Welcome Back: Canucks, Flames Rivalry Resumes for 2015 and Beyond

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

Not gonna lie, I missed this.

Not that I’d have to lie. It was fun, playing around with California and Chicago, and there was no doubt some definite hate there. Although much of that was between the players and the rest of it, when it came to Canucks fans and Blackhawks or Kings or whatever other fans, came from circumstance and success. As in, if we lost to the Blackhawks, we hated the Blackhawks… if we lost to the Kings, we hated the Kings. And they hated us, maybe, or just found us annoying. Most hockey fans find Canucks fans annoying – we’re this sort of newly rich, over-compensating fan base, with a severe Napoleon complex borne from years of being forgotten and very rarely broadcast out here in a dis-attached corner of Canada.

But the Flames-Canucks rivalry – and the Oilers-Canucks and the Oilers-Flames rivalry, once Edmonton catches up – is natural. It doesn’t come down to who’s good or who’s bad or trends or results; it’s pure geography. It’s real, pure hate – there’s no respect between Calgary and Vancouver, whereas you’ll find plenty of Canucks fans who actually like the Blackhawks or the Kings or the Ducks (but we just can’t admit to it).

We don’t like Calgary and they don’t like us. To them, we’re a bunch of Starbucks sippers and hipsters barking at them from behind the Rockies. To us, they’re either hicks on a farm or financial advisors pretending to be cowboys for two weeks in July.

It’s fun. Really, it is.

In April, the rivalry renewed in the postseason. Rivals need the postseason, otherwise it’s such bitterness. But stakes have to be there to keep it alive. And with Calgary returning to relevance – actually, with Vancouver doing the same, after a year of torching under Tortorella – and with the Oilers failing enough to finally come out the other side, Western Canada’s getting its hate on once again.

And this time, points will matter. And pride follows the points.

“They out-executed us, outworked us. Truthfully, they embarrassed us in our home-opener,” said Flames defenceman Kris Russell last night (via NBC Sports), after the Canucks dropped Calgary 5-1 in the Saddledome, in the first game of each team’s season.

I loved hearing that this morning. I loved hearing words like “embarrassed” I loved hearing Russell call his team “a joke” because I’m tired of seeing these two clubs shrug their way through seasons. I’m tired of seeing the Flames and Canucks pass each other while one’s on the way up and the other’s on the way down.

We’ve been like swordfighters in Cirque du Soleil, only getting in swings when the ropes get near enough.

And the Oilers have been on the ground, waiting for one of us to slip and fall to their level.

But now, all three are rising at once. And while many are predicting the Canucks will take a dramatic step back in 2015, and it’s true they probably will, last night’s game was proof of the parity that exists and will for some time out west. Sure, the Flames are rising and the Oilers are all-horizon, and the Canucks are recollecting the rubble after a wasted championship window, and those California teams are the elephant in everyone’s bed, but all of these teams are still competitive.

Like Russell said, if Calgary slacks off, the Canucks will kill them. Because Vancouver may not be Cup-calibre, but they can certainly win. And perhaps the Flames forgot that, with all the praise they’ve been garnished with since the Dougie Hamilton trade.

The Canucks aren’t terrific, but they’re still pretty good. The Flames are very good, but they’re not great. Not yet.

They both deserve credit; neither deserves the benefit of the doubt.

It’s going to be very fun for a very long time. You may think it started in April, but I think it started last night.