We’ve been doing this top five countdown for years at Flames Nation. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with five “highlight” moments in a single calendar year, but 2019 was not one of those instances. Both on the ice and off, the last 365 days have given Flames fans plenty of memorable moments. Sure, 2019 also provided plenty of bitter disappointment, but this is a fun countdown. Let’s pretend that doesn’t exist.
5. Andrew Mangiapane’s Game One goal
When Mangiapane scored the first goal of Calgary’s round one playoff series with Colorado, no one saw what was coming the next four games. At the time, Mangiapane’s outstanding finish from his knees put the Flames up 1-0 in a close game that had fans on both sides biting their nails. Mangiapane’s eventual game winner came at 14:25 of the second period and turned a nervous building into a raucous one.
Fans in Calgary had every right to be feeling good coming out of game one. On top of Mangiapane’s marker, the Flames scored two power play goals and received an outstanding shutout performance from Mike Smith en route to a 4-0 win. It was an impressive and complete effort from the Western Conference number one seed. It’s just too bad it was Calgary’s playoff peak.
4. The Nashville comeback
Already off to a bland start, the Flames entered Nashville on Oct. 31 two nights removed from an uninspired 2-1 loss in Carolina. At 6-6-2, there was concern surrounding Calgary’s first month of the season. The way things started that night at Bridgestone Arena, that concern was turning into anger. The Flames trailed 4-1 after 40 and high danger scoring chances were 7-1 for the Preds. It was ugly.
Give Calgary credit though. As it was explained later, captain Mark Giordano gave a “what are we doing here” speech in the second intermission and the Flames responded. Rasmus Andersson scored less than two minutes into the third and Alan Quine tied it with less than four minutes to go. And then Matthew Tkachuk tied it AGAIN with 39 seconds to go after Nashville went back out in front. With time expiring in overtime, Tkachuk finished things off with one of the NHL’s goals of the year.
3. Mark Giordano wins the Norris
Giordano was the rightful Norris Trophy winner last year, but there was uncertainty as to whether the votes would end up going his way. With high profile fellow finalists Brent Burns and Victor Hedman, some wondered whether things might go in a different direction. Specifically with Hedman, there was a worry eastern voters might lean his way due to more familiarity and more viewings. Those concerns turned out to be silly.
Gio won in a landslide. Calgary’s captain received 165 of 171 first place votes and was deservedly named the NHL’s top defenceman for the 2018-19 season. June 19 was the culmination of an incredible career arc for Giordano that included never being drafted and playing in Russia at the age of 24. He also did something Al MacInnis, Gary Suter, Paul Reinhart, or any other Flames player has ever done: win a Norris with the Flames.
2. Jarome Iginla’s jersey retirement
Everything about March 2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome was perfect. Okay, maybe not the game played on the ice, BUT NO ONE CARES ABOUT THAT OR THE MINNESOTA WILD. That night was the hottest ticket in town for one reason: Jarome’s #12 rightfully being raised to the rafters as one of just three retired jerseys in franchise history.
That Saturday night was special for so many reasons. It healed wounds from six years earlier when Iginla was traded to Pittsburgh (which just happened to be our Flames story of the decade). It helped people forget about Forever a Flame. It gave us a chance to hear an outstanding Craig Conroy speech. And it gave fans a chance to see some of their heroes from 2004. It was an awesome night, the ceremony was done so well, and it paves the way for the next jersey retirement. #14 or #34…who’s next?
1. The Flames clinch the Western Conference
Much like number five on the list, you have to take yourself back to how you were feeling March 31 to agree with this earning top spot. The excitement level was off the charts following Calgary’s 5-3 win in San Jose to officially seal the Pacific Division and Western Conference top seeds. I was in Los Angeles when the Flames arrived later that night and I can vouch for how much of a buzz there was surrounding the group.
Yes, the regular season conference crown meant nothing in the playoffs. But it was the team’s first division title since 2006 and their first conference title since 1990. As a fan, you had every right to be feeling good that night and as excited as ever heading into the post-season.