The last decade for the Calgary Flames featured significant milestones for Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff before both waved goodbye to the club and the game.
While both icons provided plenty of memories for Flames fans along the way, neither was involved in the club’s top three moments of the last ten years:
3. The Brawl
Jan. 18, 2014
It had been a long time since the NHL has seen ten guys squaring off at once, but that’s exactly what happened two seconds into the Flames/Canucks game at Rogers Arena on Jan. 18, 2014.
Flames coach Bob Hartley started a fourth line that included Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth, prompting John Tortorella to counter with his only nuclear weapon, Tom Sestito, and some fourth-line ruffians.
As soon as the puck was dropped it was go-time all around.
Eight of the ten players involved were tossed from the game in a period that finished with 188 penalty minutes.
Infuriated by the Flames’ tactics, Tortorella was screaming at Hartley from the Canucks bench and was seen on Hockey Night in Canada’s cameras trying to get at the Flames coach in the hallway to the Flames dressing room after the period.
Hartley played dumb, suggesting his muckers were being rewarded for solid play of late, and that the Canucks could have avoided it all by starting the Sedins – something Tortorella felt he needed to protect them from.
“They got a goal last game,” said Hartley of the Flames fourth line. “We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there. As far as I know they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice.”
The players and fans loved it, leaving the Flames bench so barren Dennis Wideman played a franchise-record 38:05 minutes.
The Canucks won the game 3-2 in a shootout, but Tortorella was suspended 15 days for “embarrassing the league” and Hartley fined $25,000.
2. Emerson’s Goal
Mar. 22, 2014
Less than three weeks after him and his wife lost their first child, Emerson, shortly after birth, Matt Stajan lined up at Rexall Place for a penalty shot.
Mind swirling and heart racing, he managed to lift a backhand under the arm of Oilers netminder Viktor Fasth for a goal that meant more to him than any other.
As he rounded the corner he let out a scream and pointed skyward in tribute to his son. High fives on the bench were replaced by hugs as a Hockey Night in Canada audience got goosebumps.
“It was an out of body feeling,” said Stajan of the emotional scene.
“Pointing was an instinct. I was thinking about him and it was so fresh. You’re trying to push forward and grieve and the first thing I thought of was to point to the sky. Feeling the love from my teammates on the bench was a special feeling, and showed what a family you are in a dressing room.”
Stajan wound up with four of his 33 points that night.
“Everything aligned – even the penalty shot wasn’t a clear cut call,” said Stajan, who took two weeks off hockey following Emerson’s passing and had only played a few games before his magical moment.
“I believe in things happening for a reason, and that moment I feel was a sign for me and my family and my teammates after what my family and team went through.”
As special as the goal was on national TV, his embrace with wife Katie upon his return much later that night was unforgettable too.
“She waited up until I got home from Edmonton – she was standing at the front door and I don’t think you even need words to explain it,” he said.
“It was just a big hug and we didn’t let go of each other for a long time. It was one of those moments you share. Such a great memory for us to remember Emerson.”
1. The Decade’s Only Series Clincher
Apr. 25, 2015
Predicted by many to challenge for the basement of the Pacific in 2014-2015, the Flames shocked many by earning a first-round playoff date with division-winning Vancouver.
Devoid of a playoff series win since the Flames’ 2004 run, few believed a team rebuilding after the departures of Iginla and Kiprusoff could beat their Rocky Mountain rivals.
Stajan had other designs.
At the tail end of a physical series in which newbies Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland injected plenty of emotion, the host Flames found themselves down 3-0 midway through the first period of Game 6.
A Ferland goal started the comeback in a game the Flames tied 3-3, and then 4-4 before Stajan collected a rebound in the deep slot with four minutes left in a see-saw affair.
“(Linemate) David Jones drove the net, Ferlie missed the rebound and I was in late and the puck was rolling a little bit and I waited a second to let it settle and I saw a little space in the top right corner and luckily it went in,” said Stajan.
“You felt it coming as the game went – it was an incredible feeling. It was as loud as I’ve ever heard the Saddledome. It was crazy. Just an incredible game.”
Stajan called it the biggest goal of his career, which was followed by two more late Flames markers in a 7-4 series-clinching victory.
“The feeling you felt in the whole city was emotional,” said Stajan, who had three points that night.
“When you have a decade where it was, for the most part, a rebuild and some tough times early on, winning that series is the highlight of the decade.”
It stands as the only series win for the franchise since the 2004 playoffs.