July 21, 2024

Oilers or Panthers? Is this the nightmare scenario for Flames fans?

With the 2024 Stanley Cup final pitting longtime foes versus the long-gone friends, who should Calgary Flames fans be cheering for — or against?

It’s the longtime foes versus the long-gone friends.

It’s the arch-rival city versus a guy who decided he didn’t want to stay put in this city.

It’s the Edmonton Oilers versus the Florida Panthers in the 2024 Stanley Cup final … and it might be the worst-nightmare matchup for Calgary Flames fans.

Without a doubt, your contact list includes plenty of people — colleagues, cousins, maybe even your BFF or significant other — who hail originally from the Edmonton area. If Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers win four more games, would you ever hear the end of it?

But would it hurt any less to see Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett, two dudes who were supposed to be franchise cornerstones in Calgary, spinning laps with Lord Stanley’s mug? Could that possibly call for an exception to the time-tested principle of A.B.E. — Anybody But Edmonton?

 

It’s a question that has been debated endlessly since this championship showdown was set, be it on barstools, at birthday parties or inside rec hockey locker-rooms.

 

Who should the Flames’ faithful be cheering for? Or, and maybe this is a better way to frame it, who should they be cheering against? Is there a right answer?

 

Tasked with getting to the bottom of this important issue, I asked several Oilers supporters if they could come up with a reason that C-of-Redders should be on their side, if only for the next couple of weeks. They offered some convincing arguments, from economic benefits — think of the pub owners and serving staff! — to a reminder that during the Wayne Gretzky-led glory years in Edmonton, this intense rivalry ultimately pushed both Alberta-based squads to their greatest achievements.

But they typically circled back to this — “to beat Tkachuk.”

 

Over beers, I ran that idea past a pal. He has a share of season-tickets at the Saddledome, so it didn’t seem far-fetched to think he would still be sour about Tkachuk’s power move in the summer of 2022, when the sandpapery superstar informed Flames’ management that he wasn’t willing to ink a long-term extension, then provided a short list of approved trade destinations. In Calgary, one of the only gripes was that Tkachuk had yet to prove he could be a clutch playoff performer. That has changed. Heading into Saturday’s series-opener against the Oilers, the 26-year-old — yep, still in his prime — leads the Panthers with 19 points this spring.

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