If you’re new to Two Minutes Hate!, let me untangle for you what is most certainly a complex and sinister web.
It’s an Orwellian undertaking, devised to penetrate one’s inner psyche, massaging scorn for a particular subject until that hatred can no longer be contained by one’s own proper sensibilities, prompting an eruption of ire over anyone and anything in the path of the assailant.
Basically, it’s where we put into writing how we hate people who have wronged your Calgary Flames. It’s pretty hard to read sometimes, as it’s a big list.
Over the course of our series, we’ve profiled traitors like Trevor Kidd and Tim Erixon and called for the heads of our enemies, like Esa Tikkannennennen. And there are several more perpetrators out there with blood on their hands that need to be taken to account.
Which we will. Even if it kills us, Matt Stajan.
But today, we’ve saved a slice of malevolence for what might possibly be the greatest offender of them all: The Canadian Dollar of the Late Nineties.
I MEAN COME ON, WE CALL IT A LOONIE
I know as Canadians we’re loathe to ever compare what’s ours to that of our American counterparts (he said without any hint of sarcasm ever, because sarcasm doesn’t exist, and won’t until our superior comic minds invent it), but unfortunately when it comes to our currency and professional hockey, it’s a feckless endeavour not to.
And for a long time it was a moot point. In the 1980s, the Canadian dollar was about as strong as your resistance to cocaine in the 1980s. In 1986, the loonie sat at an all time low 70 cents on it’s precious American associate. But much like anything else that happened in the 80’s, it didn’t matter. Not insofar as NHL hockey in Canada was concerned. Salaries, by today’s standards, were the equivalent of your grandma giving you a quarter for cleaning the asbestos out of her attic all weekend, and your Calgary Flames, in what has truly become a franchise archetype ever since, built a strong perennial contender through savvy drafting that allowed them to remain competitive while fiscally responsible.
This pattern looked to be the norm going forward through the late 80’s into the 90’s, and the Canadian Dollar skyrocketing to 90 cents in 1991 (89.34, but who’s counting? Economists notwithstanding) certainly ensured the Flames would remain competitive for a lifetime, The Flames, at the time, laid claim to such gems as Fleury, Nieuwendyk, MacInnis, Gilmour, and Roberts, and could afford them all in what was very much a small Canadian market at the time.
And then things changed. Golly, how they changed. You can’t fault any one person on the Flames for the resulting misfortunes (but we will anyway), as the shifting global economy would hit Canadian hockey like an Al MacInnis slap shot hitting the back of the twine of a net guarded by Peter Ing (haha, nineties goalies were the best, weren’t they? WEREN’T THEY DON BEAUPRE?)
The Loonie Loses
Between 1991 and 1998, the loonie nosedived from 90 cents(ish) to an embarrassing 63 cents. That’s a solid D grade, which means the Loonie didn’t need to go to summer school, but it was just barely getting by as a functional currency. For Canada as a whole, this was more or less deemed a good thing, citing the nation’s status as an export based economy, thus becoming a more attractive trading partner amongst other nations with a stronger cheddar.
But for both consumers and hockey teams trying to compete with fancy schamncy Texas hockey markets, the whole scenario rang tragic. No one was hurt worse by the feeble loon more than the Flames (except for the Edmonton Oilers, the Ottawa Senators, the Quebec Nordiques, and something called the Winnipeg Jets).
One by one, all those sexy, alluring men that wore the Flaming C on their chests and a come hither smile on their face were suddenly too expensive for us to enjoy. The loathsome Canadian Dollar, coupled with increasingly inflated salaries made it far too difficult for a quaint outfit like the Flames to hold onto what was once bargain talent. All of a sudden, like a drunk dad, the Flames had bills to pay and had to hock their best possessions. The return for all these traded assets reads as a real "Who’s That?" of hockey, and continues to serve as an example of how we can never have nice things here in Cowtown.
At least that’s what the following list says:
Sergei Makarov, traded to San Jose for Future Considerations, who if memory serves, was about as dynamic as Ladislav Kohn (In reality, futures ended up being Jason Smith, who played a whole ton of games for Calgary, obviously. You just don’t remember)
Gary Suter (with Paul Ranheim and Ted "Don’t Call Me Chris" Drury) traded to Chicago for Michael Nylander, James Patrick, and Zarley Zalapski. Incidentally, does ANYONE remember Suter playing for Chicago? I kind of only remember him on San Jose. I guess with that in mind, I’m willing to concede that Calgary did okay in this trade, but only because Zarley Zalapski remains the coolest name ever.
Mike Vernon, and a Stanley Cup victory, traded to Detroit for Steve Chiasson
Al MacInnis, who I’ve never heard of, traded to St. Louis to mentor a young Chris Pronger for the Shell of Phil Housley
Joe Nieuwendyk, traded to Dallas for Corey Millen and some random prospect
Joel Otto, one of the game’s premiere defensive forwards, allowed to walk away and join the Philadelphia Flyers to play on the same team as Lindros and hahahaha well I guess they never went anywhere so it wasn’t so bad. I maintain the nothing they got letting Otto walk is still better than what they would have recieved in a trade, as it probably somehow would have been Jasonb Weimer
Gary Roberts, falling on the grenade that was getting Trevor Kidd out of town, traded to Carolina for "Martin St. Louis of Goalies" JS Giguere and Andrew Cassels
Robert Reichel, actually a very capable player when not wearing a Maple Leafs jersey (like most players), traded to the Islanders for Marty McInnis (?!?!??!!!?) and Tyrone Garner
And finally, of course, mister Theoren Fleury and perennial superstar Chris Dingman, traded to Colorado for Rene Corbet, Wade Belak, and okay well Robyn Regehr ended up working out pretty okay
There was also the Worst Trade In The History Of The Cosmos, but money was only a front for all kinds of other things going down, so we don’t count that one in this list.
We all know where this is going. A good number of us have been supporting this team long enough to remember what happens next.
Yup, going from to a roster that showcased 7 or 8 guys that are, will be, or could have their names enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame to one that included Sasha Lakovic, the Loonie decimated the Flames like a New York fire house.
Okay, look, we’ve all said all we could ever hope to say about the Young Guns. It was hopeless, adorable, frustrating, kind of entertaining, and then going back to frustrating. There were a lot of characters that found their way onto the squad (I mentioned Sasha Lakovic, yes?), unreal dilemmas (The season of 1000 goalies comes to mind), low expectations, the implication that a 34 year old Tommy Albelin was a "Young Gun", the emergence of guys like Derek Morris and Jarome Iginla, and really only Derek Morris and Jarome Iginla, and of course, Ol’ Blasty, the Horsehead Jersey. It was kind of fun to watch if you could just accept the fact that the team was probably going to lose.
And we have the dollar to thank for that. We oftentimes get upset at Al Coates and Craig Button for the trades they made during their tenure in Calgary, and rightfully so, as so many of them were bone headed and tear jerking. But we have to be cognizant of just how handcuffed they were by the team’s financial situation born out of that damn weak dollar and the realities of being a Canadian team in a largely American organization.
So while we may have cheered for the Flames with the same voracity and enthusiasm as we do for our kids when they play tyke hockey and can barely skate, as a fanbase we were clearly thirsting for an era where the loonie would start to level out with Mr. Washington and Canadian teams could see actual, down home competitive hockey. That was pretty obvious when 2004 rolled around and Flames fans went full ham cheering for the team during their first playoff run in seven agonizingly long seasons.
The Young Guns are cute, but we pay to see winners. And the Canadian dollar robbed us of that for almost a decade. It’s ineptitude put the Flames back ALMOST as far as The Trade (I said almost!), and for that reason, it’s our latest appointee for Two Minutes Hate.
(Though with the exchange rate, it’s about Two Minutes and Twenty Seconds of Hate)