By Mai-Lan Bui, November 27 2023—
The 20th anniversary of the Heritage Classic hosted the Battle of Alberta for the first time, marking the seventh game within the series. The game was held at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, home of the Oilers, who defeated the Flames with a score of 5–2 in front of over 54,000 fans. To electrify the atmosphere even more, the Albertan rock band Nickelback took center stage as they performed for the second intermission, which made the Heritage Classic authentically Albertan.
Before the game, the organizations highlighted the Heritage Classic jerseys as they gave nods to the rich history of both teams, showing a sense of pride and tradition. The Calgary Flames jerseys’ look was inspired by the Calgary Stampeders hockey team of the 1950s and 1960s, keeping the team’s logo in a hand-drawn style. The jerseys for the Edmonton Oilers took inspiration from the Edmonton Mercurys, but fans were keen on highlighting the leather-looking pants and gloves. Both teams had “Battle of Alberta” emblazoned on the neck of the jerseys as a tribute to the historic rivalry. They showcased the history and the teams’ cultures even more by showing up in iconic pregame outfits, setting a tone of lightheartedness and fun. The Oilers showed up in their oil rig uniforms while the Flames moseyed down to the rink wearing coveralls, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots.
The anticipation for this longstanding Battle of Alberta, battling it out at the Heritage Classic event for the first time, should’ve brought excitement, though it was somewhat of a bummer. Both teams have had poor performances since the start of the season – prior to the match, out of 32 teams, the Oilers were 31st in the league, and the Flames in 30th place. Here is the recap of the game:
The Edmonton Oilers struck first with a goal from Brett Kulak, followed by a second goal as Zach Hyman scored on a 2-on-1. Given the strong start, Edmonton gave Calgary a chance to score on its second 5-on-3 power play near the end of the first period when Nazem Kadri scored his first goal of the season, cutting the Oilers’ lead by one. But the Oilers proved more dominant as Evan Bouchard restored the two-goal lead. In the second period, A.J. Greer had a rebound off MacKenzie Weegar’s shot on net, making the score 3-2. Finally, Vincent Desharhais got his first career NHL goal to give Edmonton a two-goal lead, and Evander Kane sealed the win for the Oilers in the 2023 Heritage Classic with an empty net goal.
Ending their losing streak, the Oilers booted the Flames down to 31st to gain their 30th spot. With Edmonton’s victory, Oilers fans should be happy, right?
The start of the regular season has been less than ideal for both teams, and it is hard to celebrate when both teams have been struggling. In fact, before heading into the Battle of Alberta, both Calgary and Edmonton were shut out by the St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers, respectively, allowing three goals for each team. Usually, the rivalry has fans excited to see which team performs better, yet this time around, fans dubbed this Battle of Alberta as a game to determine which team was “less bad.” But there were some moments of hope throughout the match — the teams scored at least one goal, Kadri had his first goal of the season which exhilarated the fans, and Connor McDavid’s return after his injury gave some much-needed energy to his team.
Regardless of which team you support, the Battle of Alberta remains a historic rivalry, one that hockey fans do not see often enough. There is still a long season ahead of us, but this edition of the Heritage Classic might be a catalyst to lift fans’ spirits, and hopefully kickstart some momentum for both teams to see another Battle of Alberta during the playoffs. It will be exciting and intriguing to see how Calgary and Edmonton fare the rest of this season.