Treena Mielke

Mielke: Fond Battle of Alberta memories

When I was a kid, I didn’t know much.

But I did know it was a good idea to carry a fishing rod in the trunk of your car in case you came across a stream or a river ripe for fishermen such as my dad and me.

And I knew that when the snow finally melted and the ball fields, or the front yard in my case, were again green and fertile, it was time to get out the ball gloves.

And when the snows came again and the winds roared ferociously around our little house on the prairie, it was time to switch sports and head on down to the old rink with the slab boards and three strings of lights that competed with the stars.

Hockey! Hockey! Hockey!

My dad and my brothers lived for hockey. My brothers, using old Eaton catalogues as shin pads, were always at the rink, it seemed. And when they weren’t playing hockey outside, they were playing each other on one of those little hockey games we had in the house.

You know, the kind with the little tin hockey players. In those days, there were two teams; Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens that dominated the game.

Those were the days of the original six: The Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

At my house, we all loved the Toronto Maple Leafs, except for my dad, who was, for some reason, a Montreal Canadien fan.

Also at my house, Saturday night was reserved for hockey night in Canada with Foster Hewitt, the famous sports announcer famous for his phrase, “he shoots, he scores”. This phrase was echoed endlessly by my brother who played hockey winter and summer, often in the backyard by himself, shooting a tin can or some such object into the coal shed with ferocious abandon. “He shoots, he scores,” he would yell triumphantly every time he hit whatever it was he was shooting into the coal shed.

When I first met my husband back in the day, I was absolutely shocked when he told me his family didn’t watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.

“What?” I said, incredulously. “What else would you do?”

I think of those long-ago days as Albertans face another historic battle across the blue lines and the red line of the famous arenas in our two major cities.

The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.

The Battle of Alberta is raging even as I write this column.

This is not the first time the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers have faced off against each other in the playoffs.

It is, in fact, the sixth time they have met each other on the icy battlefield, their team colors echoed by thousands of frenzied fans who fill the stands and gather around their television sets.

My beloved brothers, who were my hockey gurus for as long as I can remember, are no longer with us here on this earth, so I had to rely on Google to garner this piece of historical information.

According to my sources, the first Battle of Alberta was played in 1983. It was the time of hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, and all eyes were on the legendary figure as he triumphantly skated his way to victory along with the Oilers to finish the series with six goals, eight assists) The Oilers won that series four games to one.

In 1984, in a full seven-game series, the Oilers won again.

Finally, the Flames got their fire going and got the better of Edmonton in 1986, winning the series 4-3.

The Oilers won again in 1988, taking the series in four games straight. And in 1991, I’m sad to say they triumphed again, but this time the series actually went to seven games. The final game went into overtime, but then it was all over when Esa Tikkanen scored at 6:58 and, once again, the Oilers emerged victorious.

And now, after a 31-year pause, officials have pushed the play button, dropped the puck and the battle is on.

And, the echo of Foster Hewitt’s famous phrase, ‘he shoots, he scores’ will remind us, once again, that hockey is alive and well here, in the good, old province of Alberta.

And history does have a way of repeating itself.

And, sometimes, that’s a good thing!

Treena Mielke is a Central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.