I don't like Calgary. I don't like the Flames. I don't like the Stampeders. I don't like the Dinos. Their jerseys are ugly. The Saddledome is stupid. I find their fans to be of below average intelligence and not particularly attractive. I was born in Calgary but I don't like to tell people that. I won't wear red unless it's clearly Canada related because I wouldn't want anyone to think I was a Calgary fan. If the Flames played the Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final, I would happily cheer for Toronto (maybe for the stadium to collapse). I do not like Calgary. But this morning, with their team having clinched a spot in the playoffs, I'm happy for Calgary fans.
Yes, another unexpected result of the Oilers rebuild is that I now find myself happy for Flames fans. After nine years without playoff hockey, and six years spent closer to the bottom of the league than a playoff spot, I don't consider any team to be a rival of the Oilers anymore, they're truly in a league all their own. Being from the same province, the Battle of Alberta (if you can really call it a battle anymore) used to be something that I would never miss, a date I circled on my calendar, now I can hardly be bother to care. I still want the Oilers to win, and of course I want the Flames to lose, but the losing - so, so much losing - has turned a great rivalry into just another game on the schedule for me.
From three hours to the north I watched the Flames with added interest this season, hoping they'd fall apart and confused as to why they hadn't. And I became a little bit jealous too. Their fans were cheering for a team playing in games that meant something and it looked like a lot of fun. I fully expect that next season will be quite different for Calgary but for 81 games so far, and at least five more, they've given their fans something to cheer for. I can barely remember what that's like anymore.
This doesn't mean that I'll be cheering for them when the playoffs start. Far from it. I hope they get swept and get outscored 28-3 in the process. I hope that Games 3 and 4 see the Flames fall behind by three goals before the first TV timeout, just so that their fans never really have anything to cheer for. I've been to games like this and it's not a lot of fun, this is what I hope is in their future. But this morning, for just one morning, I'm happy for them.
Thrashers Jets fans can still go to hell though.