1972–1980 Calgary Flames 1980–present
|Home arena||Omni Coliseum|
|Colors||Red, yellow and white|
The Atlanta Flames were a professional ice hockey team based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA from 1972 to 1980. The team, a member of the National Hockey League (NHL), was relocated to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the start of the 1980–81 NHL season and were re-named the Calgary Flames, leaving Atlanta without an NHL team, before the Thrashers were formed 19 years later.
The team's name originated from the burning of Atlanta led by U.S. Army general William Sherman during the American Civil War.
T The Flames history begins in 1968, when businessman Tom Cousins and former Georgia Governor Carl Sanders brought the third major professional sports franchise to the city, buying the NBA's St. Louis Hawks and moving them to Atlanta.
The Hawks were in need of a venue suitable for professional sports. As a result one was built for them: the Omni Coliseum. This new facility, owned by Cousins and the rest of the Omni Sports Group consortium, was the crux of the expansion bid made to the National Hockey League for a new hockey franchise.
It was announced in November 1971, nine months to the day after the Omni's construction was complete, that hockey was headed to the South: the National Hockey League granted an expansion franchise to Cousins' group for the 1972–73 NHL season. The NHL had not initially proposed an expansion for 1972, but hastily elected to award a franchise to Long Island (the New York Islanders) to keep the upstart World Hockey Association out of the newly-built Nassau Coliseum. Needing another team to balance the schedule, the NHL awarded a team to Atlanta.
When it was first announced that Atlanta would have an NHL franchise many hockey observers thought that a team based in the southern United States was a ludicrous and foolish move, especially since the talent pool had been diluted by repeated expansion and the upstart WHA. Nevertheless, the team quickly began front office operations, naming young Blues assistant general manager Cliff Fletcher as general manager. Soon after, Fletcher had found the team its first coach: former Canadiens star forward Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion. Their "flaming A" logo became one of the most popular and mutually admired in the league.
The team was a pleasant surprise in its first season on the ice, its success built on new star goaltenders Dan Bouchard and Phil Myre, solid defensemen such as Randy Manery and Pat Quinn, and forwards Rey Comeau, (captain) Keith McCreary, Larry Romanchych and Bob Leiter. Despite its inexperience as a team, the Flames were quite successful in the beginning of their rookie season, posting a 20–19–8 record by January 19, 1973 off of the personal success of their young goaltending tandem. Unfortunately, they lost 19 of their last 31 games, finishing out of the playoffs. Part of the problem was that despite geographical reality (but like baseball's Atlanta Braves at the time) the Flames were placed in the West Division—saddling them with some of the longest road trips in the league. However, their 65 points were 35 better than the Islanders, who toiled at the bottom of the East Division.
On- and off-ice success continued into the Flames' second season, drafting forwards Tom Lysiak and Eric Vail, who quickly became the team's top forwards. Lysiak led the Flames in scoring in his rookie season, upon which the team improved to fourth in the West Division and their first playoff berth. In contrast, the Islanders had another wretched season. Unfortunately the Flames were quickly dispatched in the first round, being swept in the best-of-seven series by the powerful Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flames' third season, 1974–75, was marked by disappointment as the team failed to qualify for the post-season. Unlike the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft, in which Fletcher had picked immediate success from Lysiak, 1974's was notably unsuccessful (the only notable players being Guy Chouinard, the youngest draft pick ever taken, and prospect defenseman Pat Ribble). Injuries plagued the team's top veteran forwards, Leiter and Romanchych, and former first round pick Jacques Richard. Late in the season popular coach Geoffrion, runner-up in the previous year's coach-of-the-year voting, resigned, forcing Fletcher to replace him with the Flames' Central Hockey League affiliate's head coach, Fred Creighton. Geoffrion then shifted to the broadcast booth where he joined the Flames' popular announcer Jiggs McDonald. The season was not without bright spots, as Lysiak continued to lead the team in scoring, and Eric Vail scoring a franchise record 39 goals in his rookie season. Vail won the Calder Trophy as top rookie.
The on-ice play improved the following season under the demanding Creighton, as the Flames recorded their first winning season, and qualified for the playoffs once again. Lysiak continued to lead the team in scoring, while Cliff Fletcher added depth at all positions, acquiring tough veteran forward Bill Clement, WHA product Claude St. Sauveur, scoring forward Bill Flett and stalwart defenseman Larry Carriere. Vail's sophomore season was unfortunately cut short by injury. Again, the team bowed out of the post-season quickly, losing to the Los Angeles Kings 2 games to none in the first round. Signs of trouble off the ice appeared for the first time as well. Average attendance at the Omni had dropped by 1,000.
1976–77 was marked by the addition noteworthy prospects from the minor league affiliate in Tulsa. Talented forward Guy Chouinard had finally matured into an NHL-caliber player, and tough defenseman Ken Houston and forward Willi Plett began terrorizing opponents with their physical play. The team's older faces (Pat Quinn, Kerry Ketter, Randy Manery, Larry Romanchych, and Bob Leiter among others) had been moved, making way for the young core of Lysiak, Vail, Plett, and Chouinard. Again they faced the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, finally winning a playoff game but ultimately losing the hard fought series 2 games to 1.
By 1977 outstanding young goaltender Dan Bouchard had publicly stated his desire to be the clear starting goaltender for the club, refusing to share duties with Myre. In 1978 Myre was traded to the Blues, Cliff Fletcher's former employer, along with high-scoring forward Curt Bennett and tough blueliner Barry Gibbs for scoring forward Bob MacMillan and defenseman Dick Redmond. Attendance continued to fall, another 1,500 a night. Post-season success continued to elude the young Flames, as they were easily dispatched once again in the preliminary round.
1978–79 began with an impressive 12–1–2 record, the product of a 10-game winning streak. While this pace did not continue throughout the rest of the season, the Flames finished 41–31–8, good for 90 points—a new team record. While Lysiak contributed greatly to the early streak he became injured for the first time in his career, slowing his point production. He was dealt to the Chicago Black Hawks as part of a seven-man trade which saw the Flames acquire talented Yugoslavian center Ivan Boldirev, quick forward Darcy Rota, and staunch defenseman Phil Russell. Chouinard finished the season with 50 goals, the only Atlanta Flame to reach the plateau, while MacMillan won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
1979–80 would prove to be the last season in Atlanta. The Flames' lack of success in the playoffs led to the end of Fred Creighton's reign as head coach, replaced by Al MacNeil. Fletcher added more talent, including outstanding Swede Kent Nilsson from the WHA, rookie defenseman Paul Reinhart, Finnish defenseman Pekka Rautakallio and veteran forward Don Lever. The team made the playoffs once again, and once again were ousted quickly.
Off-ice, the Omni Sports Group found it increasingly difficult to financially maintain the team, as ticket sales fell and operating costs rose. The team also lacked a major television deal. Also, while Omni Sports had hoped to attract an NHL team to the Omni early on, their calculations didn't include a second league in the picture. Under the circumstances, Cousins and the rest of his consortium were very receptive to an offer from a group of Calgary businessmen fronted by Canadian entrepreneur Nelson Skalbania. Cousins sold the team for a then-NHL record $16 million, and the franchise was promptly moved to Calgary. Kent Nilsson was the last active Atlanta Flame in the NHL, retiring in 1995.
The Flames made the playoffs in six of their first eight seasons, a mark bettered only by the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and New York Rangers in the entire history of the NHL, and the team would not post a losing record after the 1974 season. Unfortunately they never won a playoff series. The Atlanta Flames organization carried over to the Calgary Flames, where the uniform color scheme was kept, with the flaming "A" changed to a flaming "C". In Calgary, the team reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1986 and 2004 and winning the Cup in 1989.
In 1996, the Calgary Flames acknowledged the 25th anniversary of the franchise by changing the small "A" worn by the alternate captains to a small version of the old Atlanta Flames logo. The logo was used again the following season, but did not return for 1998–99, as Calgary changed their jerseys, and the "A" style used on their black jersey (the third jersey from the previous season) was carried over to the new uniforms. Public opinion, however, favored the Atlanta "A", and it made its return the following season.
While yellow remains part of the Calgary Flames' color scheme, black has been incorporated into the Atlanta "A". On the 1996 home jersey and current road jersey (both white), the "A" is red with a black border; on the 1996 road jersey, the "A" was white with a black border; on the black alternate jersey (the road jersey from 1998–2003), the "A" is white with a red border; on the current red home jersey, the "A" is black with a white border, to match the black "Flaming C" logo.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1972–73||78||25||38||15||65||191||239||852||seventh in West||Out of playoffs|
|1973–74||78||30||34||14||74||214||238||841||fourth in West||Lost in quarter-finals (PHI), 0-4|
|1974–75||80||34||31||15||83||243||233||915||fourth in Patrick||Out of playoffs|
|1975–76||80||35||33||12||82||262||237||928||third in Patrick||Lost in preliminary (LA), 0-2|
|1976–77||80||34||34||12||80||264||265||889||third in Patrick||Lost in preliminary (LA), 1-2|
|1977–78||80||34||27||19||87||274||252||984||third in Patrick||Lost in preliminary (DET), 0-2|
|1978–79||80||41||31||8||90||327||280||1158||fourth in Patrick||Lost in preliminary (TOR), 0-2|
|1979–80||80||35||32||13||83||282||269||1048||fourth in Patrick||Lost in preliminary (NYR), 1-3|
- Games: Rey Comeau, Eric Vail, 469
- Goals: Vail, 174
- Assists: Tom Lysiak, 276
- Points: Lysiak, 431
- Penalty minutes: Pat Quinn, 555
- Goaltender games: Dan Bouchard, 384
- Goaltender wins: Bouchard, 164
- Shutouts: Bouchard, 20
Hall of FamersEdit
- Bernie Geoffrion, coach, 1972–75, inducted 1972
- Keith McCreary 1972–75
- Pat Quinn 1975–77
- Tom Lysiak 1977–79
- Jean Pronovost 1979–80
First round draft picksEdit
Note: This list does not include selections as the Calgary Flames.
- 1972: Jacques Richard (second overall)
- 1973: Tom Lysiak (second overall)
- 1974: none
- 1975: Richard Mulhern (eighth overall)
- 1976: David Shand (eighth overall) and Harold Phillipoff (10th overall)
- 1977: none
- 1978: Brad Marsh (11th overall)
- 1979: Paul Reinhart (12th overall)
Franchise scoring leadersEdit
Further information: List of Calgary Flames recordsThese are the top ten point-scorers in the history of the Flames (both Atlanta and Calgary) as of the end of the 2008–09 NHL season.
Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, P/G = Points per game, * = Active player
- Most goals in a season: Guy Chouinard, 50 (1978–79)
- Most assists in a season: Bob MacMillan, 71 (1978–79)
- Most points in a season: Bob MacMillan, 108 (1978–79)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Willi Plett, 231 (1979–80)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: Ken Houston, 54 (1979–80)
- Most points in a season, rookie: Tom Lysiak, 64 (1973–74)
- Most wins in a season: Dan Bouchard, 32 (1978–79)