PENTICTON, B.C. – Kevin Lowe hopes Brian Burke can add more truculence to the Battle of Alberta.
The Oilers president of hockey operations said Burke’s hiring in the same role with the Calgary Flames “will be great” for the historic rivalry between the NHL clubs.
“All of us, the Flames and ourselves, we can only wish that we could get back to those days (of the late 1970s and early 1980s) again in terms of the interest, the hype and the great hockey that it was,” said Lowe before the start of a prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C.
“If Brian can add to that, it would be awesome.”
Back then, the Oilers and Flames ranked among the NHL’s elite clubs and waged some legendary battles for top spot in their division and the NHL. But the rivalry cooled over the past two decades as they struggled to retain high-priced free agents in the pre-salary-cap era and saw their on-ice and financial fortunes dip.
Burke, who is known for being fiery, strives to make sure his team plays with truculence. He also describes himself on his Twitter page as truculent, and has feuded with Lowe in the past. When Burke was general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, he objected to Lowe’s signing of free agent winger Dustin Penner to an offer sheet.
Burke suggested he and Lowe should “rent a barn” and have a fistfight. The Oilers executive responded in a radio interview by challenging Burke to a fight. But they made peace after Burke’s son Brendan, who had called for a truce, died in a car accident.
Lowe said Burke’s presence will spice up the Calgary-Edmonton rivalry.
“He spices everything up,” said Lowe with a grin.
But Flames coach Bob Hartley is not concerned about how Burke might help revive the rivalry.
“We’re in a league of 30 teams,” said Hartley. “In my book, we’re battling with 29 other teams. Obviously, I understand the Battle of Alberta. But right now, we want to take care of our own team, making sure that we really build this young team on real strong pillars.”
Contrary to the teams’ reputation for trying not to be like each other, the Flames have adopted the same management model as the Oilers by employing both a president of hockey operations and general manager.
Lowe said the management model works well for the Oilers but — true to Battle of Alberta form — he declined to comment on how it could affect the Flames.
“The general manager (Craig MacTavish) runs the team,” said Lowe. “In my case, I’m there as a sounding board. But, day to day, he runs the organization.”
Lowe suspects more teams could attempt to go with a president of hockey operations and GM.
“Every organization’s getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “When I started (as a player) in 1979, the Oilers only had 13 staff members. Now, we have well over 100. That’s not counting the hockey players and scouts. You need a lot of people to run big organizations.”