No one saw this coming when Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian went at Calgary Flames star Matthew Tkachuk on Jan. 11 in the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta.
Since the two re-ignited the rivalry, over 50,000 Canadian dollars has reportedly been raised as the Kassian/Tkachuk feud made its way from the ice to the checkbooks. Charitable donations will be heading toward ALS research in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow, who is battling the disease, and a foundation to provide school lunches for kids.
It all started when the Flames forward put two aggressive body checks on Kassian in Calgary’s 4-3 win at home last week. Kassian took exception and then took matters into his own hands. Seventeen penalty minutes and a two-game suspension later, the Edmonton Oiler made it clear the battle was not over.
“He messed with the wrong guy and I don’t think he realizes that we are in the same division and [I] have a great memory,” Kassian told reporters on Tuesday, causing all Alberta hockey fans to circle Jan. 29 on their calendars — the day these two will meet next.
So how do we get to charitable donations?
Mohamed Elsaghir, a Flames fan and (according to himself) the second most-hated man in Edmonton behind Tkachuk, started a GoFundMe to put up billboards of the Flames player in Edmonton.
Elsaghir cleared the air for Oilers fans who were not pleased by saying on Twitter: “To the Oilers fans sending me nasty emails, this gofundme (sic) campaign was obviously to raise money for ALS as stated in my earlier tweets. There was no way we were going to raise enough money to put multiple billboards up and get the approval from the NHL to do this. Grow up.”
However, local radio station CJay92 stepped in to take care of the costs for the billboard, meaning all donations could go toward ALS research.
‘Matthew Tkachuk Friendship Tour’ billboards started going up in Edmonton as donations streamed in. At least CA$20,000 has reportedly been raised for “Snowy Strong for ALS” (Chris Snow’s organization) because of one superfan’s GoFundMe. On Jan. 23, Elsaghir posted a photo with Snow and the hosts from CJay92 to show that the money had been donated to the campaign.
The story does not stop here.
Edmonton resident Samantha Costa donated CA$25 to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It with the note “Hey #Oilers twitter (sic), I have a challenge for you: In response to Flames fans buying a billboard, I’ve decided to donate to one of their local charities in honour of @zkassian9! I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”
Her tweet had nearly two thousand likes at the time of this article. Brown Bagging It tweeted on Thursday that a total of 556 donations have raised CA$37,069 so far.
The NHL may be scrambling to find a solution to the on-ice tension between the two franchises, but as for the fanbases off the ice, the (charitable) competition seems to be alive and well.