Calgary Flames

Thu, 05 Mar 2009 01:54

History of Calgary Flames

Information about the NHL team Calgary Flames.


The Flames have been originally awarded to the Atlanta-based group headed by Tom Cousins, a famous real estate developer. This is the same group that owned the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. The Atlanta team was named the 'Flames” after the fire during the American Civil War, which was from the March to the Sea of Gen. Willian Tecumseh Sherman. These flames almost destroyed Atlanta. The Flames' home games were being played in the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta.

Of the eight seasons in Atlanta, the Flames were able to make it to six of the playoffs. This was under their head coaches Bernie Geoffrion, Al MacNeil and Fred Creighton. They were more successful compared with their fellow expansion team, the New York Islanders, who only won 32 games in the first two years of the league. They weren't too successful, however, since the Atlanta Flames won only two post-season games.

Although they had relative success, the team's funding was not very stable. Aside from the initial projections of Cousins about the NHL team not coming to pass, the Flames were also not able to sign a major TV contract.

In 1980, to keep up with his financial problems, Tom Cousins had to sell the team. Although there were offers from local entities, he favored the offer from some Calgary businessmen headed by Canadian Nelson Skalbania (the former owner of the Oilers). Atlanta was not able to keep the team as it was sold to Skalbania for $16 million, the highest amount paid for an NHL team at that time. On May 21, 1980, the Flames were moved to Calgary and retained the name “Flames” since it would be appropriate for an oil town. In 1981, Skalbania sold his share to local entities.

1980-1985

The city of Calgary welcomed the Flames when it was brought to the city in 1980. The Flames were able to sell 10,000 of the full-season and half-season ticket packages for the Stampede Corral that has a 7000 seating capacity.

With Ken Nilsson in the lead, during their first season in the city of Calgary, the Flames made it to the playoffs ranking third in the Patrick Division. They won their first playoff series against the Chicago Black Hawks and the Philadelphia Flyers, although they lost to the Minnesota North Stars during the semi-finals. When the Flames lost in 1981-82, long time General Manager Cliff Fletcher decided to replace some of the members from the former Atlanta Flames and changed the roster. As he updated the roster, he found players that stayed with the team until the early 90's.

Because of Fletcher's efforts, the Flames were one of the first NHL to get many US college players. This includes Joel Otto, Colin Patterson and Gary Suter. He also looked for European players like Hakan Loob. He was one of the first to get players from the Soviet Union like Sergei Makarov, although it was until 1989 that Soviet players were released to the Western teams.

In 1983, the players found their new home in the Olympic Saddledome (Pengrowth Saddledome at present). When the Saddledome was built, it was intended to be the venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics. In 1985, the 37th NHL All-Star Game was held in the Saddledome.

1985-1990

During this time, the Flames became one of the strongest teams in the NHL. However, they weren't able to make it to the championships because they had to beat their provincial rivals, the Oilers. As the NHL playoffs were done during that time, the Flames would me the Oilers in the first or the second round instead of the Campbell Conference Finals. Because of the same rules, the other two qualifiers in the Smythe Division playoffs would have to win against the Oilers or the Flames (or both) before the get to the finals. During the years 1983 up to 1990, it was either the Flames or the Oilers who played for the Campbell Conference during the Stanley Cup Finals.

In 1986, during the first round of the playoffs, the Flames won against the Winnipeg Jets, leading to a showdown against the Oilers. This game also has go the record for one of the famous blunders in hockey as rookie Oilers Steve Smith, unintentionally, shot the puck from Grant Fuhr's leg going to his own net.

From winning the series, the Calgary Flames went on to play against and defeat the St. Louis Blues during the seven-game series of the Campbell Conference Finals. During game six, the Calgary Flames had to survive the Monday Night Miracle in which the Blues made a surprising comeback leading to Game 7, which was won by the Flames. During their first time to play in the Stanley Cup, the Flames were not able to win the championship against the Montreal Canadiens.

In 1988-89, the team continued to improve. The Flames got a second President's Trophy when they set a franchise record of 117 points. As Fletcher improved the roster during the player trade-offs, he acquired Doug Gilmour as part of the deal.

In 1989, through the diplomatic efforts of Fletcher, the Soviet Union permitted some Soviet players to join the NHL, with the first being Sergie Pryakhin.

1991-2003

In 1991, Fletcher was replaced by Doug Risebrough as he left to mange the Toronto Maple Leafs. Risebrough and Fletcher made a ten-player trade off with Doug Gilmour and four Calgary players traded for Gary Leeman and four from Toronto. In 1992, after the trade-off, it was the first time that the Flames missed the playoffs for 17 years, from the time that they were playing for Atlanta. It was also the third time over the 20-year history of the franchise.

The Flames found it difficult to make it to the playoffs in the following years. Their lowest point came in the 1997-98 when they only scored 67 points. The team experienced challenges in keeping their best players as the Canadian dollars weakened against the US dollar. As the team’s stats suffered, their game attendance also declined. To keep the team from leaving for the US, the management issued an ultimatum to its fans: they have to buy more season tickets. Although the fans responded positively, the Flames continued to suffer financial losses up to about $14.5 million from 2001 to 2003.

In 2002-03, head coach Greg Gilbert was replaced by Daryl Sutter. Sutter then acquired Mikka Kipprusoff, who has set the lowest average for NHL at 1.69 points.

2004 – present

In 2004, the Flames broke their seven years of missing the playoffs. They rebounded by becoming the first team to win against three division champions and the first Canadian team to compete in the Stanley Cup Finals. For the Stanley Cup finals, they had to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although they lost the Cup, thirty thousand fans came to the Olympic Plaza to celebrate with the Flames. The  2005-06 season was the 25th year in Calgary for the Flames. They scored their best since 1989 with 103 points. That made them with their first division title in 12 years.

In 2007-08, Mike Keenan became the head coach as Jim Playfair was demoted to associate coach. In this year, Jerome Iginla became the all-time leader in goal scoring for the Flames. They also made it to the quarterfinals of the Western Conference playing against the Sharks.