The Calgary Flames will mark their 37th season and 38th year in Calgary with the 2017-18 NHL campaign.
For almost four decades, the Flames have been electrifying hockey fans in southern Alberta. In that time, not only has the team established itself as a successful NHL franchise, but it has grown into a vital and integral part of our community. From their on-ice victories and awards to their off-ice charitable endeavours, the Flames have become one of the premier professional sports organizations in North America.
It all started in May of 1980 when Nelson Skalbania and a group of Calgary entrepreneurs consisting of Doc and B.J. Seaman, Harley Hotchkiss, Norm Green, Ralph Scurfield, and Norman Kwong announced the acquisition of the Atlanta Flames and declared their intention to relocate the franchise to Alberta. Calgarians lined up to support their new team. For the first time in NHL history, 755 standing-room season tickets were sold, generating a capacity crowd of 7,243 fans at the Stampede Corral for the Flames' inaugural game on October 9, 1980.
In their first decade, the Flames amassed an impressive record of milestones and achievements. The team made it to the postseason every year in the 1980s, capturing two Smythe Division championships, two Clarence Campbell Conference titles (1985-86, 1988-89), and two Presidents' Trophies (1987-88, 1988-89), and advancing twice to the Stanley Cup Final (1986, 1989), both times against the Montreal Canadiens. After falling to the Habs in five games in 1986, the Flames prevailed in a thrilling six-game series in 1989, becoming the only visiting team ever to win the Cup on Montreal Forum ice. Two of the players in that historic playoff run-Lanny McDonald (#9) and Mike Vernon (#30)-would ultimately have their jersey numbers retired by the organization, while two others -- Al MacInnis (#2) and Joe Nieuwendyk (#25) -- would be inducted into the "Forever a Flame" program.
The 1980s saw the Flames move out of the Corral and into the Saddledome. The state-of-the-art 16,683-seat facility built for the 1988 Winter Olympics officially opened its doors on October 15, 1983. That same year, the Calgary Flames Foundation was launched as the charitable arm of the club. Since its inception, the Foundation and its partners have raised millions of dollars for education, health and medical research, and amateur and grassroots sports.
The following decade was one of challenge and change for Flames as they sought to replicate their successes from the '80s. League-wide reorganization and realignment shifted the team into the Pacific Division in 1993, a move that obviously agreed with them-they finished the season in first place, capturing the first of two Pacific Division titles (1993-94 and 1994-95).
Another new project for the Flames in the '90s was the purchase of a local junior team, the Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen. That affiliation continues today under the banner of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC). Launched in 2012, CSEC is now the parent company for five sports franchises owned by the corporation: the Flames, Calgary Hitmen, Calgary Roughnecks, Calgary Stampeders and the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League.
Moving into the new millennium brought new opportunities for the Flames, including a third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. In that year's playoffs, Calgary eliminated three of the top teams in the League before taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing in the last game of a hard-fought, seven-game series. Fans rallied behind their team by sporting red Flames jerseys, marking the beginning of the phenomenon known as the C of Red that remains a hallmark of Flames home games to this day.
The 2000s were also a decade of acknowledging those off the ice who have contributed so much to the team. Two Calgary legends were recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006, when Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss was inducted in the Builder Category and broadcaster Peter Maher received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award. In 2009, the Flames lost one of their own with the passing of co-owner Daryl "Doc" Seaman, who was also inducted by the Hall as a Builder in 2010.
Although we are only midway through the 2010s, the Flames have already celebrated more extraordinary milestones. On November 26, 2010, the team recorded its 10,000th goal in franchise history, and later that season, they played their 3,000th NHL game. Then in 2011, the Flames hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in front of 41,000 fans, a 4-0 victory that marked the first ever shutout in an NHL outdoor game.
Amid all the history, this decade has also been a time of looking forward for the Flames. Familiar faces have moved on while others have taken the reins. During the 2013-14 season, a franchise record 12 Flames players made their NHL debuts, and in 2014-15, the team returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009. As a new group of talented players takes to the ice this year, they likewise take up the challenge of once again bringing a championship back to the city of Calgary and their fans.