The Calgary Flames have not made the playoffs since the 2008-2009 season. Prior to that, Flames fans enjoyed 5 glorious years of post-season successes, starting with the infamous Cup run in 2004, when the Flames eventually lost in the finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As evidenced by the atmosphere of the “C of Red,” Flames fans are passionate, and fiercely loyal. Even with their home team sitting idle during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans of the franchise still have reasons to cheer. 5 of them, to be exact.
5. The Chicago Blackhawks
At the top of the list of most hated teams for the Flames faithful are the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks. But with the last decade full of struggles ruling out the Oilers as legitimate rivals, the Canucks have weaseled their way to the top spot. Naturally, any team that causes the Canucks grief, is a friend of the Calgary Flames.
And boy, do those Blackhawks ever give the Canucks grief. From Chicago’s sweep of Vancouver in the 1995 Western Conference Semi Finals to the 2011 post-season, where the Hawks refused to give up after a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7, there certainly is no love between the two teams.
4. Robyn Regehr and the L.A. Kings
Defenseman Robyn Regehr played 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames and was one of the comforting, familiar faces of the franchise. Although he only posted 181 points in his long tenure with the team, Regehr was an undoubted leader among his teammates.
In 2008, he had the opportunity to sign with another team as an unrestricted free agent, but instead took a significant pay cut and signed a 5-year contract extension with the Flames, expressing a desire to stay in the city and play for the organization and its fans.
When Regehr finally did waive his no-trade clause to move to the Buffalo Sabres in 2011, it was all for the opportunity for the Flames to add some much-needed youth to their roster, signifying his dedication to the team.
3. Andrew Ference and the Boston Bruins
In 2003, 23-year old Andrew Ference was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Calgary Flames. He had an exciting 1.5 seasons to follow, as he joined the team when it embarked on its emotional journey to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.
Ference’s numbers while playing with Calgary were nothing extraordinary, but the impact of the franchise on the young defenseman was clear from the beginning of his time with the Flames to his Stanley Cup moment with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Case in point: During an interview after winning the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship with the Bruins, Ference stated: “It’s the hardest hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. When this moment finally came, it’s funny, the things you think about. I think about Jarome, and Rhett Warrener, Robyn Regehr, and some of my close friends on that team, you know, Chucky Kobasew. I wish I could feel this with them. I really do.”
2. Darryl Sutter and the L.A. Kings
Darryl Sutter is a Canadian hockey legend, one of seven brothers from Viking, Alberta who played in the NHL. Following an 8-year playing career, Sutter relocated behind the bench and took on the duties of a coach, first in the International Hockey League, and then in the NHL.
One of the most memorable stints of his coaching career thus far has been with the Calgary Flames. In 2002, Sutter took over as head coach of the Flames. One year later he assumed the position of general manager for the organization, and in the ensuing 4 years he built a winning team and led it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2004.
In 2006, Sutter stepped down as head coach but remained the Flames general manager until 2010, when he announced his retirement from the NHL. The retirement didn’t last long, however. Just a year later, Sutter joined the L.A. Kings as their head coach, and it didn’t take him long to lead that franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 2012.
For Flames fans, it’s hard to root against a man who has had such deep roots in their city and such admirable winning ways. And for Darryl Sutter, it’s impossible not to look back fondly at the 8 seasons spent within the electric atmosphere of the Calgary Flames organization. After his announcement to step down as GM for the Flames, Sutter gave an interview about his memories with the Calgary Flames: “It’s an awesome city. Great ownership. Great fans. What more could you want? Hockey’s just a wee little piece of it. To see the way the building’s been again, it gives me shivers. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve been lucky.”
1. Jarome Iginla and the Pittsburgh Penguins
It took 18 seasons of emotional highs and lows, two Rocket Richard Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, one Mark Messier Leadership Award and one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals before the undoubted face of the franchise decided it was time for a change. On March 27th, 2013, after spending his entire NHL career as a Calgary Flame, Jarome Iginla became a Pittsburgh Penguin. The decision sent shock waves throughout the city, yet it was a valid decision. After all, Iginla was one of the NHL’s best players, a leader admired by hockey players and team fanbases alike. A future Hall-of-Famer who had yet to lift Lord Stanley.
After months of speculation regarding Iginla’s age and his decreasing chances at winning the Cup with the Flames, the shortened 2013 season saw Iggy wave his no-trade clause and join the star-studded roster in Pittsburgh. It was the blockbuster trade of the season, complete with a shocking turn of events mid-trade. Iginla may have snubbed Boston and left Calgary, but no one anywhere could blame him. There is no question of the tremendous impact Iginla has had on the Calgary Flames and the city itself. Without his unwavering leadership and constant 30-goal seasons, who knows where the Calgary Flames would have been in the last 18 years? If anyone deserves a Stanley Cup ring, it’s Jarome Iginla. And if any Flames fan needs someone to cheer for in the post-season, it’s Jarome Iginla.
He will forever be a Flame, regardless of what jersey he is wearing.