Calgary Flames | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are a franchise in the National Hockey League based in Calgary, Alberta. The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989.
Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames playing against the Washington Capitals (photo courtesy Calgary Flames).
Calgary Flames, logo
(copyright NHL)

The Calgary Flames are a franchise in the National Hockey League based in Calgary, Alberta. The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989.

Quick Facts about the Calgary Flames
Date Founded: 1972 (as Atlanta Flames); 1980 (as Calgary Flames)
Venue: Scotiabank Saddledome
Team Colours: red, black, gold and white.
Stanley Cup Victories: 1
Mascot: Harvey the Hound

Atlanta Flames

The team originally joined the National Hockey League in 1972 as the Atlanta Flames. The NHL added two expansion teams for the 1972–73 season as a response to the establishment of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA). With WHA teams spreading across North America, the NHL decided to expand into new markets as well. One of the new teams was based in New York, to make use of the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and became known as the New York Islanders. The other franchise went to Atlanta, which also boasted a new arena, in order to give the NHL a presence in the southern USA. This team subsequently became known as the Atlanta Flames. As an expansion team, the Flames were quite successful. They made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs in only their second season, but were swept by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. In eight seasons in Atlanta, the Flames made the playoffs six times, but never advanced past the first round.

Move to Calgary

While the team remained competitive on the ice in Atlanta, it was losing money off the ice. Rising operating costs combined with a reduction in ticket sales led Tom Cousins, the owner of the Flames, to sell the franchise to a group headed by Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania. In May 1980, the team was relocated to Calgary and became the Calgary Flames. One year later, Skalbania sold his shares of the team to his partners — a group of Calgary businessmen including Byron and Daryl "Doc" Seaman, Harley Hotchkiss, Norman Green, Ralph Scurfield and Norman Kwong.

The Flames played their first three seasons in Calgary in the Stampede Corral, where the seating capacity was only a little over 7,000 fans. When the city of Calgary put in a bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics, it was clear that a larger arena would be necessary in order to host the Games. In 1983, the Calgary Flames began playing in the new Olympic Saddledome in front of almost 17,000 fans.

In their inaugural season in Calgary, the Flames advanced all the way to the playoff semi-finals before being defeated by the Minnesota North Stars. The next several years the Flames made the playoffs, but had trouble advancing beyond the first round. They made the division finals in 1983 and 1984, but both times were defeated by their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.

Calgary became the first team in the NHL with an official mascot when Harvey the Hound was introduced in 1984. Harvey the Hound remains one of the most recognizable and beloved mascots in the league. One of his most memorable moments came in 2003, when he was taunting Edmonton Oiler coach Craig MacTavish from behind the visitors’ bench — the frustrated MacTavish tore off the mascot’s signature dangling red tongue and threw it into the crowd.

Dominance (1985–90)

In the mid-1980s, general manager Cliff Fletcher built a successful team that challenged the Edmonton Oilers for domination. The "Battle of Alberta" playoff matches were legendary, including the 1986 series in which the Flames defeated the heavily-favoured Oilers in seven games. The winning goal came when Oiler defenceman Steve Smith accidentally knocked the puck into his own net. The Flames went on to the Stanley Cup final that year, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens four games to one.

In 1988–89, Calgary made the playoffs as the top-ranked team in the NHL with 117 points, the highest total ever for the Flames. Led by defenceman Al MacInnis, and featuring stars such as Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk, the Flames were poised to avenge their loss in the finals from three years earlier.

After a gruelling seven-game opening series where the Flames narrowly defeated the Vancouver Canucks, the team picked up momentum. They ran over Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings in four games and dispatched the Blackhawks in five, before again meeting the Montreal Canadiens in the finals. This time, the Flames defeated the Canadiens in six games, becoming the only road team to ever win the Stanley Cup against the Canadiens in the Montreal Forum.

Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after becoming the first defenseman to lead the NHL in playoff scoring with 31 points. Legendary fan favourite Lanny McDonald raised the Stanley Cup for the first time in his last game in the NHL, and retired after the season. Five players from the championship team have since been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Part-owner Sonia Scurfield became the first Canadian woman to have her name engraved on the Cup.

Struggles (1991–2003)

The team had limited playoff success in the 1990s. In 1992, the Flames missed the playoffs for the first time since their relocation from Atlanta. In the early part of the decade they failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs and missed the playoffs entirely from 1996–97 to 2002–03. One of the few bright spots for the team during this time was the emergence of Jarome Iginla as a star after his debut in the 1996–97 campaign. In the 2001–02 season, Iginla won both the Art Ross Trophy and the Maurice Richard Trophy, while his team once again failed to make the playoffs.

Return to Stanley Cup Finals (2004)

In 2003–04, Jarome Iginla claimed a second Maurice Richard Trophy by tying for the league in goals with 41. This time, his personal success was matched by that of his team. Under the guidance of Alberta-born coach Darryl Sutter and backed by a sterling season from goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames made the playoffs again in 2003–04.

Upon making the playoffs, the Flames went on a run that united fans across Canada behind them. Ranked sixth in the Western Conference at the end of the season, they would not have home ice advantage in any series. To make it to the finals, they first had to defeat the top three teams in the conference: Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose.

The series against Vancouver was a hard fought seven-game affair, where Calgary eventually prevailed in overtime in game seven. Next they defeated the perennial powerhouse Detroit Red Wings in six games, with Miikka Kiprusoff posting two consecutive shutouts to close out the series. The San Jose Sharks were also unable to defeat Kiprusoff in the Conference Final, only scoring one goal in the final two games of the six-game series. Flames forward Martin Gélinas scored the series-winning goal in each of the first three rounds.

In the Stanley Cup finals, the Flames faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were making their first ever appearance in the championship round. Despite the fact the two teams had never met before at the playoffs, it quickly became an emotional affair, highlighted by a game three fight between Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier, two of the most talented players in the series. It was an exciting series, marked by high tempers and controversy. In the third period of game six, the Flames seemed close to winning the Stanley Cup on home ice when the puck was deflected off the skate of Martin Gélinas; in a controversial decision, referees ruled that Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin had stopped the goal, and the Flames ended up losing in overtime. They would go on to lose 2–1 in game seven in Tampa Bay.

Prior to the 2003–04 season, attendance at home games had been falling for most of a decade, but the run to the finals inspired a new generation of Flames fans. Flames jersey sales in 2004 reached record levels, and in subsequent seasons the Saddledome was routinely sold out.

History Since 2005

Following the 2004–05 NHL lockout, the Flames were unable to replicate their earlier playoff success. They finished the 2005–06 season on top of their division, with goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff winning the Vézina Trophy for outstanding goaltender, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The next three seasons saw the Flames lose in the opening round of the playoffs each year, before missing the playoffs entirely from 2009–10 through 2013–14.

Near the 2013 trade deadline, General Manager Jay Feaster traded Jarome Iginla (the club’s all-time leading scorer and face of the franchise) to the Pittsburgh Penguins for two prospects and a first-round draft pick. Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester was also traded at the deadline, while goalie Miikka Kiprusoff retired before the next season. As a result, Calgary officially entered into a rebuilding phase.

Under coach Bob Hartley, the Flames have forged an identity as a hard-working team. Through astute drafting and development, their lineup has been reinforced by skilled young players, led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Sam Bennett. In the 2014–15 season, Calgary not only exceeded expectations by returning to the playoffs, but also won their first playoff series since 2004. In 2015, the team’s blueline, which featured Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, was strengthened by the addition of Dougie Hamilton, making it one of the strongest groups of defensemen in the league.

However, since the 2015 playoffs, the Flames have struggled to achieve consistency. In 2015–16, Calgary missed the playoffs by 10 points, and Hartley was replaced after the season by Glen Gulutzan as head coach. One consolation for the poor season was the opportunity to draft power forward Matthew Tkachuk with the sixth pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The following season (2016–17), the Flames returned to the playoffs, where they were swept in four games by the Anaheim Ducks. With a young, exciting roster and the addition of defenceman Travis Hamonic, goalie Mike Smith, and veteran forward Jaromir Jagr in the off-season, hopes were high for 2017–18. Despite these efforts, the Flames had a disastrous season and missed the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons. The Flames made several personnel changes in an effort to shake up the team and hired Bill Peters as head coach — their third since 2012. Star defenceman Dougie Hamilton was also traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Noah Hanifin (the fifth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft) in a five-player trade.

The Flames remain under the ownership of a group of five local investors. In 2017, Forbes magazine pegged the value of the hockey club at US $430 million.

Calgary Flames Hall of Famers

Name Position Year Inducted
Lanny McDonald Right Wing 1992
Bob Johnson Coach 1992
Joseph Mullen Right Wing 2000
Grant Fuhr Goaltender 2003
Cliff Fletcher General Manager 2004
Harley Hotchkiss Owner, Governor 2006
Al MacInnis Defence 2007
Brett Hull Right Wing 2009
Daryl Seaman Owner 2010
Joe Nieuwendyk Centre 2011
Doug Gilmour Centre 2011
Bill Hay President, CEO 2015
Phil Housley Defence 2015
Pat Quinn Defence 2016 (inducted as builder)
Sergei Makarov Right Wing 2016
Martin St. Louis Right Wing 2018

Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals

2004 Stanley Cup Finals

Calgary Flames vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Game One: Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1
Game Two: Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1
Game Three: Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 0
Game Four: Tampa Bay 1, Calgary 0
Game Five: Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 2 (OT)
Game Six: Tampa Bay 3, Calgary 2 (OT)
Game Seven: Tampa Bay 2, Calgary 1

Tampa Bay Lightning win series 4–3, and the Stanley Cup

1989 Stanley Cup Finals

Calgary Flames vs Montreal Canadiens

Game One: Calgary 3, Montréal 2
Game Two: Montréal 4, Calgary 2
Game Three: Montréal 4, Calgary 3 (OT)
Game Four: Calgary 4, Montréal 2
Game Five: Calgary 3, Montréal 2
Game Six: Calgary 4, Montréal 2

Calgary Flames win series 4–2, and the Stanley Cup

1986 Stanley Cup Finals

Calgary Flames vs Montreal Canadiens

Game One: Calgary 5, Montréal 2
Game Two: Montréal 3, Calgary 2 (OT)
Game Three: Montréal 5, Calgary 3
Game Four: Montréal 1, Calgary 0
Game Five: Montréal 4, Calgary 3

Montreal Canadiens win series 4–1, and the Stanley Cup

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