*written in 2015.
Hockey history always makes for good reading. Reading about historic rivalries is even better.
The Battle of Alberta is a fantastic book for the hockey historian or just fans of the sport. It gives a broad view of the storied rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames during a time when the Oilers were a dynasty lead by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier while the Calgary Flames had a great team that went on to win their own Stanley Cup in the middle of Edmonton’s dynasty run. Considering that they both share the same province in Canada, the stakes were very high.
While the rivalry still exists to this day, neither team has really had the glory that they did during the era covered in this book.
This rivalry engulfed Alberta and it wasn’t just played out for bragging rights in the province, it was played out for international bragging rights.
Mark Spector gives a detailed recap of all the events, the characters and the stories that made this rivalry one of the best in sports history. At times, it seems to jump around a bit too much but there isn’t anything that doesn’t add more color to the tale. Actually, some of the smaller tidbits could have been expanded more but then this book would have swelled well beyond its 270 pages or so.
As an American who didn’t have enough access to this rivalry as a young kid, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It added a lot of depth to the things I already knew about each team and that era in the NHL.
Old time hockey was still alive and well in Alberta in the 1980s and this book captures it like lightning in a bottle.
And with the Oilers and the Flames coming up again in the NHL, maybe we will see this feud turn into something exceptional once again.