Friends, today is the anniversary of one of the most important dates in Calgary Flames history. On this date in 1980, Canadian business tycoon Nelson Skalbania officially announced that he had purchased the Atlanta Flames from then-owner Tom Cousins with the intention of moving the team north to Calgary.
The sale announcement – echoed by another made a couple days later in Calgary – effectively ended the tenure of the Flames in Georgia. The Atlanta club began life in 1972 as an expansion club – alongside the New York Islanders – as part of an effort to keep the growing World Hockey Association out of those two markets. The move was a successful one, and the WHA eventually ceased operations and merged with the NHL in 1979 – in a move that brought the Edmonton Oilers into the league.
But despite pretty consistent on-ice success, with six playoff appearances in eight seasons, the Flames never really got a foothold in Atlanta. They were secondary tenants at the Omni Coliseum with the Atlanta Hawks, also owned by Cousins, and weren’t ever a big draw. (Shockingly the second NHL installment in Atlanta, the Thrashers, had the exact same challenges before their relocation to Canada.)
Skalbania’s ownership group included Daryl Seaman, Byron Seaman, Harley Hotchkiss, Ralph Scurfield and Norm Green, with the price tag of the Atlanta Flames being a reported $16 million (the equivalent of $56 million today). The club was officially moved to Calgary on June 24, 1980, and followed their journey north with the club’s best on-ice season to that point, winning two playoff rounds.