The Calgary Flames have been anything but lame this season, and that's why some writers of "The Simpsons" felt their fans could take a joke.
In the Season 30 episode "E My Sports," which aired on Sunday, the Flames were referred to as the Calgary Lames, an esports team that was defeated by the Evergreen Terrors in a tournament for the fictional video game "Conflict of Enemies."
In the episode, the Lames pull ahead of the Terrors to the point where team members start to dump a bucket of maple syrup over their coach's head. But the Terrors, led by Bart Simpson, rebound and defeat the Lames, earning a spot in the world championship in South Korea.
"We wanted to have a Canadian team, and we wanted that team, instead of Gatorade, to be dumping maple syrup on their coach," Al Jean, an executive producer for the episode, told NHL.com, "so we were working backwards and we wanted to get a team based on a Canadian sports team."
The Flames lead the Pacific Division with 95 points, have the most points in the Western Conference and became the second team to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth on Sunday. Those facts were not lost on "The Simpsons" team.
"One reason we picked Calgary Lames is because in real life the Flames are so good, we knew that the Calgary could take a joke," Jean said.
Joel Cohen, 51, was the episode's co-executive producer and is a huge Flames fan from Calgary, who was at the Saddledome to watch the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup against the Flames in Game 5 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Final. Cohen deemed the dig at Calgary a sign of tough love; something hard-nosed, ex-Flames coach Mike Keenan would approve of.
"I rationalized it in two ways," Cohen told NHL.com. "One, we're not calling the hockey team the Lames, we're calling the esports team the Lames, and I imagine it a type of Mike Keenan-motivation where calling them garbage is only going to make them play better and maybe win the [Stanley] Cup this year."
"The Simpsons" have not shied from hockey references in past episodes, including Jean's inclusion of a photo of the legendary Gordie Howe in the Season 3 episode "Bart the Lover."
Last season during the Vegas Golden Knights' run to the Stanley Cup Final, an image of the Stanley Cup appearing in a Vegas hotel room as a gag on the episode "Viva Ned Flanders" from Season 10 went viral.
Cohen is certain that this reference, where a team from Calgary loses a championship to a team from the United States, will not ring true in the end.
"I'm super hopeful. I've had my heart broken too many times to count," he said. "I still believe. And this is going to be what it takes to put [the Flames] over the top."