The Calgary Flames are a team with an understated amount of history. Joining the National Hockey League in 1972-73 as the Atlanta Flames, the club has been part of the league for parts of five decades and in Calgary for nearly 40 years. Despite boasting a roster that has featured numerous Hockey Hall of Fame inductees over the years, the club has only retired two jersey numbers (and “honoured” two others).
However, the club’s pair of retired numbers aren’t necessarily the only numbers held in reverence by the organization. As international law has shown us, numbers that are never used are just as good as retired ones. The Flames have three numbers that they have used sporadically enough that they’re probably next in line for the rafters of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Already retired or honoured
The Flames have two retired numbers and two numbers honoured in the organization’s “Forever a Flame” program.
Lanny McDonald’s #9 was the first number sent to the rafters in Calgary. McDonald was the emotional heart of the Flames’ 1989 Stanley Cup team, serving as co-captain and scoring his final career goal in the championship-clinching game. While his tenure was short enough that his offensive escapades have been overshadowed since by longer-term Flames, his 66 goals in a single season (back in 1982-83) still stands as a club record.
Longtime teammate Mike Vernon’s #30 was also retired. Not quite as revered as McDonald, Vernon was nonetheless instrumental as the team’s goaltender of record during the majority of their 1980s and 1990s glory days. He set the bar for Flames goaltenders going forward, far eclipsing predecessors Dan Bouchard and Reggie Lemelin between the pipes by backstopping the club to two Stanley Cup Final appearances (and the franchise’s only championship win).
While not officially retired, Al MacInnis’ #2 and Joe Nieuwendyk’s #25 have been honoured in the “Forever A Flame” program. Both were stalwarts of the club during their 1980s and 1990s prominence, with both players ranking among the franchise leaders in games and points during their tenures.
Jarome Iginla (#12)
Simply put, Iginla is a first ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest Flames player of all-time. One of the best players in the NHL throughout the 2000s, he was the longest tenured captain in Flames history and led the club within one win of a Stanley Cup championship in 2004. He’s the franchise leader in games, goals, points, shots and game-winning goals – the only categories he doesn’t lead in are assists and penalty minutes. Traded in 2013 as the club began its long-overdue rebuild, his #12 hasn’t been issued to a single player since. He’ll likely see his number retired as soon as he ends his playing career.
Theoren Fleury (#14)
One of the great mysteries in the game is why Fleury’s iconic #14 hasn’t been raised to the rafters. One of the great underdog success stories in the history of sport, the diminutive Fleury scrapped and hustled his way to a 15-year, 1,000-point career despite being 5’6″ and barely 170 pounds. Fleury’s Flames tenure included a Stanley Cup win as a rookie, multiple 100-point seasons and a stint as team captain. His hockey exploits have been overshadowed by his out-spoken nature and the substance abuse issues which led to his career ending prematurely, while he’s arguably become better known for his advocacy for child sexual abuse victims in the years since his retirement. That said, Fleury left the Flames in 1999 as one of the best players in franchise history and the holder of most of the statistical records that were eventually broken by Iginla. His number hasn’t been worn by any player since.
Miikka Kiprusoff (#34)
Vernon may have set the bar for Flames goaltenders during his tenure, but Kiprusoff raised it (and then some). The only goaltender in franchise history to win the Vezina Trophy, Kiprusoff set the modern day goals against average record in his first full season in Calgary and then set about rewriting the club’s record book. He’s the franchise leader in all important goaltending categories, ranging from longevity (most games played and minutes played) to excellence (most wins and shutouts). He retired following the 2012-13 season and his #34 hasn’t been used since, despite the team going through a lot of goaltenders in recent years. Depending on the timing of Iginla’s retirement, Kiprusoff could be the next jersey retired – if the reclusive Finn can be lured back to North America for the ceremony.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.