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Saddledome ready for Flames' home opener

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- The 'Dome wasn't rebuilt in a day.

But less than three months after the Elbow River destroyed everything below the eighth row of seats at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Calgary Flames are ready for their home opener Sunday.

"It's special," coach Bob Hartley said Saturday. "I came in shortly after the flood. I had to wear that astronaut suit to get downstairs. I came back around August 20th and I saw all those workers, I saw the pride. I was not even asking a question, they were saying 'Coach, we're going to get this ready for you'."

They did. Crews spent nearly three months removing 30 million gallons of water that left the event level of Scotiabank Saddledome a total loss.

The June flood, dubbed one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history, was the first time in nine decades that the city of Calgary has had to declare a state of emergency. The province of Alberta estimates over $5 billion will be required to rebuild infrastructure after the flood forced the evacuation of over 100,000 Calgarians and 14,500 homes were damaged.

The home of the Flames was one of them.

After the work that went in to restoring the rink in time for Calgary's first game at home, there was hardly anyway to tell floodwaters had breached the arena.

"The Saddledome's a perfect example of Calgary's strength and the ability to turn a place that was underwater into a working facility," TJ Galiardi said. "We're very grateful to be back at home and able to play in the Saddledome and not have to start the year on a two-week road trip.

"We're going to play our hearts out."

Joe Colborne, a Calgary native who wasn't a member of the Flames at the time, was in the city when the floods hit.

At the time, he couldn't envision the Scotiabank Saddledome being ready for the start of the 2013-14 season, much less think he'd be a part of the home opener.

"I was here for the whole flood," said Colborne, acquired by the Flames from the Toronto Maple Leafs six days ago. "The fact that this building is even close to being ready right now is unbelievable. It's a testament to this city and how quickly we all came back from it. I know there's going to be a lot of guys who have family and friends out there that have been affected. It's going to mean a lot to get out there."

Hartley agreed, and used the work that went into rebuilding the Dome as a parallel to the Flames. Much like Scotiabank Saddledome was, the Flames too are rebuilding.

"I mentioned this to the players many times," Hartley said. "If we can match the intensity that those workers put in our rink, we're going to have a good season.

"So far, I think that I see a parallel."

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