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My first Battle of Alberta

Mar 11, 2014 10:15 am | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

Last weekend I traveled to Edmonton with Bonnyville Nouvelle reporter Andrew Mendler to take in my first Battle of Alberta, and I must say, the match up between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames at Rexall Place left me with a much greater level of respect for this provinceís hockey fans.

The mind-numbingly frustrating match ended in a 2-1 victory for the Flames, and the less than convincing performance from both sides was a sentiment to the past decade of professional hockey in Alberta.

Rexall Place has to be one of, if not the most decrepit arena in the National Hockey League, and unfortunately the Oilers have ranked about the same in terms of performance on the ice over the past eight years. Whatís more, with four fewer Stanley Cups in the franchise and a near-equally abysmal performance through the past few seasons, the Flames arguably have even less to brag about.

In a miserable attempt to find a team to cheer for in this battle of the basement, I got a taste of the heartache, frustration and utter disappointment that comes with being a local hockey fan in this province.

While I am a Vancouver Canucks fan, and yes, we Ďlackí a Stanley Cup, Iíve at least had the luxury of being able to cheer my team on into the post season for the majority of the past 10 seasons, and up until this year Iíve rarely had to resort to pulling my hair out while watching my team struggle to find success.

At the Battle of Alberta last Saturday, I had one hell of a time finding something to cheer about. I can honestly say Iíve seen fewer turnovers in a minor hockey game, and I found myself cringing as a result of poor decision making more often than I found myself cheering for big plays.

Then it hit me, you poor Albertan hockey fans have all been dealing with this day-in and day-out for years on end. Hockey fans in Alberta, whether supporters of the Oilers or the Flames, have truly had their resolve tested over the past decade, and yet they still pack the seats at Rexall and the Saddledome. As depressing as it may be, itís also pretty impressive.

After the recent trade deadline that saw the Canucks ship off Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers for Shawn Matthias and a few pucks, I fear that I may be in for a similar test of resolve in the coming seasons. Since the start of 2014, Vancouver has dealt with coaching issues, scoring issues, injury issues and mentality issues, and after years of being the best team in the nation, it seems my Canucks are poised to slide down the ladder and join Alberta in the NHL basement.

With any luck the Canucks will fire General Manager Mike Gillis before the issues in Vancouver reach such dire proportions, but if you Oilers fans have any pointers as to how youíve survived the past eight seasons, I am all ears.

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