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Tom Godfrey The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, April 4, 2017





Flames Hoping 25th Time’s the Charm

In November 2016, the Calgary Flames broke an NHL record for consecutive losses in one building with their 24th straight defeat at the Honda Centre in Anaheim. On Wednesday, April 5th, they could make it 25 times lucky.

Let’s endeavour to put this remarkable record into perspective while somehow remaining optimistic, despite last night’s home loss to Anaheim.

The Weight Of History

Calgary’s horrendous losing streak predates Honda’s contract for the naming rights of the Ducks arena, signed in 2006. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was number one at the box office when the Flames last won a road game in Anaheim at the then-Arrowhead Pond.

On January 19th, 2004, Calgary won 5-1 and Craig Conroy was named the game’s first star following his career-high four assists. While Conroy is still an employee of the Flames, at 42, he has not played a professional hockey game since 2011.

Ducks horror show aside, the 2016-17 season has been an almighty breath of fresh air for the city of Calgary. Since 2015, a crippling recession has had both hands tightly clenched around Alberta’s throat. The decimated value of oil has dealt a crushing blow to the city’s economy.

Unemployment almost seems a minor concern when pitted against the Fort McMurray fire of 2016. If Alberta hadn’t suffered enough, shortly after recovering from the 2013 Albertan Floods, a wildfire decimated Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan costing the Province a staggering $3.6 billion.

The knock-on effect of Alberta’s struggles is a heart-rending spike in suicide rates throughout the province. In such times of tragedy sports can take a back seat, but for some, it provides the ultimate escape. I’m sure Flames players don’t need reminding of the weight their performances carry for their striving city.

Calgary will be playing postseason hockey for only the second time in eight years. Cause for celebration yes; however, the regular season is till far from over and with three games to go an awful lot is still at stake.

Chris Stewart

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

A Statement Is Needed

The Edmonton Oilers appear imperious, and with the San Jose Sharks choking late and hard (minus Joe Thornton & Logan Couture), the Pacific Division has been blown wide open at the season’s climax.

Many Flames fans want nothing to do with Edmonton’s phenom Connor McDavid in the playoffs. However, older fans will tell you that the ghost of Anaheim is a far scarier prospect than the current crop of Oilers youngsters.

It would be bold to suggest that Edmonton is ‘there for the taking’, but with 70 games under his belt, goaltender Cam Talbot has played more than any other this season. Just ask former Flame Miikka Kiprusoff how it feels to have that many miles on your tires at the end of the season. If Talbot wobbles in the postseason, the Oilers are in serious trouble.

History suggests that if Calgary is to be successful after one round of the playoffs, they must conquer their fear of the Ducks and fast. Unless they face Anaheim with home ice advantage, they will have to win at the Honda Centre at least once. Given last night’s defeat, this prospect seems close to impossible.

If ever there was a time to exorcise the Flames’ crippling phobia of water birds it’s now. In Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monohan, Dougie Hamilton, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk the Flames boast a core of fearless youth; these guys are too young to have lived the Honda curse, let alone care about it.

Matthew Tkachuk, 2016 NHL Draft, NHL, Calgary Flames

Matthew Tkachuk (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

The rebuild in Calgary is far from complete, and few remain expectant of more than two rounds of playoff hockey. But, if this can be achieved while bloodying the noses of the Ducks it will be a huge success and speak volumes to the Flames’ character.

In the year Calgary last vanquished Anaheim in their building, they went on a run that took them within inches of the Stanley Cup. This season, Brian Elliott equalled Flames legend Mike Vernon’s record for consecutive wins – a record Vernon set in 1989, the year Calgary last won the Cup.

The Flames are young and feisty, and the Ducks are beyond their apex; a statement is needed before the playoffs. Their time is perhaps not now, but their City needs them now more than ever.


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