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Playing out of the Western Conference’s Pacific Division is a team based in the Canadian city of Calgary in Alberta. The Calgary Flames were founded in 1972 in Atlanta, but quickly headed north due to financial issues after eight fairly successful seasons in Georgia.
Immediately beloved in the hockey crazy city of Calgary, the Flames embraced their new home. The result translated to the ice as well, as the Flames quickly enjoyed even greater success north of the border with the franchise’s first star, Kent Nilsson. They would make it to the semi-finals in 1981, their first year in Calgary, before losing to Minnesota.
A rebuilding period would soon follow, the result of which, led to the acquisition of key players that would play a major role on the team for the next decade. This would include Joel Otto, Gary Suter, and Colin Patterson. They would also pick up veteran player and future Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, whose leadership the club would rely on for years to come. Calgary also drafted Al McInnis to help defensively. He, too, played a major role on the team during his Hall of Fame career. Finally, star goaltender Mike Vernon provided a consistent game in net which made Calgary a force to be reckoned with in the league. Throughout the 1980s, Calgary and Edmonton were the teams to beat in the West.
Having made the playoffs every seasons in Calgary, the Flames charged into the 1988-1989 campaign, earning a regular season record of 54-17-9. Their first place finish put them up against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. Following their victory in seven games, the Flames swept the Los Angeles Kings before taking care of the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals in five games. Matching up against the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary took the series in six games to win their first Stanley Cup Championship.
They remained a strong competitor for the next few seasons before dropping off into a seven year playoff drought in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. The Flames rebounded in spectacular fashion in 2004 when they pushed Tampa Bay to the brink in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals before falling short by a score of 2-1. Since then, Calgary has made the playoffs six times in the past 13 seasons, missing out of a western conference appearance with a record of 37-35-10.
Captain Mark Giordano will lead this team again, flanked by rising stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Adding to the mix is the talented Mikael Backlund. Young winger Matthew Tkachuk proved that his rookie season was not a fluke with a strong showing in his sophomore effort. Settling in to an NHL career, he looks to be a big part of the team’s future. Guarding the net this year in Calgary was two time NHL All Star Mike Smith. Backstopped by his solid performances in net, the Flames have a chance for a resurgence of great hockey in Calgary and the potential to break out for a deep playoff run this season under the watch of new head coach Bill Peters. Adding the veteran presence of James Neal, fresh off a Stanley Cup appearance, will help this club. He signed on for a five year deal worth $28.75 million. Elias Lindholm entered the fold in Calgary in the offseason and re-upped for six years in a contract worth $29.1 million to keep him with the Flames. So, too, did Noah Hanifin who signed on for six years and $27.9 million.
Never short on talent, Calgary Flames fans have had the distinct pleasure of getting to see some of the game’s greats skate for them each night. Tops among this coveted group are Jarome Iginla, Al MacInnis, Lanny McDonald, Miika Kiprusoff, Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Vernon, and Doug Gilmore. Click here to learn more about the history of the organization as well as the current squad.