It was 25 years ago in Calgary that the tradition of New Year’s Eve Flame games were innovated.
Now, for the first time, December 31st will pass in consecutive years without the puck being dropped at Scotiabank Saddledome.
When National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman canceled all games till January 14, last Thursday, it wiped out the scheduled Flames Boston Bruins NYE match.
This is the fifth time since 1987 that the Flames won’t play a game on the final day of the calendar year, but they have never previously missed two years in a row.
NHL work stoppages have now caused these games to be yanked three times – 1994, 2004, and 2012. In 1999, the Y2K threat kept it off the schedule and last year Calgary was co-host for the World Junior Championships forcing the Flames out of their home building.
Starting with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987 when the Flames won 5-4, seven different opponents have provided the opposition in the highly-popular NYE staple in Calgary.
Montreal Canadiens have been that team more than any other. The Habs have played in the game seven times with each team winning three and one ending in a tie.
The first time the Canadiens came to Calgary on NYE in 1990, it produced the most one-sided game of the 20 played to date. Theoren Fleury had a goal, the winner, and three assists as the Flames prevailed, 7-2.
Only two of these NYE games have been decided in overtime with the Canadiens being the victim both times.
In 1991, they lost 3-2 with Paul Ranheim notching the winner. The game is best remembered as Doug Gilmour’s last as a Flame. The centre ended up being the number one star, scoring the tying goal shorthanded and then setting up Ranheim’s tally. He left the team over a contract squabble following the game and was traded to Toronto two days later. In 2000, defenceman Derek Morris scored the overtime winner in a 5-4 Flame win.
The Flames Provincial rival, the Edmonton Oilers, didn’t play in the game for the first time until 2001, but have been the visitor the second greatest number of times — five.
The Oilers earned a 2-2 tie in 2001, however, have lost the last four visits. Moreover, two of the five games involving the two teams have generated the greatest amount of offence. In 2005, they played the highest scoring NYE game, in Calgary, with the Flames winning 6-5 after Kristen Huselius scored with 1:15 remaining in the third period. Sean Donovan and Daymond Langkow also had two goals each for the Flames and Chris Pronger notched four assists for the Oilers.
In 2008, the rivals collaborated for 10 goals in a 6-4 Calgary victory with Mike Cammalleri notching five points – two goals and three assists. Jarome Iginla added two goals and a pair of helpers in the win.
In the 20 games to date, no goaltender has notched a shutout and no player has scored a "hat trick".
Overall, the Flames have a 12-5-3 record in the games that they host on December 31st. The next time the custom takes place, the Flames will put a six-game winning streak on the line. They haven’t lost since 2003 when Steve Moore scored the winning in a 2-1 Colorado triumph.