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37 FOR 37: SLAYING THE DRAGON

The Flames' 1986 playoff series win over the Oilers is an iconic Battle Of Alberta moment

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Slumped inside the visiting dressing room at Northlands Coliseum on that incredible night, April 30, 1986, Jamie Macoun wasn't pinching himself.

He knew he wasn't dreaming or hallucinating.

"I think,'' the rock-solid defenceman is explaining three decades later, "I can speak for every guy in there then, every guy that was a part of it, guys like Al MacInnis and Joel Otto and Jim Peplinski who'd been through the wars against them.

"None of us were stunned, or shocked, or even surprised.

"The feeling wasn't like 'Wow! I can't believe we beat 'em …'

"The sense was more along the lines of: 'Yeah. About time. We were due.'"

Only two years before, the mood has been decidedly different. Then, the Flames had lost Game 7 of an excruciatingly tough series to their provincial rivals.

This game, this series, was payback for a lot of heartache.

Yes, it was the game of THAT goal, 5:14 into the third period of a 2-2 tie, Oilers' defenceman Steve Smith - 'celebrating' his 23rd birthday - attempting a diagonal pass from the side of net that caromed off the left leg of goaltender Grant Fuhr and in.

A goal that has lived on in fame or infamy, depending on whether your area code is 403 or 780.

Edmonton-born Perry Berezan, actually standing on the Flames' bench after a change when the puck ricocheted behind Fuhr, received credit for the most famous snipe in Flames' franchise history.

Then, with nearly 15 minutes left to make amends, the greatest offensive powerhouse in hockey history fired nothing but blanks.

"You're trying,'' explains Berezan, "to beat this demon. That year, listening to everyone, including the coaches, it was only about slaying the dragon.

"The dragon up north.

"It had nothing to do with anybody else. Whoever else we played, we must've learned something to make us better prepared to slay the dragon.

"And we had."

The architect of Calgary's upset of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, Bob Johnson, had long waited for the moment.

"It was a great series," Badger Bob told reporters. "I thought all along it would go down to the last second. I knew late in the season we were closing the gap.

"Our young kids got better in a hurry."

Smith was inconsolable but still bravely fielded each and every question afterwards in a deserted Oiler inner sanctum.

"I was just trying to make a pass out from two guys circling,'' Smith explained, eyes still scrappy red from crying. "It was a human error. I got good wood on it. It just didn't go in the direction I wanted.

"It's the worst feeling I've ever had in my life."

Feisty centre Doug Risebrough, who'd graduate to assistant coach then head coach/GM of the Calgary franchise, won the final draw in the defensive zone with four ticks left on the scoreclock and the Oilers holding a 6-on-4 man advantage.

"Mostly,'' Risebrough says today, "I remember Badger. He didn't seem overly excited. He wasn't jumping around, celebrating. He just seemed … satisfied. He'd been so positive through the whole thing, climbing that mountain of his.

"You couldn't help but feel great for him."

For the city of Calgary, either.

Over 20,000 delirious C of Red partisans greeted the conquerors arriving later when the team's charter aircraft landed at the airport.

"For a night, anyway,'' laughs Berezan, handed the Mick Jagger role as front man of the band, "we were rock stars."

For the full listing of our 37 For 37 moments and links to past stories, check out: https://www.nhl.com/flames/fans/37-for-37

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