To be clear I had nothing to do with the history created by the Calgary Flames on the evening of May 25, 1989.
Fact of the matter, to a serious superstitious sort I may have put in jeopardy the Stanley Cup won by Terry Crisp’s Flames that evening at the Montreal Forum beating the Canadiens, 4-2.
NOTE — The Calgary Flames were to commence their 31st season in Calgary on October 11. It and other games are now casualties of the NHL’s work stoppage. Rather than have a regular blogs on the Lockout, this blogger will reflect back on great games in Calgary Flames history. There is no particular order, although the first two will focus on the night the Flames won the Stanley Cup.
It started with a message from Cliff Fletcher the day before the Flames left Calgary for the monumental Game 6. The president and general manager had a firm statement for me: “Make sure you are on the team bus when it leaves for the game on Thursday night and are in your regular seat.”
The order was prompted by the fact I wasn’t on the team bus when it went to the Forum for Game 3 on May 19 and the Flames lost. I was on that bus the evening of May 21 when the Flames won Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2. Then when the Flames captured Game 5 in Calgary on May 23, it set the stage for a chance to win it all two nights later.
Following Fletcher’s command for Game 6 required some planning on my part.
I didn’t fly on the team charter to Montreal on the 24th — remaining back in Calgary for my son, Jeff’s high school graduation. I took the Air Canada red-eye flight to Toronto and then on to Montreal arriving at 10 a.m. I wasn’t staying at the same hotel the Flames were. They were at a hotel about a mile away.
So after trying to get some sleep that afternoon, showered and grabbed a taxi where the Flames were staying leaving well enough in advance to make sure the bus didn’t leave without me. There was another challenge upon entering the bus. Ian McKenzie, the Flames’ chief scout, was in my normal seat (third row, aisle, passenger side). Ian did travel much with the team and thus unfamiliar with the routine. He refused to relinquish the chair telling me “there are all kinds of empty seats here, take one.”
Since part of the superstition game is not revealing it, I had to finally get tough with big Ian (he was close to twice my size) firmly telling him “Ian, I’ve sat in this seat all season and you are a ‘johnny-come-lately’ ask me no questions and get out of the seat.” Reluctantly, he did.
Then as the bus pulled up to the curb near the players’ entry to the Forum on Atwater Street, I undetected, walked across the street to the Alexis Nihon Plaza. Finding the alcohol store, I purchased three miniature bottles of champagne and placed them in my attaché case and then went to the Forum. The idea was to have the champagne on hand — a bottle each — for my color commentator Doug Barkley, my brother Noonan and I, just in case.
A blatant violation of the serious superstitious’ sorts’ rule — assuming something before it happens.
All three bottles were uncorked as the siren roared later that evening in the Forum. In my next blog I’ll relate how the boys in red, on-the-ice that night prevailed, superstition or no superstition.