Battle of Alberta

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.

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.

Matthew Tkachuk, Zack Kassian talk big-time trash after brawl

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(The Department of Player Safety announced that Zack Kassian will face a Monday hearing.)

Following their violent exchange and the Flames taking advantage for a 4-3 win vs. the Oilers, you’d wonder if Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk settled down. Instead, the two added more fireworks by trading barbs after Tkachuk delivered hits and Kassian cascaded punches on the “young punk.”

A quick recap of the events

  • During the first period, Tkachuk leveled Kassian with a hard hit. It looked like Tkachuk made contact with Kassian’s head, but no penalty was called.
  • Late in the second, the big moment happened. Watch in the video above and you’ll see that Tkachuk landed another borderline check on Kassian. Kassian reacted with vengeance and furious anger, ragdolling Tkachuk around and delivering a vicious attack.
  • Tkachuk once again avoided penalties for his hits. Kassian received a misconduct, and most importantly, a double-minor for roughing.
  • The Flames ended up scoring the game-winning goal during their ensuing power play opportunities.

Kassian, Tkachuk trade trash talk after the game

If you want to cut to the chase and just see some of the main comments, the tweet below captures the gold. Just be warned: the language is a little, maybe, blue from Kassian in particular? You may smell wafts of toxic masculinity, or at least “locker room talk.” Earmuff your kids, in other words.

Glorious, glorious, mutual disdain.

If you’d rather not click on video:

  • Kassian called Tkachuk a “young punk” and then a-not-family-friendly p-word. Kassian then accused Tkachuk of dodging fights with him, claiming that the old excuse of Kassian being “a fourth-liner” no longer applies.
  • More fun talk from Kassian revolves around how much he wishes this was a playoff series where the two teams would just keep bashing heads in a compressed period of time. Allow me to request more Battles of Alberta, please.
  • Tkachuk gets the check and mate, though. First, Tkachuk said that if Kassian doesn’t want to get hit, “stay off the tracks.” Tkachuk wondered why Kassian didn’t “learn” after the first time.
  • Tkachuk turned the knife big time at the end of his statement, saying that if Kassian reacts and takes a penalty, “we’ll take the power play, we’ll take the game-winner, and we’ll move on to first place.”
  • Ouch. Tkachuk’s barb was so good it needed a reactionary bullet point.

It wasn’t just those two flapping gums, either. Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg reports that Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson razzed Kassian after the game.

“They’ve got a lot of pretenders out there. It’s really nice to beat those guys,” Andersson said during Steinberg’s postgame show.

“That’s one of the biggest coward moves I’ve ever seen from Kassian. We make guys like that pay. That was a coward move…that’s the kind of player he is.”

Comments spicy enough to burn your tongue.

Kassian can get a swing at Tkachuk soon enough

Feel free to disagree, but I chalk this up as either Tkachuk 2 or Tkachuk 1, Kassian 0.

Tkachuk correctly stated that the Flames are now in first place in the Pacific, and they’ve won five in a row. The Oilers, meanwhile, sit as the West’s first wild card.

Kassian gets something reasonably close to his wish. While the two teams don’t face off again in the next week, they do lock horns again soon. The teams end January and begin February with a home-and-home set. Then they finish the 2019-20 regular season with a game in Calgary on April 4.

The Flames won the first two games in the season series in 2019-20, so they’re thriving by the metric of “Living well is the best revenge.” Will Kassian get the best of Tkachuk yet? I have no clue, but I’m ordering up as much popcorn as I can find for their future meetings, either way.

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.