Hours before puck drop in the first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years, the mayor of the city located almost equal distance between Calgary and Edmonton was asked if Red Deer is an Oilers or Flames town.
“Without sounding too wishy-washy, it’s literally split down the middle,” Mayor Ken Johnston said over the phone on Wednesday.
“We did some very unscientific surveys this week phoning some of the jersey shops trying to get a feel for who’s buying jerseys. Even they were saying there’s a slight edge to the Oilers and then another store would say there’s a slight edge to the Flames. You talk to 10 citizens, you’re going to get four Flames, four Oilers, one Winnipeg Jet and one Vancouver (fan).”
While regional rivalries are one of the best parts of sports (and are showcased prominently in the regular season), it takes a bit of luck for that fun to carry over to the playoffs.
This year, we have a rarity in the NHL post-season. For the first time since the turn of the century, two second-round series feature in-state or in-province matchups: the Edmonton Oilers versus the Calgary Flames (the cities are about a three-hour drive apart) and the first-ever Sunshine state series between the Florida Panthers and the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (four hours between arenas).
And while there is far more of a hockey spotlight in Alberta, some Floridians are going to savour this moment, too.
“I’m torn. I’m on the east coast so I’m a Panthers guy, but I tell ya, both teams help my sales,” said Joe Webb, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, which has 33 locations across Florida.
“We have more restaurants on the east coast than the west, so the longer the Panthers stay in it, the longer we’ll benefit from the sales.”
The perfect scenario, Webb chuckled, is “seven games and OT.”
In Red Deer, restaurant owners feel much the same way.
Tari Klein, general manager of the East 40th Pub, recalls how the bar used to use a piece of tape to separate Oilers and Flames fans during previous battles — all in good spirits.
This year, East 40th has specific shots for both teams: the Oil Spill (Blue Curacao and Pear Liqueur) and the Flame (Fireball and Baileys).
A lifelong Oilers fan, Klein didn’t have trouble picking a team to cheer for when the Flames faced Dallas in Game 7 last weekend for the right to meet Edmonton.
“I was rooting for the Flames, no doubt about it,” she said. “I’d rather see the (Oilers) play the Flames than play Dallas any day. It will be great.”
Brennen Wowk, owner of Bo’s Bar and Grill in Red Deer, was anticipating big business for the series. A wildly entertaining Game 1 — the Flames prevailed 9-6 Wednesday night — certainly set the tone.
“We had a lot of years where the Battle of Alberta kind of fizzled because one or the other was, for lack of a better word, kind of shitty,” he said. “Now that the teams are competitive again and obviously at a high level in the league, it gets a lot more intense and a lot more fun.”
The excitement, Mayor Johnston said, is “palpable” throughout the city and province.
In Florida, of course, hockey isn’t on the same pedestal — especially in the Miami area, where the Panthers had gone decades without being a legitimate contender (a beach in warm weather might have slightly more appeal than watching a bad hockey team).
The Miami Heat also are in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals this year — and Webb said many of his bar locations, especially in the Miami area, would be dividing the TVs between basketball and hockey on game nights (the fact six Heat and Panthers games were scheduled for the same day this round, including Game 2 of both series on Thursday, has been a storyline in the Miami area).
Also, a healthy chunk of hockey fans in Florida grew up further north, so loyalties go in many different directions.
“Here’s the thing. They’re obviously smaller (hockey) markets, both of them,” said David Shepard, the president of the Junior Everblades hockey organization, located near the halfway mark of Miami and Tampa in Estero, Fla.
Shepard grew up in upstate New York.
“My kids grew up fans of hockey and enjoy hockey immensely, but none of them are either Panthers or Lightning fans. It’s one of those classic things where they follow the parents. My wife’s a Rangers fan and I’m a Bruins fan so the family is pretty much split down the middle,” said Shepard, whose family has made regular trips to Florida and Tampa games to support the Rangers or Bruins.
While hockey has certainly grown in the state (three members of the silver-medal winning U.S. under-18 team hail from Florida), it isn’t necessarily the big game in Florida. The manager of a sports bar in Cape Coral, Fla. (like Red Deer, almost equal distance between Tampa and Miami) acknowledged in an email that “we do not have a very large hockey base here, unfortunately.”
“I think everybody loves winners,” Webb said. “You’ve seen what’s gone on in Tampa with their team being pretty good the last several years. The Panthers have been pretty good (this season). Their draw has improved. I think this is only going to make it better. … Winning creates more fans.”
Win or lose, the Flames and Oilers won’t be lacking for fans — or competing with other sports for attention at this time of year.
For Red Deer and similar places throughout the province, the Oilers-Flames series can help in many ways.
“It’s been a very difficult time for hospitality, a very difficult time for restaurants, a very difficult time for any kind of social gathering,” Johnston said. “This is a perfect storm in a great way.”
Having lived in Calgary for 10 years, Johnston is a Flames fan.
Can Johnston wear Flames gear in public this week?
“I’ve weathered some more difficult political storms in my career. I think I’ll be OK,” laughed Johnston, who predicted an Oilers series victory before the Flames’ win on Wednesday.
“I think folks here are just so enthusiastic and anticipating a tremendous series.”
The Best Canadian Players Ever To Play In The NFL
When people talk about the best players in the history of the NFL, they usually talk about American players. Well, when we consider that most of the legends were from this country, this should not come as a surprise. The case is the same today. Just take a look at thegameday.com and you will see who the most popular individual players are and the top betting picks for football enthusiasts.
However, looking further north, we can see that there are many splendid Canadian players who graced the NFL with their talent.
Let’s take a look at the best ones who played in the league.
This ridiculously talented American-Canadian football player had a successful career in the league. He played as a wide receiver for various teams throughout his career, including the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Cleveland Browns. Burleson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
He quickly made a difference on the field, showcasing his speed, agility, and reliable hands. During his time with the Vikings, he became known for his ability to make acrobatic catches and his versatility as a receiver. In 2006, Burleson signed with the Seattle Seahawks, where he continued to excel. He played a key role in the team’s success, helping them reach the Super Bowl in the 2005 season. However, injuries limited his playing time during his tenure with the Seahawks.
In 2010, this wonderful man joined the Detroit Lions, where he had some of the best years of his career. He formed a dynamic receiving duo with Calvin Johnson, and together they became one of the most formidable wide receiver tandems in the league. Burleson’s leadership and veteran presence were also highly valued by his teammates. After his time with the Lions, Burleson signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.
This football diety wrote a delightful piece of the NFL history and he made the whole of Canada proud. He played as a fullback and defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears in the 1930s and early 1940s. Nagurski was known for his incredible strength and power on the field, earning him a reputation as one of the toughest players of his time.
During his splendid career, Nagurski helped lead the Bears to multiple championships, including the NFL Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1940. He was a dominant force on both offense and defense, known for his ability to break tackles and his hard-hitting style of play. Nagurski’s physicality and versatility made him a standout player in an era when two-way players were common.
He was later shown the heavenly doors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. This of course, only made his legacy a legit one in this neck of the woods. What do his colleagues have to say about him? Well, most of them remember him being one of the toughest dudes to roam the green fields.
This absolute legend became famous for playing as a placekicker for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2005 and later for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Vanderjagt was known for his accuracy as a kicker and he has the NFL record for the most consecutive field goals made with 42. He was also the first kicker in NFL history to have a perfect season, making all of his field goal and extra point attempts in 2003.
Vanderjagt was selected to the Pro Bowl twice in his career and was a key contributor to the Colts’ success during his time with the team. Imagine having those tales to tell the kiddies on your lap when you get old.
Jimmy Butler steals the show on NBA media day with ‘emo’ phase look following Damian Lillard’s trade to the Milwaukee Bucks
Whether or not Miami Heat’s golden child Jimmy Butler’s new “emo” look is just a phase, the NBA star carried it off with some aplomb, drawing plenty of laughs from his teammates.
One year on from his memorable fake dreadlocks look, the 34-year-old outdid himself by turning up at the Heat’s media day on Monday sporting a straightened fringe, piercings in his eyebrow and lips and painted black nails.
Butler said he’s now “emo” and after the summer he and the Heat have had, who can blame him?
After former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his agent publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would only want to play for Miami, it seemed like a matter of when, not if, the 33-year-old would end up in South Beach.
Butler led the Heat to an improbable NBA Finals appearance as the eight seed last season, so it’s easy to imagine his excitement at the prospect of Lillard’s addition to the roster pushing the team over the top and to its first title in the post-Lebron James era.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in last week with a package that blew Miami’s out of the water, meaning Lillard will now be plying his trade in Wisconsin and not Florida.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Butler said as he entered his press conference, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “I’m emo. This is my emotional state, I’m at one with my emotions so this is what you get.”
Despite failing to acquire Lillard and losing key contributors Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Butler remains confident ahead of the upcoming season, telling reporters the Heat are going to win it all.
If it’s good news that he’s now at one with his emotions, Butler might just also be a gifted method actor and isn’t actually going through a belated “emo” phase. The six-time All Star could be heard saying “don’t make me break character” as he entered the press conference.
His new character was certainly a hit with his teammates and had Bam Adebayo crying tears of laughter as the pair were having their photos taken for the new season – which means, yes, Butler will have this hair in official photos for the entire year.
Certainly not someone to do things by halves, Butler was fully immersed in his new state and even posted songs from emo bands on his Instagram story throughout the day.
Finding Your Perfect Match: The Best Ways to Choose an Online Sportsbook
In the ever-expanding world of online sports betting, selecting the right sportsbook is crucial. This is to ensure an enjoyable and secure gambling experience. With numerous options available, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. For instance, you can be looking into sites like BestOdds to find a sportsbook to go with but do not know what exactly to check.
This article will explain the basics of finding an excellent online sportsbook.
Licensing and Regulation
The first and most critical factor when choosing an online sportsbook is ensuring it operates in a legal and transparent manner. A reputable sportsbook should possess a valid license from a recognized regulatory authority. These licenses indicate that the sportsbook adheres to strict standards, including fair play, responsible gambling and financial security.
Before registering, check for the sportsbook’s licensing information. In most cases, you will find this in the footer of their website. Some of the most reputable regulatory bodies for online sports betting include the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.
Additionally, research the sportsbook’s track record for regulatory compliance and any previous non-payment or unethical practices incidents. User reviews and industry news sources can provide valuable insights into the sportsbook’s reputation.
Odds and Betting Markets
The quality of odds and the variety of betting markets offered are key factors in determining the suitability of an online sportsbook. Competitive odds provide better potential returns for your bets, while a wide range of markets allows you to explore different betting options.
Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you get the best bet value. Some websites and apps even offer odds comparison tools to make this process more convenient.
Moreover, consider the breadth of sports and events covered by the sportsbook. Whether you’re into mainstream sports like football, basketball, or soccer or niche sports and events, the sportsbook should offer diverse markets to cater to your preferences.
Security and Payment Options
Security is paramount when sharing personal and financial information with an online sportsbook. Look for sportsbooks that employ the latest encryption technologies, such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer), to safeguard your data. Consider factors like two-factor authentication (2FA) to enhance account security further.
Payment options are another critical aspect. Ensure the sportsbook offers convenient and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common payment methods include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets (like PayPal or Skrill) and cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin). Choosing a sportsbook that supports your preferred payment method is essential to streamline your betting experience.
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