Members of the Edmonton Oilers who have also played for the Calgary Flames are choosing their words carefully.
“You’re not trying to get me to say which city is better, are you?” chuckled Derek Ryan on Monday when asked about his experiences in the two cities. Ryan played for the Flames for three seasons before joining the Oilers last summer.
“I’m not going to go there,” said goalie Mike Smith (Flames 2017 – 2019). “I enjoyed playing in both cities.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in Edmonton and being part of the community here and seeing the support we’re getting as this goes on.”
Most of the players who will contest this series were either very young or not yet born when the Battle of Alberta was last contested in the playoffs in 1991.
But the intensity and passion surrounding the series is hard to avoid, especially for those who grew up in Alberta. Oilers defenceman Brett Kulak (Flames 2015 – 2018) hails from Stony Plain.
“Everyone is pumped. Friends, family, everyone,” Kulak said. “I got lots of people who are die-hard Flames fans and lots of die-hard Oilers fans. They’re looking forward to it. I think we all are.
“At the end of the day, for us players, the job stays the same.”
Defenceman Kris Russell (Flames 2013 – 2016) is from the central Alberta community of Caroline.
“Usually, it’s pretty split in that area,” Russell said, who added that fans haven’t been swayed by which team he’s on. “They’re pretty loyal.”
Several Oilers didn’t skate on Monday, including Leon Draisaitl, who appeared hobbled in the series against Los Angeles. “He’s very good,” was all head coach Jay Woodcroft said when asked about Draisaitl.
Game 1 is Wednesday. Coverage on 630 CHED will start at 5:30 p.m. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m.