The hockey season can be quite long and in every organization, there’s quite a few dates, events and milestones to keep an eye on. For fans of the Calgary Flames, the first year of the long-awaited rebuild will feature a calendar full of events to keep an eye on – some of which won’t be on the NHL’s schedule.
For the sake of those worried about missing out amidst the hustle and bustle, here’s a quick primer on the 2013-14 Calgary Flames season.
Regular season waiver period begins. Any waiver-eligible player that has to be assigned to the minors after this day has to clear waivers.
The 2013-14 NHL schedule officially begins and all teams, including the Flames, must declare their opening 23-man roster. Expect a flurry of waiver activity in the days leading up to this.
Season-opener against the Washington Capitals and Calgary’s first visit to the American capital since January 2012, when they lost 3-1. All-time in season-opening games, the Flames are 13-17-10. All three times the Flames have progressed to the Stanley Cup Final, they began their season with a win – although there were 10 times they began the year with a win that they failed to make the Final, including their 1991-92 opener where they crushed the Oilers 9-2 and then ended up having one of their worst seasons ever.
The AHL’s Abbotsford Heat begin their fifth season of operation on the road against the Lake Erie Monsters. Head coach Troy Ward will be behind the bench for his third season as bench boss and the roster will likely be bolstered by several recent Flames draft choices.
Home-opener against the Vancouver Canucks; Flames will debut the new goal song, replacing Duck Sauce’s “Barbra Streisand.” There’s an 80 percent chance it’ll be a Nickelback song.
This has been the Flames goal song since 2010, when it replaced the excellent AC/DC song “Shot Down In Flames.”
The Flames are 18-15-7 in home openers all-time; that statistic has no bearing on how they do in their regular season – although the Flames’ three trips to the Stanley Cup Final were preceded by a home opener win (1986 & 2004) or tie (1989).
Sean Monahan turns 19.
The Alaska Aces open their ECHL schedule at home against the San Francisco Bulls, beginning their first season as a Calgary Flames affiliate. There’s a good chance that several Flames prospects will been rotating through Anchorage during the 2013-14 season, which is great news for the Aces, who have been a strong ECHL team but have lacked an NHL partner for several years.
The Toronto Maple Leafs (and captain Dion Phaneuf) visit the Saddledome. Phaneuf was originally a 2003 first round choice of the Flames before being traded to Toronto for a package that included current Flame center Matt Stajan. On the same night, the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat visit Utica – a city they were rumoured to be relocating to last year – to visit the new Vancouver Canucks affiliate, the Utica Comets.
The Flames host the Edmonton Oilers in the first installment of the fabled Battle of Alberta of the 2013-14 season and the 211th meeting all-time. Calgary holds a 104-85-21 edge in the all-time series and split their season series with Edmonton at two wins apiece during the 2012-13 season.
The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks visit the Saddledome. The last time the Flames hosted Chicago was February 2, when the Flames blew a one-goal lead with three seconds left in regulation before losing in the shootout. The 3-2 Flames loss was the closest the Blackhawks came to being beaten in regulation before their streak was halted at 24 games via a regulation loss to Colorado on March 8.
Long-time Flames captain and holder of just about every offensive record the team has, Jarome Iginla, returns to town for the first time since being traded away on March 27. Instead of visiting with the Pittsburgh Penguins – who he approved a trade to – he’ll visit as a member of the Boston Bruins, the team that he signed with over the summer. Expect several standing ovations and “Iggy” chants for #12.
The NHL’s Christmas Break. There’s no traveling and no games or practices during this period. The NHL’s roster freeze begins on December 19 and lasts until December 27: no waiver claims, recalls or trades, except for on an emergency basis.
December 26-January 5:
The IIHF’s annual World Junior Championship tournament, this time emanating from Malmo, Sweden. Several Flames prospects have been featured in recent years and this time, expect to see Jon Gillies and Patrick Sieloff on Team USA, Sean Monahan (and maybe Emile Poirier) on Team Canada, and Rushan Rafikov on Team Russia.
Beware, though. Due to the time difference, the games start really, really early – although not as early as they did in Ufa, Russia in 2013.
February 2 & 10:
The Beanpot! The annual hockey tournament pits the four Boston-area NCAA schools – Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard – against each other for a spiffy trophy and bragging rights. Contested annually since 1953, the tournament has been a showcase in recent years for Flames prospects Bill Arnold (scoring the Beanpot-winning goal in 2012) and Johnny Gaudreau (the MVP in 2012).
The NHL’s Olympic Break. No roster moves are allowed during this period, although players who are waiver-exempt can be shuffled down to the AHL to stay active for two weeks. While only Flames forward Mikael Backlund was eligible to go down in 2010, expect a lot of movement prior to the roster freeze if the Flames go as young this year as everyone suspects they will.
Immediately after the Olympics, the Flames get a visit from their former GM Darryl Sutter and his new team, the Los Angeles Kings. You may have heard of them, as Sutter finally won a Cup with the Kings awhile back.
The NHL’s annual trade deadline (technically it’s at noon eastern-time), 40 days prior to the end of the regular season. Due to its proximity to the Olympic roster freeze, expect a lot of movement – particularly in the days prior – as teams shuffle frantically to improve prior to the post-season.
In what will be a strange day in Calgary, the Flames (without Jarome Iginla) meet the Daniel Alfredsson-less Ottawa Senators in the Saddledome, in the first meeting of the two teams since they both lost their long-time captains.
A busy day. Not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also (a) the generally agreed-upon end-point for the regular season in Canadian major-junior hockey, as well as (b) Mikael Backlund’s 25th birthday. Unless Steve Begin is on the roster, Backlund will be the oldest home-grown Flames player on the club and at 25, he’ll be entering what hockey pundits categorize as his prime.
March 28-30, April 10 & 12:
The NCAA’s Frozen Four, the grand finale of the college hockey season. Flames prospects Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau won with Boston College in 2012, while Kenny Agostino’s Yale squad won last year.
The very last game of the Flames regular season takes place on this date, as Calgary heads to the west coast to play the Canucks in Vancouver.
The Canadian Hockey League’s grand finale, the Mastercard Memorial Cup, takes place in London, Ontario. There are usually at least a couple Flames draftees in the Memorial Cup tournament.
The 25th anniversary of the Calgary Flames winning their only Stanley Cup.