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Flames coach has photo collage of former team bench bosses put on wall outside his office

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH /

Four legends.

Clockwise, from top left: The late Badger Bob Johnson, irrepressible, ahead-of-his-time, forever scribbling in a notepad, using mountain-climbing or birdieing the 18th hole at Augusta as analogies for beating the omnipotent Oilers; the heart-on-his-sleeve Terry Crisp, who boldly went somewhere no coach hereabouts had before, or has since; the man who got the NHL coaching party started here, the peerless Al MacNeil, one of the great company soldiers in Calgary Flames' history; and the clinical, tactical Dave King, an international icon in the profession.

"Four special coaches. Four special people in the history of this organization,'' Glen Gulutzan is explaining, admiring the image he's had stencilled on the wall across from the door to head coach's office inside the dressing room inner sanctum on event level at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"I would've probably put Darryl (Sutter) up there, too, but he's still working in the league and we still play them a few times over the course of a season.

"Those four gentlemen, I think they're pretty representative.

"For me, the coaches here now and the people I talk to, Crisper and Badger are legendary. Dave King, with all his years here in Calgary, is so highly respected. And Al's still with our organization, a fantastic resource and someone with such vast knowledge and experience of the game.

"All tremendous guys, tremendous coaches."

The idea for the visual tribute was hatched when Gulutzan, assuming the reins as the 16th head coach in Calgary Flames' history last summer, was tossing around ideas for a dressing-room re-design.

"The locker room, inside there, is kinda the players' place." A slight smile. "We're allowed in there .. tolerated, I guess you might say, but it's really their space.

"So back there you'll find a lot of pictures of community events they're involved in and our team-building initiatives.

"And you'll also find photos of Theo Fleury and Joel Otto and Jim Peplinski and of course, Lanny (McDonald), the players who had such an impact before.

"So I felt we should do the same thing for the coaches. This, in here, is our space."

Badger Bob, of course, piloted the Flames to their initial Stanley Cup final appearance, in 1986, and still holds the franchise record for regular-season Ws (193). The memory of his unflagging enthusiasm and love for the game have outlived him.

"Badger,'' said the GM of the time, Cliff Fletcher, "is like medicine."

Crisp holds a unique place in the Flames' coaching pantheon, skippering the lone Cup-winning team in '89 and exiting with an unprecedented .689 win percentage over three seasons at the tiller.

MacNeil, with one Cup ring as head coach in Montreal, prodded an underdog group in the team's first season here after the transfer from Atlanta to the semifinal, while King, an Order of Canada recipient for his winters piloting the national team, put together three fine regular campaigns only to fall afoul of the team's playoff curse of the time.

"Al, of course, I talk to often,'' says Gulutzan. "And we knew each other before I got here.

"I actually just got to know Dave in the last year and a half or so. I knew of him, naturally, and he knew of me. But we'd never spoken before that. Such an ambassador for hockey and all of Canada, right? And obviously had a long stay here in the city with the national team and then the Flames.

"The other two, I don't know. Crispie, someday. Never got the chance to meet Badger. Wish I had."

Badger, Krispie, Chopper and Kinger. Four men who left their mark on this franchise, and the game itself.

"There's nothing the matter with showing a little respect for the people who came before you, who paved the way,'' says the current man in charge, happy with the end product up on the wall across from his office door.

"In fact, I think it's important."

"Honouring the past, even as you're looking ahead, to the future."



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