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Fluorescent bracelets gave Flames an edge in 1989

by Evan Weiner

Doug Gilmour not only got the rest of 1989 Calgary Flames to wear bracelets as good luck charms, he also relied on a pre-game handshake from announcer Don Cherry.
Hockey players are superstitious. To win a Stanley Cup, a team needs a goaltender to excel, defensemen who can clear the front of the net, pass the puck and run a power play from the point, and forwards who drive to the net, score tough goals and come back to help out on defense. A team needs its power play to work at full efficiency and its penalty-killing units to be at the top of their games.
A hockey team might also need a kid's bracelet to bring them some luck. Just ask members of the 1989 Stanley Cup Champion Calgary Flames.

Doug Gilmour knew Calgary had a lot of talent that year. The team won 54 games and ended up with 117 points and won the Presidents' Trophy by having the best record during the regular season. Gilmour knew that the team featured future Hall of Fame players such as Joe Mullen, who scored 51 goals that season, Lanny McDonald and Al MacInnis. He knew Joe Nieuwendyk scored 51 goals, and as a team, Calgary had the second-best goals-against average in the League during the regular season and that goaltender Mike Vernon was one of the best at his position that year. Gilmour himself had 26 goals and 85 points. Calgary was loaded with talent.
But what was the key to the Flames' success in the playoffs? Gilmour said that a kid's bracelet might have played a role in the Cup run.
"We had lime green and yellow fluorescent bracelets. I guess the biggest thing when we were playing in the first series against Vancouver, we were struggling and put the bracelets on and some good things happened," Gilmour said. "Not because of that, but that's what we believed in. It was the superstition side."
Who came up with the bracelets solution?
It seems Gilmour went out to a mall with his daughter and a light bulb went on.
"You know what, believe it or not, I was just shopping with my daughter one day and we saw these fluorescent bracelets and I said, maybe this is an idea, we will all put these on and believe me, I think when things go like that and you start believing in superstition," Gilmour said. "And it worked that time."
Vancouver, which finished 43 points behind the Flames that season, was a pesky opponent and took Calgary to overtime in Game 7 of their first-round series, but Vernon made a glove save of Stan Smyl's shot during a partial breakaway to save the season. Joel Otto scored the game winner. Calgary then swept the Los Angeles Kings and beat Chicago in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, to play the Montreal Canadiens, the team that beat them in the 1986 Final.
The bracelets became a part of the Flames’ equipment just like helmets, gloves, sticks, pads and skates.
"You couldn't see them," said Gilmour. "It is almost, well you can't say your daughter gave it to you or something. You couldn't see them and nobody really caught on until after it was over.
"Actually, once you get into the playoffs, you start believing in something like that. You are all coming together, you are all wearing them and again it is something that happen at that time."
You know what, believe it or not, I was just shopping with my daughter one day and we saw these fluorescent bracelets and I said, maybe this is an idea, we will all put these on and believe me, I think when things go like that and you start believing in superstition. And it worked that time. - Doug Gilmour
Gilmour didn't rely on just the bracelets for luck. During the Final against Montreal, Gilmour had to see announcer Don Cherry before each game for an additional round of good fortune. Cherry and Gilmour are both from Kingston, Ontario, and Gilmour felt if he saw Cherry he would play better. But one night, Gilmour couldn't find his hometown buddy.
"I was standing (outside the Flames dressing room) until about 10 minutes before warmup," Gilmour said. "Finally he showed up and that was the last game, the game we won in the Finals."
Gilmour had the bracelets, had his handshake with Cherry and claimed he wasn't the only guy on the team who had to go through a number of “lucky” rituals that year.
"There are so many of them, you don't even want to talk about them. I think each guy has about 10 of them," Gilmour said of superstitions, which he said changed all the time. "You think of different things, you don't want to use the same things (lucky charms like bracelets or handshakes). We know as players going through you embrace it at that time and you look forward to something else."
Calgary won the first game of the Final, 4-3, at home then lost Game 2, 4-2, sending the series back to Montreal tied at a game a piece. Montreal took a 2-1 series lead with a double-overtime win, but Calgary tied the series in Game 4 and Calgary won Game 5 at home, 3-2, to take a 3-2 lead in the series. Calgary then won Game 6 at the Forum to win the Stanley Cup.
Gilmour had a great playoff run, as he put up 22 points in 22 games. Gilmour scored twice in the third period of Game 6 and had the series-winning goal. Apparently the lime green and yellow fluorescent bracelets and the Cherry handshakes all worked. At least for Gilmour.
That year, Vernon won 16 playoff games, the first time one goaltender had won all of his team's games in the modern playoff format. Al MacInnis scored 31 points, the first time a defenseman led the playoffs in scoring and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP. Calgary won its first Cup. The bracelets had just one Stanley Cup run in them.
"The bracelets came off and I put them away," said Gilmour of his new and lucky equipment. "It's retired."

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