Two Minutes Hate! The Doug Risebrough Edition




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Oh man, I am so excited about this feature. There is nothing I like more than railing against those who we deem have wronged our Calgary Flames. A good text based hate hucking is going to make us all feel better about the current labour unrest, the Flames’ stumble into mediocrity, and whatever crazy thing Michael Ferland is about to do next, trust me.  

Now you’d think, this being a hockey blog and whatnot, that we would call this feature "Two Minutes For Hate", in which those we loathe would have their sins recapped and would be forced to sit in the penalty box, but this hardly seems like fair retribution. No, we feel that our chosen tribute to Orwellian brainwashing and surveillance tactics are far more necessary, not that we here at Flames Nation would EVER try any of these mind control schemes on you, our noble reader.

Seriously though, we are watching you.

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There are SEVERAL candidates out there who more than meet the prerequisites for hate deemed necessary by those of us who have tattooed the Flaming C on our hearts. The crimes vary in execution, severity, and intent, and range from (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Internal franchise destruction
  • A desire to "Lindros" the Flames and negotiate an ugly exit from the team
  • Through wanton douchebaggery over the years on rival teams
  • Actually being a rival team
  • Any other wrongdoings that just rub us the wrong way
  • Oh, and playing terrible hockey.

As such we at FlamesNation have touching tributes planned to such notable war criminals like Doug Risebrough (more on that below), The Edmonton Oilers, The Vancouver Canucks, Tim Erixon, Matt Stajan, Ryan Kesler, Esa Tikannen, Kerry Fraser, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ken King, Trevor Kidd, and well you basically get the idea. As always, if you have any suggestions of someone or something you would like to see immortalized in raw, unrestrained hatred, we’re all ears. Your idea won’t necessarily become an edition of Two Minutes Hate, but there have been enough people inflict injustice on the Flames over the years that there’s likely going to be one or two perpetrators who fall through the cracks.

Do The Dougie

Oh, that Doug Risebrough. One thing that separates ol’ Dougie from Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Emmanuel Goldstein, is that there is no debate as to whether or not Risebrough ever existed.  

We know he did.  

There are scorching, charred, barren remains left from his egrigious tenure here in Calgary that allow us to remember. To seethe. To cry, and then seethe some more until we are husks of our former selves, one previously faded memory away from going full out Hulk Smash mode and possibly ruining an innocent bystander’s day, or car. Riser is a classic example of how sometimes it’s someone you loved that can hurt you the most.

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For it wasn’t always storm clouds and glitchy decision making. At one time, Doug Risebrough was everything it meant to be a Calgary Flame. After arriving in Calgary from an understatement of a winning culture that was the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970’s, Riser quickly became a leader and a face for the Flames, a person of credibility and a championship pedigree on a then new franchise trying to find it’s feet.  

He was indeed a piece of the puzzle that helped catapult the Flames to near dynamo status in the 1980’s, along with your Lanny MacDonalds and Jim Peplinskis and various other misfit toys. One particularly vivid moment that will live forever in the annals of the Flames Good Time Party Show is from 1986 when Risebrough collected Marty McSorley’s jersey after a fight and shredded that damned blue and orange monstrosity with his skates in the penalty box. It is forever a symbol of the intensity and the magnitude of the Battle of Alberta in the 1980’s.

As a player, things were pretty alright. It was after Risebrough hung up the skates that things became, let’s say Milbury’d.  

Upon his retirement, Riser whisked his way through the Flames front office hierarchy, and within six seasons of being named an assistant coach, found himself toiling as the Flames Coach and GM, replacing Cliff Fletcher (until that point the only General Manager the franchise had ever known).  

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After a tumultuous beginning to the 91-92 season, which boasted an affluence of suck and an 11-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks (seriously, it had to be them, didn’t it?), our sworn enemy relinquished his coaching duties to assistant bencher Guy Charron (ugh. UGH. We should have known right there and had him drawn and quartered smack dab in the middle of Electric Avenue), and focused solely on his management responsibilities. Where things got UGLY. Sound familiar, anyone?  

The Other Skate Drops

Thursday, January 2nd, 1992.  "Stupid [email protected]#$%&* Thursday", as it would come to be known by Flames fans across the spectrum. The day Doug Risebrough dropped the bomb.

Even just thinking about it now makes my hands tremble and makes typing a chore, and I feel short on breath with an accompanying dizziness that I can’t seem to shake. So to get through this, I’m going to just list out all the key players, go drink a lot, and then come back and talk about what went down.

Doug Gilmour. The catalyst.

Jamie Macoun. Ric Nattress. Kent Manderville. Rick Wamsley. Loyal soldiers in red.

Cliff Fletcher. Evil genius.

Gary Leeman. Craig Berube. Michel Petit. Alexander Godynyuk. Jeff Reese.  I don’t even…what is this…?

Doug Risebrough. Con man behind it all.

Okay, so if you’ve been around this team for any matter of time, you’re probably familiar with this atrocity. You’re probably already pounding your fists on your desk or table or fish tank. The infamous Doug Gilmour and some quality players for Toronto’s garbage deal.  

It is, bar none, the worst trade in franchise history for a franchise that once traded Marc Savard for Ruslan Zainullin, who was basically German Titov without the skill or heart. This move was Calgary’s Peter Pocklington moment.  

The backstory on this one is that Doug Gilmour, a tremendous hockey player and a core piece in the Flames 1989 Stanley Cup win, had a bit of an Alexei Yashin moment and demanded his contract be re-structured. It was a bit of a dick move on his part, but it escalated to the point where Gilmour and the Flames went before an arbitrator and Killer was awarded a $750,000 deal, which made him unhappy because he wanted a cool million (man, salaries in the early nineties were just out of control).  The Flames, feeling their hands were tied with an unhappy superstar who wanted out, immediately shined him up, had the "trade bait" tag placed around his neck, and lorded him up high where everyone could get a good look at him.

Enter Cliff Fletcher (a man who could himself be featured in Two Minutes Hate for knowing that Doug Risebrough is a stupid, stupid man who would fall for such chicanery, but really never can because he constructed the Flames teams of the 80’s, and those teams were all studly and would taste the sweetest nectars of victory this team would ever know.  For that, we eternally love him). He calls up Risebrough, who was drunk, presumably, and offered "enigmatic, but promising sniper" Gary Leeman as compensation for helping solve the Gilmour fiasco.

"He’s a 50 goal scorer, you know" said Fletcher, trying hard to stifle a smirky laugh.

"Wow, Gilly never scored 50, that jerk" replied Risebrough, the smell of scotch somehow wafting through the phone.  "You must want more than that for a 50 goal scorer, Clifford. Do you…do you like Jamie Macoun?"

"Well Doug, he only has 7 this yea…did you say Mack!?!?"

"Hyungh!  Sorry Cliff, I just dozed off. Yeah that sounds gr-great. What else did you want for Leeman BESIDES Gilmour?"


And when the dust settled, the Flames, now short 3 key components of their Stanley Cup winning team and a throwaway goaltender, picked up Leeman, who had scored 51 goals in 1989-90 but would only score another 47 in his remaining 5 NHL seasons, two players whose names aren’t worth mentioning, petty thug Craig Berube, and a throwaway goaltender. It was obvious that Risebrough had to trade Gilmour. No question. But you have to wonder why THIS trade was the one that these guys landed on. HOW THE HELL WAS GARY LEEMAN GOOD ENOUGH FOR DOUG EFF’N GILMOUR, RISER?  WHY HAVE YOU NEVER ANSWERED THIS?

Our own Robert Vollman said it best in an article last year discussing the worst trades in Flames history:

"…this bizarre trade wouldn’t have made sense even if Doug Gilmour hadn’t been included.

The Flames received Michel Petit, Alexander Godynyuk, Gary Leeman and Craig Berube, who combined for 93 goals and 293 points in 1373 games. You know the trade is ominously bad when the highest scorer you received was Craig Berube (40 goals and 105 points in his remaining NHL seasons).


If you ignore Doug Gilmour, even the other players dealt away totaled almost exactly as much.  Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, and Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley scored 60 goals and 249 points in 1268 games.

The Flames received players totaling 24.7 GVT, the Leafs 31.3.  Fortunately the trade was balanced out in nets, with Jeff Reese playing 100 more games throughout his career, with a usable 3.36 goals-against average and .885 save percentage, while Rick Wamsley struggled through his final 11 games with just a 4.29 goals-against average and .875 save percentage.


But unfortunately for the Flames, the trade did include Doug Gilmour.  He would score 238 points over the next two seasons, finished 2nd in assists both years, and won the Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.  He would go on to score 220 goals and 765 points in 824 games, earning 137.6 goals above replacement-level"

Let the Hate Flow Through You

The trade, if you want to call it that, set the team back by about a decade and helped usher in that delightful era we all recoil at known as the Young Gun era. It was a transaction that took important players off a promising team and replaced them with body bags, an injustice for which the incumbent recovery period took about eight years of Jarome Iginla’s career to rectify. A reputation had fallen upon the Flames as a team that couldn’t cater to it’s stars, and one by one, every quality player Calgary had followed Gilmour out of town to bigger and better pastures (except for Gary Roberts, but that’s a whole other fish fry).

Obviously, being a small market team beseiged by an all time low Canadian dollar didn’t exactly help matters, but I’m currently investigating my prevailing theory that suggests that whole mess was also co-opted by Doug Risebrough. And this is the internet, so he’s guilty until proven innocent.

He will not be proven innocent.

It’s like this: The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, and then failed to escape the first round of the playoffs, if they ever made it that far at all, until 2004. It was an era in team history mired with setbacks, heartbreaks, mediocre hockey from mediocre players, a brief but scary economic uncertainty, Valeri Bure and Candace Cameron, every Sutter ever parading their weird Viking faces around the city, Horse Head Jerseys (which whatever, I kind of love), Chris Dingman, 20th place finishes, that one season where the team used over a hundred goalies, and Cale Hulse. And every sweaty, pungent drop of that woe soaked regret is directly traceable to Doug Risebrough. The scourge of the Calgary Flames. The prostate cancer of Cowtown.

And for that, Dougie, we here at FlamesNation hate you. You deserved every second of your punishment as Employee of The Minnesota Wild circa 2000.

We hope you end up replacing Scott Howson.

  • RexLibris

    You’re right, VF, but I think Kent is on to something. Beat the opposition to the punch.

    The Oilers and Canucks articles are ones that I am looking forward to. Oh, and Esa Tikkanen. I still smile when I think about how much opponents hated him. Hmmm, on that note I should look into how that whole human cloning thing is coming along…

  • supra steve

    I was a student living in Edmonton at the time, still hung over from New Years. My favorite Flames were Gilmour and Macoun.

    As soon as I heard the details…I knew this was a BAD DEAL…how could the Flame’s “braintrust” not see that? Only saving grace was how little they had originally given up to obtain Gilmour (Bullard I think). They stole him to begin with (why did we stop trading with St. Louis?), then got robbed when he left. The Dion deal was also bad, but not Gilmour bad.

  • The inside word I’ve heard is that Riser always hated Gilmour. And others, including Roberts.

    Basically he was one of the big leaders and then these kids came in and began usurping his postion and his ego couldn’t take it.

    By the time he got to the GM chair he was more than happy to get rid of Gilmour. The salary dispute was just a smokescreen – from both sides.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Okay, so I lived near Gilmour, and met him a few times, he seemed like a really genuinely nice guy. Short though.

    There were lots of rumours though about his babysitter(s). Was there any substance to them?

  • Bikeit

    Here is to help the hate flow.

    Gilmour got the following points.
    92-93 127pts 8th in league
    93-94 111pts 4th in league
    The Flames those 2 years had very good teams and had as good a chance of getting the cup. With Gilmour it could have been a much better chance.

    92 -93 was meeting a hot LA team
    93-94 was meeting a surprise hot canucks team they had by the throut and could not finish off.Both teams went to the final

    Gilmour would have been the difference to get them to the final dance.

    • Well that’s just part of it. Ric Nattress and Jamie Macoun were still very effective players at the time, and the three of them together fit nicely into a core with the younger guys like Nieuwy, Fleury, Roberts, MacInnis, Suter, etc, etc. But to lose those guys and replace it with complete garbage really weakened that team for a good number of years, and made them pretty ineffective after the first couple of lines. They definitely could have won more Cups back then if not for that trade.

      Total “what if?” scenario, but you have to believe they would have been better off. And if Gilmour’s sexual deviance were any sort of boost to his game, we’d all forgive him for it.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’ve always thought that Risebrough’s job in those days was to shed salary for organizational economic reasons. As a player he was a heart and sole guy, after that he became a monumental failure.

  • Subversive

    The rumours around some kind of sexual misconduct by Gilmour forcing the Flames’ hand in a trade seem to be pretty common, and I’ve spoken to people pretty close to the org who substantiate them. That said, there is still absolutely NO EXCUSE for a return that crappy on a player that good. If you have to move him, fair enough, but there had to be a better deal than that available around the league.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Not sure this is accurate. It was chronicled that there were such allegations in StLouis which landed Gilmour in Calgary (maybe hence the lessened value.)

      heres a wikipedia excerpt – “Prior to the 1988–89 season, Gilmour was traded to the Calgary Flames along with Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek, and Michael Dark for Mike Bullard, Craig Coxe and Tim Cokery. The Blues traded Gilmour after he was named in a civil suit alleging sexual improprieties with a minor.Gilmour denied that the incident occurred, and a grand jury did not find enough evidence to indict him. The Blues failed to admit publicly that the trade was a result of the pending lawsuit against Gilmour, but Gilmour was convinced it was the reason: “I didn’t want to leave St. Louis but from what has happened the past week, on our part and on the St. Louis Blues’ part, it was our best solution.”

  • Nieuwy25

    The problem with Riser goes well beyond that trade. Certainly and easy day to point to, as it did change the direction of this team for a long time.

    Let’s make a huge deal with a GM who not only knows the 5 scrubs he’s giving up, but also knows too well the 5 players he’s getting back in return. Great idea! Similar to Dutter pulling Kipper out of SJ, but certainly not to the same extent.

    Dougie had a huge issue with guys getting paid over a million $/season. He was stuck in the 70’s/80’s when he was a player and couldn’t rap his head around the “soaring” saleries. He played hard ball with every player who’s contract was up (aside from Roberts).

    If memory serves correct, it was also him who played hard ball with Nieuwendyk, leading to Joe’s holding out at the beginning of the year. Ultimately, Al Coates had to trade Joe after Risebrough was shown the door, but the damage was already done.

    Yes, as my moniker might suggest, I do have a lot of hate for Doug Risebrough. (and anyone who wears #25. I working on that issue though).

  • As an Oiler fan, I look forward to your Two Minutes Hate directed to my own team – lord knows I’ve directed enough bile and venom towards Steve Tambellini and his inability to walk and chew gum at the same time.

    This was extremely well written one one hell of an entertaining read. Nice work, Loob!