A resurgence in the fate of the Edmonton Oilers has seen the Battle of Alberta intensify, as both Oilers and Flames fans are feeling the buzz of excitement and rivalry following more than a decade since both teams have made the playoffs.
In Andrew and Jody Looy’s St. Paul home, the battle is one that splits the whole family down the middle.
Jody grew up south of Calgary with her family having season tickets to the Flames, while Andrew grew up in St. Paul and in Edmonton Oilers’ territory.
Since she moved to St. Paul, Jody has been like a fish out of water, with “very few Flames fans up here.&”
“You learn to get a thick skin; you take a lot of ribbing,&” she said, adding the ribbing went on even while the Oilers consistently failed to make the playoffs year after year after its loss in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.
But with the addition of wunderkind and now captain Conner McDavid , Edmonton had the upper hand over Calgary in the past regular season.
“I think they swept the series,&” said Jody, adding after a beat – “We don’t talk about that.&”
The couple’s moods, like the chores, yo-yo depending on which team is playing and how they’re doing. Last Wednesday, Jody said she had to put the couple’s two kids to bed, because Andrew was glued to the set of the Oilers’ first playoff game against San Jose Sharks, while on Thursday, Andrew had to step up to the plate to put the kids down so that Jody could watch the Flames take on the Anaheim Ducks. The Oilers had a rocky start to the playoff series and another rocky patch on Tuesday night, losing by 0 – 7, but took two games in between, with the series tied 2-2. Meanwhile, the Flames are losing 0 – 3 to the Ducks, with Game 4 taking place tonight, April 19.
And since they can’t share each other’s love of the other team, they often find themselves at odds with each other, as Jody says, “Someone’s always happy, someone’s always mad.&”
Now they both are working on their children to make converts out of them, with four-year-old Colby steering a bit clear of the fray by cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He likes Conner McDavid, but he says the Oilers are poopy,&” Jody says with a laugh. “I do think he likes the Flames a bit more than the Oilers but that’s probably a little bit more from me.&”
Other star-crossed lovers from rival families and gangs like Romeo and Juliet or Tony and Maria couldn’t make it work, so how do Andrew and Jody manage it?
“There’s been name-calling, for sure,&” she says with a laugh of their Oilers/Flames rivalry. “We just like to bug each other. It’s pretty well constant.&”
While she normally likes to see anyone other the Oilers win, she can see it would be exciting for everyone across the province to see the two teams progress.
“It would be a big battle if Calgary and Edmonton were to face each other in the second round. . . But they can’t both get to the final, so I’d rather it be Calgary.&”
On Thursday, the first night that the Edmonton Oilers played a playoff game in 11 years, local fans were over the moon, tasting the sweetness of success after wandering in the hinterland of regular season elimination for so many years.
Even though Justin Anderson is originally from Newfoundland, he said he started cheering for the team just as they were coming off the euphoria of winning five Stanley Cup championships.
He dates his appreciation for the team to one moment, saying, “When Mark Messier hoisted the Cup for them for the first time without Gretzky – I’ve been a fan of them since then.&”
Like many fans, he’s been keeping a low profile this past decade, bar writing an occasional blog about everything that was wrong with the team to wearing his ‘Kevin Lowe has to Go’ shirt, but now he, along with other Oilers fans, are taking a giddy leap away from those soul-destroying years.
“It’s almost like a new team – you’ve got a new stadium, you’ve got a new ‘Gretzky’, you’ve got a new superstar. It doesn’t even feel like the same team,&” he said. “Maybe it’s easier to be a fan now; I’ve been cheering for a loser for 10 years.&”
Even while he expects it will take a few years yet before McDavid can help his team bring home the Stanley Cup, he’s reveling in their improvement this year, saying, “It feels kind of rewarding to pay $150 to get a seat and expect them to win instead of hope to win.&”
This year is not even a Battle of Alberta, he notes, but more a Battle of Canada, with Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto also in playoff contention, and he points out that fans of all five teams call St. Paul home and are finding this an exciting time.
And even though the Flames and the Oilers share a rivalry, Anderson admits that if the Flames make it through to the finals and the Oilers don’t, he’ll suck it up and cheer for the team from the south.
“I’d have to root for them a little bit. That’s off the record though, right?&” he says with a laugh. “It’s less about the pride, and more, let’s bring a cup back to Alberta.&”