The Pengrowth Saddledome will feel very different on five nights this season. The Flames have always taken the "Sea of Red" approach in the playoffs, but that's not what I mean. Instead, the Flames reached back in time, much like the provincial rivals in Edmonton, and brought back a look that a lot of people - myself included - wanted to see again. In 1980, when Nelson Skalbania bought the Atlanta Flames and moved them to the foothills of the Rockies in Canada to a little town called Calgary, the city embraced their NHL team wholeheartedly. Needing an identity, Skalbania decided to keep the "Flames" name and colours from their days in Atlanta, and the Calgary Flames were born. The change to the flaming "C" logo was the only major change. And those Atlanta jerseys? They looked good.
Kent Nilsson scored 49 goals and 131 points in the team's first season in Calgary. Their uniforms, however, were solid. Great contrasts with the red and yellow, and the white logo, names, and numbers jump off the red background. Today's announcement by the Flames should have a number of people happy in the hockey world.
"All of the fans, they say 'What are you doing? Couldn't you just once think about bringing back that great and that venerable jersey?' Of course we not only thought about it, that's what we're going to do," Flames President and CEO Ken King said at the press conference today.
Former Flames' captain Jim Peplinski and current forward Craig Conroy were on-hand to model the throwback jerseys, and I have to say that I am quite impressed. After sporting some rather horrendous third jerseys in the past, this throwback is welcomed with open arms by this writer. Having grown up watching the Battle of Alberta through the 1980s, this is exactly how the Flames should look today. While I understand the idea of using black as a contrast colour, the red-yellow-and-white is still the standard when I think of the Flames.
On the jersey, you'll notice a new patch. That patch is to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Calgary Flames once 2010 hits. While I understand the need to celebrate every five years of being an NHL franchise, I would personally wait until the 2010-11 season to wear that patch as the team's 30th season officially begins in 2010-11. But I don't make those decisions, so the Flames can do what they like. If they wear that patch in 2009, I'll be quite disappointed with their lack of attention to detail.
"I'm going to feel kind of nostalgic when I see that sweater, because that was our first sweater," co-owner Harley Hotchkiss said today. "Sometimes I feel a bit lonely because I'm really the only one remaining of that original ownership group. I get some comfort of course from Jim Peplinski who's been around here for 30 years and can hold my hand whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself."
I'm quite certain he won't feel alone for long. This jersey is a beauty, and should sell well in Calgary. It wouldn't surprise me to see a lot of throwback jerseys in the stands by the mid-season point. And you'll probably see them a lot at the five home games that the Flames plan on wearing them:
- October 1 vs. Vancouver Canucks - 2009-10 home-opener for the Flames.
- October 6 vs. Montreal Canadiens.
- January 2 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs.
- January 30 vs. Edmonton Oilers.
- February 9 vs. Ottawa Senators.
Just to give you a quick glimpse into how good those old jerseys looked on the Flames, here's a quick video of the Flames in their red uniforms winning the Stanley Cup at the Montreal Forum in 1989:
When you think of those old jerseys and the names that wore that uniform, it's a pretty impressive list: Nilsson, Peplinski, Otto, Vernon, Mullen, MacInnis, Makarov, Suter, Loob, Nieuwendyk, Fleury, Roberts, and the amazing Lanny McDonald. You can now add Phaneuf, Regehr, Bouwmeester, Kiprusoff, Conroy, Jokinen, and the amazing Jarome Iginla to the list of players who have worn this iconic jersey.
I'm anxious to see this jersey debut on October 1. The Flames have a great team, much like they did in 1989, so maybe it will be the jersey that puts them over the top this season? I know... a real stretch, but when you look good, you play well, and this might be enough to get the Flames deep into the playoffs.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!