The Calgary Flames have been a part of the National Hockey League for more than three decades, and over their tenure in the league they’ve accumulated a fair amount of success and accolades. While it is difficult to distill over 2,500 games and 8,000 goals into a handful that encapsulates a franchise’s history, The Hockey Writers’ senior Flames writer Ryan Pike has attempted to do just that. Did he miss any? Add your picks in the comments or on Twitter.
1986: Steve Smith Scores…On His Own Net
The Jets had the Sharks. The Montagues had the Capulets. And throughout the 1980s, the Calgary Flames had the Edmonton Oilers. The two Alberta teams waged war throughout the decade, with the Flames boasting a strong roster brimming with up-and-coming stars…and the Oilers boasting a roster that was just a bit better than Calgary’s. The rivalry finally turned in 1986’s Smythe Division Finals and all it took was a little luck.
Early in the third period of a close game, Flames forward Perry Berezan dumped the puck into the Edmonton zone and went for a line change. Rookie Oilers defenseman Steve Smith corralled the puck behind his net, skated past his red line and eyed an outlet pass across his zone. Unfortunately, the skate of goalie Grant Fuhr was in the path of the puck, and it glanced off of Fuhr and into the Oilers net. Calgary held on to win the series and eventually advanced to their first Stanley Cup Finals. Brimming with newfound confidence after finally slaying the Oilers, the Flames went on to win two Presidents’ Trophies in subsequent years. As for Steve Smith? He was forever taunted by Flames fans shouting “shoot!” whenever he had the puck in his own zone.
1989: Lanny McDonald’s Final Goal
Calgary may have had more talented players on their squads over the years, but the heart-and-soul of the club in the 1980s was Lanny McDonald. Known for both his goal-scoring prowess – his 66 goals in a single season still stands as a team record – and his iconic moustache, McDonald toiled with the Harold Ballard-era Toronto Maple Leafs before being shipped off to the Colorado Rockies. Another trade found him arrive in Calgary, where the Alberta native came alive offensively and stood as the conscience of the surging franchise.
McDonald’s final National Hockey League goal was an insurance marker that put the Flames up 4-2 in the sixth and deciding game of the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. The Flames became the first (and only) club to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in the historic Montreal Forum for a Stanley Cup. McDonald’s final goal came in his final game, as he finally captured the elusive Stanley Cup and promptly retired in the off-season.
1991: Theoren Fleury’s Overtime Thriller
Few players have meant more to a struggling franchise than Theoren Fleury did to the Flames during their dark years. After winning a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1989, Fleury remained as a possible dynasty was dismantled around him for economic (Canadian dollar) reasons. The old core’s last hurrah was the 1991 Smythe Division Semi-Final series with the Edmonton Oilers – the last playoff Battle of Alberta to-date – a thrilling seven game war. Fleury’s overtime winner in Game 6 sent the game back to Calgary for a decisive seventh game (which they would lose).
Fleury never meant more to a franchise than he did in that playoff series. He played another 12 seasons in the NHL and never got close to a second Stanley Cup ring. As for the Flames…
2004: The Spring of the Eliminator
When Martin Gelinas joined the Calgary Flames prior to the 2002-03 season, it’s doubtful he anticipated much playoff success. He had already had a Cup ring from his time with the Oilers, and he had failed in two prior attempts to recapture Cup glory with Vancouver and Carolina. But the strong goaltending of a previously unknown Miikka Kiprusoff and the emergence of Jarome Iginla as the NHL’s premiere power forward pushed the Flames into a tooth-and-nail battle with the Vancouver Canucks in the spring of 2004. Gelinas ended up scoring three playoff series clinching goals in the 2004 playoffs, but the capper of Game 7 with the Canucks ended Calgary’s 25-year stretch of playoff futility – and represented their first playoff round win since the 1989 Stanley Cup Final.
2012: Jarome Iginla Hits 500
Finally, we’d be remiss without including the most prolific goal-scorer in the history of the Calgary Flames franchise. When he left the club for Pittsburgh in the spring of 2013, Iginla had 525 goals. The second-best was Fleury’s 364 goals, and the best active player to-date is Curtis Glencross with a mere 105 lamp-lights. While the past few years haven’t afforded Calgary a lot of joy and ballyhoo, the circumstances of Iginla’s 500th goal were unique and memorable.
After several games worth of near-misses, Iginla scored in the most innocuous way possible – unintentionally banking the puck in off a sliding opposition defender. An ugly goal, yes, but it still counted.
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.