The Battle of Alberta: Who has the historical edge?
We analyse the numbers behind the 42-year history of the fierce rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
The Battle of Alberta is one of hockey’s great rivalries.
Ever since the Atlanta Flames moved 1,914 miles north to Calgary in 1980, Alberta has played host to some of the NHL’s fiercest games, most exciting moments, and one of its most famous dynasties.
Although the standard of hockey in Alberta has dipped since the Oilers and Flames won six of eight Stanley Cups between them in the 80s, the rivalry between the two teams remains intense.
An ongoing feud between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian, along with the shifted schedule for the 2020-21 campaign, which saw them face off 10 times within four months, has really reignited the hatred between the Flames - who are in the NHL lines to win the 2022 Stanley Cup - and the Oilers.
The Battle is back, and that bodes well for the future of hockey in Alberta.
But what about its history? Which team holds the bragging rights at this point? Let’s take a look.
Regular season record
Since the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames, there have been 253 regular season meetings between the two Alberta franchises.
And, despite the Oilers’ domination of hockey throughout much of the 1980s, it is the Flames which have the edge in the regular season.
Calgary has won 126 times against Edmonton, dropping 103 games in regulation and six games in overtime.
Edmonton holds 109 wins over Calgary, with 126 losses – 117 coming in regulation and nine in OT.
Before the NHL introduced current overtime rules, the two clubs also shared 18 ties.
Calgary’s edge over Edmonton extends to its record on the road. The Flames have won 54 times in Edmonton, while the Oilers have prevailed 45 times in Calgary.
To win games you have to score goals, and the Flames have also found the net more often in the Battle of Alberta.
Calgary has scored 862 goals in rivalry games against Edmonton, while conceding 824 times.
While the Flames have quite clearly been the better team in the Battle of Alberta during the regular season, there is no denying the Oilers have dominated their rivals when it matters most: in the playoffs.
In the five postseason series between Calgary and Edmonton, the Oilers have won four, including two divisional finals wins in 1983-84 and 1987-88 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
In terms of games, the Oilers have beaten the Flames 19 times in the playoffs, while losing 11.
The picture remains the same when taking into account each team’s overall postseason record.
The Oilers have won an impressive 160 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs in franchise history, while losing 112.
The Flames, meanwhile, have a losing record in the postseason. Calgary has won 103 playoff games in its history, and has lost 118.
Let’s not forget the most important thing here, either: The Stanley Cup.
The famous Oilers dynasty of the 1980s claimed five Stanley Cup wins between 1983-84 and 1989-90, a run which few teams in NHL history can match.
And although Edmonton is yet to win another championship, those five titles make them the sixth most successful franchise ever.
The Flames did manage to break the Oilers dominance for a season as they won the Stanley Cup in 1988-89, but that remains their only championship to date.
Both teams made a further unsuccessful appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in the early 2000s, but success has been hard to come by in Alberta for the last three decades.
Great rivalries are defined by great players, and it’s safe to say the Battle of Alberta has featured plenty of those.
None more so than the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, who was the centrepiece of the Oilers dynasty in the 1980s.
Gretzky is the all-time points leader in the Battle of Alberta, racking up 133 goals and assists against Calgary during his 10 seasons with Edmonton.
Glenn Anderson leads the franchise for goals against the Flames, notching 45 during his 11 seasons with the club.
Edmonton can also lay claim to having the greatest current NHL player in Connor McDavid.
McDavid continues to put up ridiculous numbers every season and, at the age of just 25, has many years of domination ahead of him.
He is the Oilers’ active goals and points leader in the Battle of Alberta, with 26 goals and 43 points against the Flames.
That is not to say that Calgary hasn’t had great players of its own.
Hall of Famer Al MacInnis is their all-time points leader against Edmonton with 82, while recent inductee and franchise legend Jarome Iginla leads them for goals in this fixture with 34.
Mark Giordano, now of the Seattle Kraken, is their active points leader against Edmonton with 36, while Johnny Gaudreau’s 15 goals make him their active goals leader.
What does the future hold?
The numbers paint a pretty clear picture of this historic rivalry: Calgary edges Edmonton in the regular season, but Edmonton turns up when it matters.
It’s obvious, however, that both franchises have not been where they want to be in recent years, with just the one meaningful postseason appearance for each since the turn of the century.
That has led to a dampening in the intensity of the rivalry, but things do seem to be heading in the right direction in Alberta.
Edmonton has hockey’s biggest talent tied down until 2026, and is slowly building a roster capable of winning playoff series again.
Calgary’s situation is slightly less positive but they have some talented young players and could kick on to become a playoff team again in the coming seasons.
The rivalry itself has also been recently reignited by the Tkachuk-Kassian brawl, with meetings between these sides having a real edge to them once again.
As we approach the 254th regular season Battle of Alberta, let’s hope that continues.