All right, children – and by children we mean anyone under 40 – gather around the fire, huddle up, and make yourselves comfortable. It’s NHL Story Time.
Tonight we’re going to recount a few epic tales from the Battle of Alberta, not to be confused with the Battle of Ontario, that glorified pillow fight that involves the city that is obsessed with making all the money and the one that is obsessed with spending all the money. These are stories of valor and courage, skulduggery and deceit, the joy of victory, the agony of defeat, and of people peeing on signs. They’re about guys taking up arms against their own cousins, with Jeff Beukeboom breaking sticks over Joe Nieuwendyk’s back. And the best thing about all of them is that they’re actually true. There once really was a Battle of Alberta, and it was fierce and compelling.
STORY NO. 1: March 23, 2002
There once was a man by the name of Craig Button, and in the summer of 2000, he became the GM of the Calgary Flames. One Saturday night, after a Flames loss at the old Skyreach Centre in Edmonton – what, they actually called it that? – Button was making his way down the staircase from the press box when he noticed a man in an Oilers sweater verbally abusing two fans wearing Flames sweaters. At the same time, Button noticed a very large, very burly man in an Oilers sweater coming up with his girlfriend from his seat to have a word with the other Oilers fan. He calmly asked the man to stop his behavior. And that’s when things got interesting.
“The guy was really being abusive,” Button said. “So the other guy says to him, ‘Stop doing that. That’s no way to act.’ And the guy says, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ So the guy took one step and hit the other guy right square in the head. All you heard was ‘thud,’ and the guy goes back on his ass and his face is full of blood. Then the guy turns to the Calgary fans and he says, ‘Listen, we love beating you, but that’s no way to treat anybody. I’m sorry you had to experience that.’ ”
STORY NO. 2: Nov. 7, 2004
It was a lovely fall Sunday afternoon less than two months after Flames defenseman Rhett Warrener had been locked out of work by the bad men of the evil empire. So, with a little more time on his hands, he decided to have some fun and join a bus trip with a group of Saskatchewaners, Saskatchewanians, Saskatchewanites people from his home province – you know, the one that’s easy to draw and impossible to spell. They were living in Calgary and were on their way to Edmonton to watch Warrener’s beloved Roughriders in the Canadian Football League playoffs. There are unconfirmed reports that some alcohol might have been involved.
Anyway, as the bus was making its way into town and approaching the sign that said, “Welcome to Edmonton, City of Champions,” a sign that has since been taken down because their teams stopped being champions, the vast majority of those on board felt the need to immediately respond to nature’s calling. They implored the bus driver to stop and, when he did, a good number of them got out and did their business right there on the sign. Warrener recalls the incident, but will not say whether he was one of the urinators. “I honestly don’t remember if I did it because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should do this,’ ” Warrener said. “ ‘Can I get into trouble for this?’ It was something. I’m surprised we didn’t get arrested.”
That’s it for NHL Story Time, at least for now. But if there is any justice in the hockey world, we’ll have new chapter or two to read to you soon!!