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George Parros is coming to the game. But he doesn’t want to talk about it?
Meanwhile, just about everybody else seems to want to talk about nothing else but Game 787 of the NHL schedule Jan. 29 in Edmonton. It’s a game that has come to stand separately from all the others on the 2019-20 NHL schedule.
The renewal of hostilities of the finally-on-again Battle of Alberta following the Oilers recent 4-3 loss in Calgary featuring heels Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian has become the featured game of the entire regular season.
Parros, the NHL Director of Player Safety, has decided his presence will be required in Rogers Place to read the riot act to both teams and particularly both players in order to prevent a riot.
In all his years as a goon, playing 10 NHL seasons with career totals of 18 goals and 18 assists and 1,092 minutes in penalties, no NHL Director of Player Safety was ever required to show up for any jackpot Parros ever managed to get himself involved.
But he’ll be third-man-in on Kassian and Tkachuk when the season resumes here a week Wednesday with the Oilers first game back from the All-Star break.
“Dating back to when Brendan Shanahan had the job, the league has had a hard and fast rule about not doing any interviews about individual incidents,” said NHL media relations director John Dellapina in declining a request by your correspondent for an interview in regards to his visit.
“Also our intention is to lower the temperature,” said Dellapina of the focus on the potential slugfest and Kassian’s first game back since receiving a two-game suspension from Parros for rag-dolling a turtling Tkachuk after the Flame had twice launched himself into the Oiler with what many viewed as a Raffi Torres-style predatory attack.
“Anything George says will simply generate more conversation,” added Dellapina, indicating that Perros will likely make himself available to talk to the media on game day in Edmonton.
If the Battle of Alberta had been dormant for the better part of two decades, there was no question it had returned with the Flames 4-3 win in Calgary in a game that the two teams went into tied for first place dating back to 1990.
Clearly the Battle of Alberta was back when Tkachuk delivered his pair of highly controversial hits and Kassian proceeded to take justice into his own hands and took a pair of minor penalties with the result being that the Flames scored the winning goal of the game while he sat in the penalty box.
The two players began pouring the fuel on the fire in the post game dressing rooms, Tkachuk saying if Kassian doesn’t want to get hit he should “stay off the tracks” and Kassian saying he’d “do it again.”
It escalated rather rapidly from there with reaction coming from all over the hockey world. And in a season where the economy, past performance and ticket and beer prices combined to end Edmonton’s sellout streak at 548 games, the toughest ticket out there became Jan. 29 at Rogers Place.
The Oilers managed to sell out the first two games of the season against Vancouver and Los Angeles and then Christmas games against Pittsburgh, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and the New Year’s Eve game against the New York Rangers. Most went all the way to game day to sell the last seat. But this one was declared a sellout of primary tickets 11 days prior to the tilt.
“We’ve seen more interest in this one game than in any other regular season game in the last number of years,” said Oilers long-time executive vice president of revenue Stew MacDonald.
“A lot has to do with the two teams having been out of the playoffs for a lot of those years.
“You may be playing each other five times during the season, but while there’s still the geographical rivalry and the historical rivalry, we haven’t seen all the elements of the Battle of Alberta for a long time,” said MacDonald who joined the organization in 1987.
“But with the teams being so competitive this year and the bad blood that’s been on the ice has taken it back to the roots of the Battle of Alberta.
“The most politically correct way to say it is that the fans on either side of the line love to dislike their rival and the bad blood has really brought that back. The incidents have certainly fueled that, not just in Alberta but across the NHL.”
There are expectations of a serious spike in TV ratings and secondary market ticket sales are booming.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s the secondary ticket sales involved scalpers. Now they’re business concerns.
“We’re seeing a demand for this one like the Battle of Alberta years at their peak,” said MacDonald. “It’s certainly safe to say that the demand right now has resulted in tickets selling for well above the retail price.
“This is definitely bigger than a regular season game and it’s at the end of January.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020