This year’s much-anticipated Battle of Alberta matchup between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers also has high stakes for the cities’ mayors.
If the Flames win the second-round series against their cross-province rivals, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi will wear a Calgary jersey as well as full Flames face paint at his next council meeting. If it’s the Oilers who prevail, it will be Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek in council chambers donning an Oilers sweater with her face painted blue and orange.
Gondek wouldn’t commit to a prediction for the series, but she said she’s confident it’s the hometown Flames who will emerge victorious from the long-awaited tilt.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing Mayor Sohi wearing the Flames ‘C’ on his face,” she told reporters at Calgary city hall Monday.
“Mayor Sohi is a wonderful man, and I think he’ll look very good in red and white.”
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In a statement, Sohi called the Battle of Alberta a “dream come true” for hockey fans across Alberta, and threw in some trash talk of his own.
“I will be cheering on the Oilers every step of the way, and will happily send Mayor Gondek well wishes when the Oilers beat the Flames and move forward in the playoffs,” Sohi said.
The losing city council will also donate either to Kids Cancer Care in Calgary or the Kids with Cancer Society in Edmonton, with individual councillors also pitching in a to-be-determined amount of funds to that initiative.
That’s in recognition of five-year-old Oilers fan Ben Stelter, who is currently fighting brain cancer.
“It’s fitting that the month of May is brain tumour awareness month. Ben has been incredibly brave in this past year and all hockey fans are cheering him on,” Gondek said.
The friendly competition is invigorating for Calgary, said Gondek, who marvelled at the time that’s passed since 2004, when the Flames made an electrifying run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I can remember back in ’04, when we were in the running and how exciting that was. And my kid’s turning 18 in a few months, and I can remember being pregnant at that time, and thinking, ‘wow, this is amazing,’” Gondek said.
When the puck drops in the Saddledome for Game 1 of the Flames’ tilt with the Oilers, it will mark the first time since 1991 the squads have competed in head-to-head post-season action.
The Oilers won that series — meaning then-Calgary Mayor Al Duerr lost his wager with Jan Reimer, his counterpart in Edmonton.
The lost bet meant Duerr had to ride a Zamboni in front of Edmonton hockey fans while wearing an Oilers jersey. But he courted the disdain of Oilers fans when he ripped off that jersey to reveal a hybrid Flames-Oilers sweater, then tore that one off to show a Flames jersey underneath.
“You just can’t take all of the Flame out of this boy,” Duerr quipped at the time.
— With files from Madeline Smith and Jim Farrell, Edmonton Journal