(Ed. Note: August is known to be a very quiet month in the hockey world. As we wait for September to arrive and training camps to begin, let’s learn a little history about all 30 teams. Behold, our summer A-Z(ed) series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to drop some knowledge on us! Add your own choices in the comments!)
Once upon a time, Atlanta had a hockey team. Before that, they had another hockey team. The Atlanta Flames – named for the burning of Atlanta in the Civil War – often made the playoffs, but couldn’t win a single series, struggling to draw fans. This resulted in them relocating to Calgary in 1980.
Calgary still acknowledges its heritage to this day, having kept the name all this time, not to mention the logo: the Atlanta “A” is still used, now as the alternate captains’ “A."
In addition to Calgary’s minor league affiliate, the Adirondack Flames, from the 2014-15 season.
B. Battle of Alberta
The Battle of Alberta dates back to the 1980s, when both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL. It doesn’t limit itself to hockey – really, the Battle of Alberta can apply to virtually anything and everything Calgary and Edmonton can compete against one another in – but the Flames and Oilers do take centre stage.
Edmonton was a fairly dominant team in the 80’s, and so the Flames, being in their division, had to be good to keep up with them, resulting in the Alberta road trip being not-so-fun for away teams passing through.
One of the best parts? One of the greatest own-goals ever, courtesy of Oilers defenceman Steve Smith:
That goal was the series winner, allowing the Flames to move past the Oilers and reach the Stanley Cup for the first time in 1986. Smith, meanwhile, would one day go on to captain the Calgary Flames, because why not?
The Battle of Alberta has lost some of its luster recently, mostly thanks to neither team being all that great, but it’s still meaningful for Albertans.
Highlights from the modern day era include the Flames being the only ones to ever sweep the season series, both in 2009-10 and 2014-15; and Steve Staios being a part of the first-ever trade between the Flames and Oilers, and then scoring his final NHL goal on the team from whence he came:
There have also been some very fun romps:
Maybe one day the Battle of Alberta will be able to return to its former glory. We’re still waiting for those other guys to catch up at some point, though.
C. 'C' of Red
The Flames missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons before making it back into the post-season in 2004. Playoff-starved, Calgary went a little crazy… and kept it up for two months as the Flames went on their Cinderella run.
Everyone wore their jerseys to games, resulting in the entire arena being filled with nothing but red. This continued out onto the streets, as 17th Avenue – nicknamed the “Red Mile” because, again, literally everybody was wearing red – became the place to go if you couldn’t get tickets to the game, or to march down and party after when the Flames won.
It’s the term the Flames fanbase is now collectively known by, and the sea of red jerseys made its triumphant return when the Flames made it back into the playoffs this past season.
The name “Doug” has graced Calgary a number of times.
There’s Doug Risebrough, who played a couple of seasons with the Flames, taking more penalties than scoring points before eventually moving on to be their coach, and later, general manager. Then, there’s Doug Gilmour, who won his first and only Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989, scoring the Cup-winning goal.
Gilmour was going on to have a pretty good career with the Flames, until contract negotiations turned sour. Gilmour walked out, and Risebrough traded him for magic beans.
There is hope for the name yet, however, as this past off-season, the Flames traded their own set of magic beans for Dougie Hamilton, a bonafide 22-year-old top-four defenceman, immediately fixing Calgary’s short and long-term defence problems in one fell swoop.
Dougs taketh away, and Dougies giveth.
E. [The] Eliminator
Martin Gelinas became a hero during the Flames’ 2004 playoff run. He earned the nickname “the Eliminator” because that’s exactly what he did: eliminated teams from the post-season. First, he scored the overtime winner against the Vancouver Canucks to send them packing:
Then, he did the same to the Detroit Red Wings:
Gelinas’ goal was the series winner against the San Jose Sharks as well, propelling the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final. Some would argue he scored the Cup-winning goal, too, eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning (#itwasin), which would have made him the first player in NHL history to score four series winners in the same post-season. Today, he’s an assistant coach for the Flames, and still very much loved.
F. Fire helmet
Teams have their traditions. During the 2004 playoff run, the Flames would give their hardest-working player of the game a green hard hat; today, it’s been updated to a fire helmet, donated by the Calgary fire department. It’s worn with pride by the recipients, a testament to their on-ice heroics that night.
G. Guy Chouinard
Guy Chouinard was one of the first Flames players, selected 28th overall by Atlanta in the 1974 NHL draft, and eventually moved with the team to Calgary in 1980. He was the first Flame to have a 50 goal season, and even scored the very first Calgary Flames goal ever.
When Chouinard left the Flames after just three seasons in Calgary, he was the then-franchise’s all-time leader in points and assists. He still has the fifth-most ever assists for the Flames franchise to this day, with 336: the only Atlanta Flame still on the list.
H. Harvey the Hound
The first ever NHL mascot, Harvey the Hound made his debut in 1983, delighting children and antagonizing Craig MacTavishes everywhere.
Harvey became notorious when taunting the Oilers’ bench during a game in 2003, when MacTavish was their head coach – to the point that MacTavish ripped the poor dog’s iconic tongue out. While Harvey’s main purpose is to attend Flames games and lead the support from the stands, he now appears at events all throughout southern Alberta, and tends to be the most popular guy around.
Are you surprised?
Jarome Iginla was the heart and soul of the Flames throughout his career, up until being traded away in 2013 to finally kickstart the long-needed rebuild.
He’ll always be thought of as a Flame, though, and holds franchise records in games played, goals, and points. He’s the only Flame to have scored 500 goals and 1000 points with the franchise.
All the while, he’s had the nicest personality, brightest smile, and best forehead crease to ever grace this city.
I don’t think it can be truly stated just how much Calgary loves Iginla – when he first returned as a visitor with the Boston Bruins, the Saddledome probably would have been content to just cheer for him the entire time rather than watch the actual game (and if he had scored, the place would have gone nuts).
We love you Iggy please come back to Calgary and win a Cup here thanks.
J. Johnny Hockey
He’s new, but the hype surrounding Johnny Gaudreau has been around since he was first drafted 104th overall in 2011. Initially billed as a 5’6, 137 lb. kid who was ridiculously skilled but incredibly tiny, Gaudreau grew in both stature and fame as he went on to dominate the college ranks, with Flames fans hanging on to his every move all the while.
Most everyone outside of Calgary preached that he was far too small to ever make it (and/or not be murdered on the ice), and now, everyone who ever said a negative word about him looks less than intelligent. Gaudreau’s rookie season saw him score 64 points, and he looks to be one of the Flames’ brightest hopes for the future. (Still should’ve won the Calder too, but please enjoy the production on this video.)
In 2003, Darryl Sutter completed what was very well possibly his greatest move as the Calgary Flames’ general manager: he traded for the San Jose Sharks’ third string goalie. That third stringer was a Finn named Miikka Kiprusoff, and the rest is history.
Kipper went on to drag the Flames into the playoffs, hoist them up into the Stanley Cup Final, win a Vezina Trophy, be a Hart finalist, and set Flames franchise records in wins and shutouts with 303 and 37, respectively, until his retirement in 2013. Over that time, he was the Flames’ backbone, playing 70+ games for them between lockout years, and making a number of highlight saves along the way.
That last “scorpion” save helped him reach his 300th career win – and against the only other team Kiprusoff had ever played for. Losing him was just about as big of a blow as it was losing Iginla, and his departure ushered in a new era for the team: one still looking for its next franchise goalie.
L. Loob, Hakan
One of the best Flames to ever wear #12 (other than that other guy up in “I”), Hakan Loob played six seasons for Calgary before returning home to his native Sweden. He won a Stanley Cup, and is the first – and to date, only – Swede to ever score 50 goals in a single NHL season.
Even though he now spends his time as his hometown Farjestad’s President of Hockey Operations, he still takes the time to call into Calgary and keep up with how the Flames are doing, most recently talking about draft pick Oliver Kylington, who played on Loob’s Karlstad team in the seasons leading up to his draft year.
M. Mcs and Macs
There have been a number of Mcs and Macs to play for the Flames over the years, including two of the biggest players in franchise history: Lanny McDonald and Al MacInnis.
McDonald, known for his iconic red walrus moustache (which he still maintains to this day, although it’s not quite as red anymore) captained the Flames to their 1989 Cup win.
MacInnis, meanwhile, is known for a number of things: his ridiculously hard slapshot, and being the first defenceman to lead the playoffs in scoring, not to mention winning the Conn Smythe in ’89, too.
McDonald had his #9 retired by the organization, while MacInnis went on to the Blues, and has his #2 honoured via the “Forever a Flame” program (along with Joe Nieuwendyk, the only other recipient of the “Forever a Flame” honour: known for back-to-back 50 goal seasons as a rookie, and being the reason the Flames got Jarome Iginla in the first place).
N. Nilsson, Kent
Kent Nilsson first entered the NHL in the 1979-80 season as a member of the Atlanta Flames, and stayed with them when they moved to Calgary. His very first season in Calgary saw him score 131 points: still a Flames record to this day. He’s also fifth all-time in the franchise in goals scored, even though Nilsson left the team in 1985.
Quite simply: he was very, very good, and one of the best parts about the Flames when they first came to Calgary.
He’s also the beginning of a link threading itself throughout Flames history. When Nilsson was traded, it was for two second round picks, one of which turned into Joe Nieuwendyk. When Joe Nieuwendyk was traded, Jarome Iginla was brought back. Now it’s up to Kenny Agostino and Morgan Klimchuk to keep the thread, dating back to when the Flames first came to Calgary, alive.
O. Oleg Saprykin’s goal
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about Oleg Saprykin, even though he was a first round pick of the Flames back in 1999. That’s not important, though, and neither are the 187 games he played for Calgary. He was never a big scorer, but he was a useful enough player… Particularly in 2004, when, while on the ice for what is simply called “The Shift” (in reference to Jarome Iginla, of course), Saprykin capitalized off of the monstrous work of his captain to bring the Flames within one win of their second Stanley Cup.
P. Peter Maher
When the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980, they needed a voice. That voice, from the very first game, was Peter Maher. He worked each and every single one of the team’s games on radio up until the end of the 2013-14 season before retiring, having called nearly 3,000 NHL games. His iconic “Yeah Baby!” and “You can put it in the win column!” calls still resonate with the city to this day, capturing huge moments in Flames history – from playoff clinches to 500th goals to a Cup win.
It also helps that it’s pretty much impossible to find anybody who can say a bad word about him. This past season was the first without Maher at the helm, and it was a frightening and confusing world, but one we must all adapt to.
Q. Quitters never prosper
Over this past season, the Flames became known for their ridiculous, probably unsustainable, but nevertheless incredibly entertaining third period comebacks. They were third in the league with 10 wins after trailing in the third period, and led the league with the most third period goals, scoring 99 times in the final regulation frame. The mythos started from humble places – down 2-1 to the Nashville Predators after two on Halloween night – and grew to a notoriety that spread throughout the NHL.
Down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings and about to spend your Christmas on a nine-game losing streak? Johnny Gaudreau says no.
Down 4-0 after three periods? How the hell did the Flames get a point out of that?
Get a playoff goal taken away from you (AGAIN), and be on the verge of going down 3-0 in a series where a sweep seemed the likely outcome? Honestly, I really love this Gaudreau kid.
All that (and more, because this stuff seriously went on all year long) inspired a slogan of “Never Quit”, one that saw the upstart Flames not only make the playoffs, but win a round. It’s a phrase this current group lives by now, and will have to continue to uphold in order to experience further success.
R. Robyn Regehr
Recently retired, Robyn Regehr represented Calgary for the first 11 seasons of his 15-year career, acting as alternate captain for seven of those seasons.
A car crash nearly ended his career before it even began, but Regehr was able to overcome his injuries and become a formidable, hard-hitting defenceman who patrolled Calgary’s blueline in his prime. He was a cornerstone of the team for an entire decade, and ended his Flames career second to only Jarome Iginla in games played. Throughout those 828 games spent wearing red, he intimidated opposing forwards, letting them know they were in for a bad time if they came down his side of the ice with very big, very vicious hits. Ales Hemsky was his most frequent target, further adding to the Battle of Alberta.
First the Olympic, then the Canadian Airlines, then Pengrowth, now the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames’ first home in Calgary was the old Stampede Corral, seating just 7,475 at absolute most. In 1983, they moved just across the street to the much bigger, more permanent Saddledome, named for its iconic shape in a city known for its western heritage (but often referred to simply as “the ‘Dome”). With a seating capacity of 19,289, it made way more sense for an NHL team to play there: even if, thanks to the shape of the building and the placement of the pressbox, it’s very difficult to watch a game from the nosebleeds.
The Saddledome is used for several events – the Flames, the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, the NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks, concerts, and various agriculture-related competitions (Cowboy Up, team cattle penning, vintage tractor pulls, and heavy horse shows, to be specific) – and has seen a lot, from the 1988 Winter Olympics to the 2013 flood that devastated southern Alberta. Speedy repairs ensured the Flames never missed a game in their home barn.
With talks of a new arena having been underway for quite some time now, not to mention the fact that the loveable building is kind of a concrete husk, the Saddledome’s days are numbered; still, it remains an iconic presence in the city of Calgary.
T. Theo Fleury
Small players can’t play in the NHL… except for when they can. Standing at just 5’6, Theo Fleury wasn’t selected until the eighth round of the 1987 NHL draft. He made the big leagues in the Flames’ Cup-winning season, and quickly established himself as one of the best – and most controversial – players around, capable of infuriating you by being a general pest – and then further infuriating you by scoring three shorthanded goals.
He played for the Flames for 11 years, until salary demands priced him out of the team’s budget, forcing a trade (one that ended up bring back Robyn Regehr). Still, he ended up holding several records for the franchise, including: fourth in games played, second in goals and points (first until Jarome Iginla passed him), and third in assists, not to mention having one of the best goal celebrations in team history.
It’s so long-lasting, Mikael Backlund even considered pulling the same celebration when he scored his first playoff goal to give the Flames an overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks.
Fleury played for another three teams before his NHL career was cut short, but ultimately retired as a member of the Flames. Six years after his career ended, Fleury returned for the 2009 preseason, but failed to make the team as a top six forward. Upon being cut, he officially retired from the NHL on his own terms, and with the team he spent the bulk of his career.
U. Uncompromising personalities
The Flames have seen some very headstrong, vocal characters throughout their day. Majority team owner Murray Edwards has been front and centre throughout NHL lockouts, and the Flames’ current president of hockey operations, one Brian Burke, hardly needs an introduction - the man refuses to do anything about a tie or get a haircut, he’s probably not going to be reasoned with through traditional means.
Before Burke, there was Darryl Sutter, who would carry on with his unique coaching style when he eventually joined Los Angeles, but really nailed it in Calgary first, responsible for the only two teams to ever defeat three division winners en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
Long before him, there was Badger Bob Johnson, who was head coach of the Flames for five seasons, including their first Stanley Cup Final in 1986, and could find the positive in absolutely anything.
Now, there’s Bob Hartley – a coach known not just for his one-liners with the media, but for grueling training camps and practices as well, always demanding the absolute most out of his players – and Brad Treliving – who is, as of yet, a relatively unknown quantity; mostly silent, but potentially deadly, if this off-season and the acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik are anything to go by.
V. Vernon, Mike
One of just two Flames to actually have their numbers retired (the other being Lanny McDonald), Mike Vernon was the Flames’ starting goalie when they won the Stanley Cup – as well as for 13 total seasons, including all of those formidable Flames teams from the 80s. He’s still the record-holder in games played by any Flames goalie, and held the record for most wins for the franchise until Miikka Kiprusoff took that crown.
And I’d be remiss to not include one of the most famous saves in Flames history, singlehandedly stopping Stan Smyl in Game 7 overtime, and giving Joel Otto the chance to score to eliminate the Vancouver Canucks and send the Flames to the second round en route to the Stanley Cup.
Calgary is a city in western Canada. The Flames are a team in the Western Conference. The city is a modern one, but refuses to let go of or forget its roots.
Nicknamed “Cowtown,” Calgary holds on to its western origins, most obviously seen in its 10 day rodeo and celebration known as the Calgary Stampede. It’s a time for the city to party, the Flames to take some time off (seeing as how it’s in July, and there is very little hockey to be played in July), and unfortunate, non-western prospects to be overwhelmed by chuckwagon races.
Sam Bennett bet on the guy with the fourth barrel of his heat? Dude, seriously?
Though if you’re a Flame, the correct guy to go with is probably Rae Croteau Jr., who works with former Flame, Sheldon Kennedy, to raise money for his Child Advocacy Centre, not to mention has former Flame Curtis Glencross on his team.
The Flames are a team where any farm kids or western-based players can really embrace their heritages. Glencross and former head coach Brent Sutter once solved their issues by building a fence to keep their cows separated, and Kris Russell – who grew up cheering for the Flames – owns a bull, Red Mile, named after the 17th Avenue section that comes alive during the playoffs.
X. X marks the (playoff) spot
The Flames, as a franchise, have a history very much dictated by patches of playoff success and failures.
Part of the reason the franchise moved from Atlanta to Calgary was because in Atlanta, the team simply couldn’t win a playoff series. Upon arrival in Calgary, they immediately made it to the third round, which was followed up by several first and second round losses until a Cup Final appearance in 1986 – and a Cup win in 1989.
That win was followed up with more first round losses, until eventually, Calgary stopped making the playoffs for seven straight seasons, resulting in low attendances and the threat of another relocation, as Quebec City and Winnipeg had already suffered.
All of that came to an end in the 2003-04 season, when the Flames not only broke their playoff drought, but won a series for the first time since 1989, and made their way back to the Final, bringing the Flames back to prominence in Calgary.
From there, the Flames enjoyed four straight first round losses and another five seasons without any playoffs before unexpectedly making them this past season, and even winning a round. May the past decade of playoff futility be behind us.
Y. Yelle, Stephane
Stephane Yelle embodied many characteristics valued by a Calgary fanbase: he was an incredibly gritty, defensively sound player. Nicknamed “Sandbox” (because grit), he spent five seasons with Calgary, from 2002-08, including playing in the Flames’ 2004 playoff run.
He was the consummate teammate, perfecting the role current-day players such as Kris Russell and Lance Bouma, two guys known for blocking a lot of shots, try to fulfill. He was never particularly flashy, but there’s a reason he’s still remembered, and deserves a shoutout when cataloguing the Flames’ history. Calgary has a tendency to love the unheralded player, and that’s exactly who Yelle was.
Z. Zarley Zalapski
Zarley Zalapski fills the Flames’ ‘Z’ quota with one of the best names of all time. From 1994-98, he played 178 games with the Flames: third most on his journey across five teams.
He’d already played in Calgary prior to joining the Flames, having been a member of the 1988 Canadian Olympic team, but failed to medal, ultimately finishing fourth. That less-than-stellar performance was what he saw throughout his time as a Flame as well, for he was a member of the team in the dark days of the 1990s: a time when the Flames accomplished absolutely nothing of note, going from first round playoff exits to no playoffs at all. But hey: at least you could cheer for Zarley Zalapski.
Meet the author: T. Ari Yanover runs Matchsticks & Gasoline, and is a regular contributor for Flames Nation. Her life accidentally got ruined when the Flames made the playoffs in 2004, and she hasn’t been able to leave them since. Follow her on Twitter @thirtyfourseven.