort to a variation on the "Five Cup" come-back as the ubiquitous argument closer. Such as, "Oh yeah? Well if you get one and a half Stanley Cups in the next 29 seconds, you'll be half as good as the Oilers by the start of the second period!"

My friend Birkby even made signs. The first one had "Jussi 3:16" on one side, with "For Finland so loved the Oilers, they gave us their brightest son" on the other. Oh yeah. And then he made one of those "CBC" signs for the folks at Hockey Night In Canada.

Side 1:
Welcome back!

Side 2:

Now having been weaned on the CBC, I don't at all agree with Birkby's sentiments. He doesn't have much love for my side of the political spectrum. But I still thought it was a pretty funny sign. Overall, though, we found the Calgary crowd to be largely humourless, not because of any adverse reaction to the signs, which didn't get much usage, but just in general. It's one thing to be dispirited by the Oilers impotence on the night, but it's another thing to be deflated by the poor hockey experience.

I'd have to say that watching hockey in the Saddledome is a different experience from Edmonton or Montreal, the two other rinks where I've caught live games. Different as in worse, judging by the spirit of the crowd. Don't get me wrong, Calgarians love their Flames. They all have that same new dark red jersey that they bought two years ago when everyone else was jumping on the bandwagon. There's just something contrived about the whole thing. I didn't sense much in the way of the heartfelt, lifelong love affair that you get from growing up idolizing a team, which was evident in all encounters with other Oiler fans at the game (conversations with strangers amounting to, "Woooooo! Yeaaahhh!" etc., akin to an exchange between excited gorillas). The Flames fan experience felt a lot more like regurgitating spin from the PR machine. Maybe it's that huge new Conference Champions banner that dwarfs their actual Stanley Cup banner. And then there was the "Oilers suck" chanting ringing through the crowd, which I think is a little juvenile - I don't think we do the equivalent in E-Town. Sure, we'll razz a player with boos but it's usually tongue in cheek, and all in good fun, even with Bertuzzi (who who can forget "Hextall! Hextall!"). Maybe this is just the griping that comes from losing such a boring hockey game, or envy of Flames' fresh in the memory Cup run. Or maybe it's a truly damning indictment of all things Calgarian.

I will give them this however - the Saddledome has some damn fine burgers. Mmm.


At 6:42 PM, Blogger Phoff said...

Burgers, eh? You're always invited to come to Montreal to sample some fin McLean's Burgers and some puck chasing at the Bell Centre.

Cheap accomodations.


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