Sat Feb 19 09:20pm EST
CALGARY, Alberta -- After their 5-3 defeat in McMahon Stadium to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, Calgary Flames Coach Terry Crisp tore into his team and put them through a grueling ... aw, who are we kidding? They hugged, signed autographs and attempted to warm their bodies after two periods of nostalgia in the frigid air.
This was about old friends and family coming together to celebrate a championship legacy for Flames hockey, as well as the team's earliest years in Calgary through players like Ken Houston and Brad Marsh.
"You go around, you talk to everybody, you rehash old stories ... and lies," defenseman Al MacInnis said, drawing laughs.
It was also a time to gracefully accept that most of the players were a little slower, some were a little rounder and everyone was a bit older; which is where Lanny MacDonald felt the Canadiens had the advantage.
"I think they must be younger. That's all I can figure out," he said after the loss.
"It's just one of those days," said Roberts, ever the competitor. "We didn't get to do a proper warm-up. Getting on a bus, where the average age is almost 50 for our team."
Said MacInnis: "You also have to look at a guy like Ric Nattress, who didn't have much to begin with."
Good times. Camaraderie. The type of bonds formed through a championship season, and the type of bonds many of the players said is impossible to maintain in today's NHL.
"You spent a lot of time together. Gary Suter was my roommate for nine or 10 years. That doesn't happen in today's game very often any more," said MacInnis.
"General managers were able to have patience, and you grew like brothers. That's hard to do because the window in today's game for a team to win is such a short little window, because of the salary cap and because guys are moving on at such a young age."
MacInnis is currently the Vice President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues, who yesterday made the type of difficult decision with a young player MacInnis was talking about: Trading defenseman and former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson(notes) to the Colorado Avalanche.
"When you make a trade like that, it's a long process. He was going to be a big part of our building process and our future, but things can change," said MacInnis.
"When you have an abundance of defensemen ... we needed forwards. We needed size and we needed grit," he said. "You to give up something to get something. At the end of the day, we hope it's an even trade for both teams."
Maybe Chris Stewart(notes) and Kevin Shattenkirk(notes) grow up with the Blues the way MacInnis and so many players in the room grew up with the Flames. Maybe, in a few decades, they'll be the ones poking fun and catching up with old friends.
And in some cases, old furry friends.
"I haven't seen Harvey The Hound up close like this [in years]," said Joe Nieuwendyk, as the Flames mascot kicked over his shoes so Nieuwendyk could walk over and sign autographs for fans born well over a decade after the he and the Flames skated the Cup.
But tonight, their generation finally had a chance to cheer them on.