Throughout the year, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the National Hockey League (NHL), discovering the best and worst each team has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also feature a drink based off the franchise. Today, we throw on the cowboy boots and leather chaps, en route to Calgary, to investigate how hot them Flames really are:
Establishment Story: The Flames relocated from Atlanta – where they had played from 1972 to 1980 – keeping the Flames nickname from their predecessor. The Flames filled a professional hockey void in the city that had existed since the World Hockey Association’s Calgary Cowboys had folded in 1977. The team has been locally owned by a group of oil tycoons and others since 1981.
Stanley Cups: The Flames have a sole Stanley Cup, winning the championship in 1989. They have appeared in two other Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in 1986 (the same team they would defeat in 1989) and coming up short against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. The Flames 1989 triumph was the only time the famed Montreal Forum witnessed an opposing team capture the Stanley Cup.
Celebrity Fan: The famous Hart wrestling family is synonymous with Calgary. Therefore, it’s no surprise Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart is a fan of the Flames. Hart was even a co-founding owner of the Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen, along with Flames star Theoren Fleury. The Hitmen are now owned and operated by the Flames ownership group. Other notable Flames fans include Letterkenny creator Jared Keeso, country musician George Canyon and golfer Graham Delaet.
Super Fan: A couple Flames fans have been profiled for the man caves they have created, dedicated to the team. Dean McCord and Chris Payne have each created settings to watch games that are the next best thing to being in attendance at the Saddledome, with large TVs, memorabilia and lighting/sound effects. Both of their homes have become popular places for their friends to enjoy Calgary games.
Mascot: Harvey the Hound was the NHL’s first mascot, debuting in 1983 as the Flames first “pound” draft selection. A memorable moment for Harvey occurred in 2003, when he was taunting Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who proceeded to pulls Harvey’s tongue out and throw it into the stands. Harvey has also served as the secondary mascot of the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders.
Tradition: Since the 1986 playoffs, when the Flames battled and defeated the Edmonton Oilers, fans have filled the Saddledome, all donning Flames jerseys, t-shirts and other paraphernalia, creating the C of Red. Flames playoff victories feature fans flocking to the Red Mile, a stretch of 17th Avenue SW, in Calgary. Prior to the Red Mile, fans celebrated on 11th Avenue SW, known as Electric Avenue.
Appearances in Media: Iconic X-Men character, Wolverine, is a Calgary Flames fan. This makes sense, as Wolverine’s fictional backstory has him being from Alberta. His devotion to the Flames goes so far, that in Wolverine: First Class #6, his game watching is interrupted by some robots, causing him to go nuts on the machines, all while clad in a Flames jersey. MacGyver was also a big Flames fan, often wearing various merchandise on the hit 80’s TV show.
Events/Scandals: The Flames organization’s attempts to build a new arena, replacing the 39-year-old Saddledome (one of the oldest rinks in the league) can best be described as a rollercoaster ride. Deals have been made and later reneged on, while team management and Calgary city council continue to clash. The latest is that the two sides have resumed talks over a new home for the Flames, but no one can predict how it all finally plays out.
Rivalry: The Battle of Alberta, against provincial nemesis the Edmonton Oilers, is one of hockey’s greatest rivalries. Between 1983 and 1990, the Flames and Oilers dominated the NHL, with one of the teams appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals each year, totalling six Stanley Cup wins. Other top opponents of the Flames include the Vancouver Canucks, with the two teams having met in many playoff clashes.
Tragedy: Two Flames prospects have sadly passed away following being drafted by the team. First, George Pelawa was selected 16th overall in 1986, but was killed in a car accident that summer. More than two decades later, Mickey Renaud was drafted 143rd overall in 2007, but died suddenly, due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart), on February 18, 2008.
Player Nicknames: Nicknames in sports are common, but it’s rare when a player goes out and trademarks their moniker. Johnny Gaudreau spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Flames and became known as Johnny Hockey during that time. Gaudreau took inspiration from Johnny Manziel, who trademarked the nickname Johnny Football in 2014, when he was a big time college football quarterback, before quickly fizzling out as a professional.
Line: Two of the highest scoring lines in Flames history never received the nickname treatment. This includes the units of Gary Roberts, Robert Reichel and Theo Fleury and Johnny Gaudrea, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. One trio that did gain a humourous moniker was the Full Pension Line of Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson, based on each player surpassing the minimum games needed to earn a full NHL pension.
Captain: Jarome Iginla was named captain of the Flames for the 2003-04 season, with Craig Conroy relinquishing the ‘C’ to his teammate. Iginla would serve in the role until he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2013 trade deadline. He had spent 16 seasons in Calgary, setting a number of club records along the way. Iginla’s number 12 was retired by the Flames in 2019.
Enforcer: Tim Hunter holds the Flames records for total penalty minutes (2,405), penalty minutes in a season (375) and penalty minutes in a playoff run (108). Hunter played 545 games for Calgary – his hometown team – being a member of the 1989 Stanley Cup-winning squad. Hunter left the Flames as the final pick of the 1992 Expansion Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, although he was quickly traded to the Quebec Nordiques.
Family Values: Two pairs of brothers have played for the Flames at the same time. First, Robyn and Richie Regehr patrolled the Calgary blueline together for 20 games over two seasons. Later, Dougie and Freddie Hamilton spent parts of three seasons playing together with the Flames. It should also be noted, a number of the Sutter brothers have had roles with the team, including Brian, Darryl and Brent each coaching the club.
Returning Players: Theo Fleury is one of the most beloved players to ever suit up for the Flames. His 1999 trade away from Calgary, following 11 seasons with the club, was emotional for all parties. In 2009, after six years away from the NHL, Fleury attempted to make a comeback and there was only one place he wanted it to happen. After recording four points in four pre-season games, Fleury was released from his tryout, but was able to retire as a member of the Flames.
Short Stint: Jaromir Jagr is a legend in the game of hockey, but his time with the Flames is best described as anything but legendary. Jagr signed with Calgary as the 2017-18 season was about to begin. Three months later, the Flames were in talks to terminate Jagr’s contract, following one goal and six assists in 22 games. Jagr returned to HC Kladno, the club he owns, where he still plays to this day.
Undrafted: When Martin St. Louis retired, he was fifth all-time in points by an undrafted player, but his success came after leaving Calgary. As for players who are best recognized as a member of the Flames, defenseman Mark Giordano was signed after attending Calgary’s 2004 summer camp. In 2019, at the age of 35 and serving as the Flames captain, Giordano would win the Norris Trophy, as the NHL’s best defenseman.
Trade: One of the best deals the Flames ever made, as well as one of their worst transactions, both involved Doug Gilmour. Gilmour was acquired by Calgary in 1988, the centerpiece of a seven-player deal with the St. Louis Blues. The Flames would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season. Then, in 1992, a disgruntled Gilmour was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, this time the focal point of a 10-player swap.
Signing: Two of the Flames worst contracts ever went to forwards Troy Brouwer (four-year, $18 million in 2016) and James Neal (five-year, $28.75 million in 2018). Brouwer was bought out of his deal after two increasingly disappointing seasons, while Neal was traded after one campaign, with the Flames taking back Milan Lucic’s equally bad deal (seven-year, $42 million in 2016) with the Edmonton Oilers, in return.
Draft Pick: The highest the Flames have ever drafted, was fourth overall in 2014. They selected Sam Bennett, who is considered a bust with the team, although he has since gone on to some success with the Florida Panthers. As for good picks, Calgary’s 1984 draft was particularly fruitful, as they added Gary Roberts (12th overall), Paul Ranheim (38th), Brett Hull (117th) and Gary Suter (180th). They joined 1981 draftess Al MacInnis (15th) and Mike Vernon (56th).
Holdouts: Joe Nieuwendyk was the captain of the Flames in 1995, when he endured a contract dispute with the organization. Nieuwendyk sat out until he was traded to the Dallas Stars on December 19, 1995, in exchange for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen. The deal worked out for both teams, as Nieuwendyk would eventually win a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999, while Jarome Iginla became the face of the franchise for more than a decade.
Buyouts: Michael Stone’s 2019 buyout was notable not for how long or how expensive the compensation would take to pay out, but because over a month later, the Flames signed him to another deal. Originally, he was the odd man out on full defense corps, resulting in the final season of his three-year contract being bought out. When an off-season injury to fellow d-man Juuso Valimaki occurred, Calgary circled back to a known commodity and inked Stone to a league minimum deal.
Unique Game: The Flames have played in two Heritage Classic contests. First, in 2011, they defeated the Montreal Canadiens at McMahon Stadium, in Calgary. Then, in 2019, they lost to the Winnipeg Jets at Mosaic Stadium, in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Flames also opened the 1998-99 season with a pair of games against the San Jose Sharks in Tokyo, Japan, as well as playing two 2018 exhibition matches against the Boston Bruins, in Shenzhen and Beijing, China.
Goal: Flames captain Lanny McDonald had sat out much of the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, but was reinserted into the lineup for Game 6. With the game tied, McDonald scored to give Calgary the lead, en route to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. The marker would prove to be McDonald’s final NHL goal, as he would retire after the championship victory. McDonald lifting the cup and parading it around the ice is among the greatest images in Flames history.
Fight/Brawl: Stu Grimson was only a rookie when he defeated one of the NHL’s toughest fighters in Dave Brown of the Edmonton Oilers. The rematch didn’t go as well, with Grimson suffering skull fractures from the one-sided beating. Emergency surgery for Grimson was required, but the enforcer went on to a long career, earning a reputation as a feared pugilist and one of the best nicknames the sports world has ever heard, the Grim Reaper.
Injury: In November 1991, Gary Roberts was hit from behind by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bob Rouse, needing a stretcher to be removed from the ice. This was the start of neck issues for Roberts, who would eventually have to play wearing a brace. After missing much of the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, Roberts decided to retire, at the age of 30. Thankfully, after some training and lifestyle changes, Roberts was able to return to hockey in 1997, playing 12 more seasons.
Penalty: On January 27, 2016, Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was hit hard into the end boards. On his way back to the bench, Wideman seemed to take his frustrations out on linesman Don Henderson, knocking the official to the ice with a crosscheck. Wideman was suspended for 20 games, later reduced to 10 games by an arbiter. Henderson, who suffered a concussion and never officiated another NHL game, sued Wideman and the Flames for $10.25 million, but the case was stayed by the court.
Wildest Story: Social media can actually be an effective tool, as seen when former NHL player Akim Aliu took to Twitter in 2019, accusing Flames coach Bill Peters of directing racial comments towards him when they were both with the minor league Rockford IceHogs. Days later, Peters resigned from the team, while an investigation was being done by Flames team management. Since then, Peters has only coached briefly in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Blooper: The Flames nearly committed a massive off-ice blunder in February 2013, when they signed Colorado Avalanche holdout Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million offer sheet. Had the Avalanche chose to not match the contract, Calgary would have had to compensate Colorado with draft picks AND could have still lost the player through waivers, since O’Reilly had played games in the Kontinental Hockey League, prior to signing a NHL contract.
Miscellaneous: No article about the Flames could be complete without mentioning Bearcat Murray – the most recognizable trainer in NHL history. Murray joined the Flames with their 1980 arrival in Calgary and stayed with the team on the bench until retiring in 1996, when he moved into the role of a community ambassador. Fan clubs for the recognizable trainer popped up in both Boston and Montreal and Murray was even inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. He passed away in June 2022.
Calgary Flames: Calgary Flames Martini
- 2 oz Dry Vermouth
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Vodka
- 1 oz Chambord
- 1 oz Peach Liqueur
- Garnish with Raspberries
Four ounces of Dry Vermouth, as the recipe called for, seemed excessive, so I scaled it back to two ounces. Apparently, this beverage can be found in bars along Calgary’s Red Mile and is popular with many patrons.