Matthew Tkachuk

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

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Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.

Wow.

Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Perreault sounds off on NHL Player Safety after Virtanen hit

Perreault Player Safety criticism Rask Kassian Tkachuk
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Jets forward Mathieu Perreault went on a profane tirade about Canucks winger Jake Virtanen avoiding supplemental discipline for an errant elbow. Perreault blasted the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in detailed and colorful ways, and it’s “get your popcorn” territory.

“Player safety, my a–,” Perreault said to various media members, including Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun.

“This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck. I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me. I’m the smallest guy in the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—ing stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

Check out footage of the hit in question:

Perreault isn’t the only one blasting Player Safety

Perreault fumed after the Tuesday game (a 4-0 win for the Jets) and that feeling clearly didn’t subside much with time. It sure seems like the grumbling has been building lately about what draws supplemental discipline, and what does not.

It doesn’t sound like anything is coming down the pike for Emil Bemstrom of the Blue Jackets, who concussed Bruins Tuukka Rask on Tuesday:

Perreault’s warning about swinging around his blankety blanking stick also isn’t the only recent version of a player saying “Well, if they can get away with, I guess I can too.” Ponder Zack Kassian‘s quotes about Matthew Tkachuk avoiding a suspension for controversial hits, and feel free to use ominous background music:

“For sure they are going to watch the game, but I think I can do what Matthew Tkachuk did if the league is saying it is clean,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcription. “I can do exactly that. I didn’t think you were allowed to, but after speaking with George apparently you are allowed. That is fine. That is great news. I’m a big guy who can skate and I can do that kind of stuff.”

That big gulp you heard might have been from George Parros, who could have a mess on his hands when the Flames face the Oilers again. Or any time Perreault feels like he must defend himself with his (bad word[s]) stick.

While Perreault stews about this personal grievance, the Jets need him to stay cool. With Carl Dahlstrom the latest defenseman out with a significant injury, Winnipeg cannot afford to take bad penalties. Even if Perreault deploys the same great vengeance and furious anger, righteous or not.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flames’ David Rittich replaces Darcy Kuemper at 2020 NHL All-Star Game

NHL All-Star Game
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Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich is going to his first ever NHL All-Star Game.

The league announced on Wednesday that Rittich will serve as the replacement for injured Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper on the Pacific Division team. Kuemper is currently sidelined on a week-to-week basis with a lower-body injury.

Rittich has posted .913 save percentage to go with an 18-11-5 record for the Flames this season. He will join teammates Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano on the Pacific Division roster.

Originally undrafted, the Flames signed Rittich in May, 2016, after he spent two years playing professionally in the Czech league. He eventually worked his way up the Flames’ depth chart and played a role in their 2018-19 turnaround that saw them finish as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

After splitting time with Mike Smith a year ago, this is his first year as the Flames’ No. 1 goalie.

The NHL All-Star weekend takes place January 24-25 in St. Louis.

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• NHL All-Star Game captains
• All-Star Game coaches
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Our Line Starts podcast: Tkachuk vs. Kassian; reacting to Shero’s firing

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Kathryn Tappen, Keith Jones and Anson Carter break down the incident between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian. They react to the firing of GM Ray Shero and discuss how the Devils can turn things around. Jones also tells a wild story about being his own agent, but explains how it didn’t work out as well as it did for Nicklas Backstrom. Plus, a conversation with Avs rookie Cale Makar.

0:00-1:25 Intros
1:21-11:25 Tkachuk vs. Kassian: Who was in the wrong?
11:25-22:30 Reaction to Devils firing GM Ray Shero
22:30-32:40 Interview with star Avs rookie Cale Makar
32:40-end Jones has a wild story about negotiating his own contract

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Kassian says Tkachuk ‘messed with the wrong guy,’ hypes Oilers-Flames rematch

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Fans of “old-time hockey” should be delighted by the boiling disdain between Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk. Kassian spoke with the media following his two-game suspension on Tuesday, and the trash talk keeps getting better. Kassian tossed out plenty of gems, including that Tkachuk “messed with the wrong guy” and that the pest will “get his.”

The media also latched on to a glorious bit of scheduling symmetry. The Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames on Jan. 29 … Kassian’s first game back from that suspension. If bloodthirsty fans aren’t sated, realize this: the two teams meet again in Calgary on Feb. 1.

You can observe Kassian’s full press conference in the video above this post’s headline.

Kassian says Tkachuk will need to ‘answer the bell’

Consider a few of the best cuts amid Kassian’s many gems:

  • While Kassian said he respects the NHL’s decision, he also said he’d do it again.
  • The NHL did not suspend Tkachuk for two controversial hits on Kassian, with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski receiving the league’s explanation that the hits were legal. Kassian referenced George Parros deeming Tkachuk’s hits as legal multiple times, particularly begging for ominous music to play in the background.

After speaking with Parros on the phone he explained why the hit is not dirty. That cleared up a lot and gave me some clarity on what you can and can’t do, and I put that in the memory bank,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcript at Oilers Nation. ” … To me those are two dangerous hits.

If they are clean, they are still predatorial, which is completely fine. I am a big boy, I love big boy hockey, but if you are going to play big boy hockey you have to answer the bell sometime.”

  • Kassian also used the phrase “answer the bell.” Quite often. As in, you almost expect a freeze frame where Zack Morris speaks to the studio audience about “The Battle of Alberta.” The real questions: which Flames/Oilers are Screech and A.C. Slater? (Maybe T.J. Brodie is A.C.?)
  • Kassian said he received about 20 text messages of support, some from people he doesn’t know. The implication is clear: lots of people don’t like Tkachuk. Shocking. You think Drew Doughty sent a few emojis Kassian’s way?

Will Tkachuk get the better of Kassian in the ways that matter — again?

Yes, Tkachuk got ragdolled. From a meathead perspective, it might have stung his pride.

But pointing at the scoreboard can be the best insult in sports at times, and Tkachuk could make that gesture. The Flames ended up scoring the decisive power-play goal on Kassian’s penalties. It’s classic pest one-upping: baiting an angry opponent into foolish mistakes. Tkachuk is talented and great at getting under opponents’ skin, to the point that it might be better not to engage.

That doesn’t seem to be the plan for Kassian … yet he’s aiming for better execution.

” … I have to be a bit smarter. I have to be on the ice in important games,” Kassian said, via Gregor. “Now that I know how the league sees hits … When you play Calgary it is a different rule book. You have to play the game within the game and sometimes you have to give them a taste of their own medicine.”

The thing is, if Kassian and Tkachuk both ended up in the penalty box for matching minor infractions, that would be great for Edmonton. The Flames need Tkachuk on the ice, tasking him with walking that line. Kassian failed in finding that balance, at least so far.

You have to wonder: should Oilers coach Dave Tippett try to steer Kassian in a smarter direction? If history repeats itself, the Flames would get the advantage again. Considering how close these teams are in the standings, Edmonton cannot afford to take penalties just so a pesky star “gets his.”

Kassian said that this rivalry is creating a buzz, and he’s right that this is fun. The Oilers risk feeling hungover when they look at the standings when the buzz wears off, though.

Oh, and guess what? The two teams also close out the regular season in Edmonton on April 4. The “Battle of Alberta” and Kassian vs. Tkachuk are wars that are just beginning.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.