Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
A look back at the last active Atlanta Flames in the NHL
By Ryan Pike5 months ago
The Atlanta Flames entered the National Hockey League as an expansion team in 1972. They moved to Calgary in 1980, where they’ve played ever since. While the club ceased to exist in 1980, a few players remained in the NHL well past that date to represent the legacy of the Flaming A.
Here’s a look back at the last Atlanta Flames in the NHL.
(Which player was last depends on how you want to define it.)
A product of Quebec City, Lemelin was a skilled young goaltender who was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 NHL Draft. He spent four seasons in the Flyers system, then ended up signing with Atlanta as a free agent in 1978. He played 21 games for Atlanta split across 1978-79 and 1979-80 before making a big push for an NHL roster spot after the relocation to Calgary.
Lemelin ended up as Calgary’s backup for two seasons (1981-83) before taking over as starter for three seasons (1983-86). He ended up losing his starting job to young Mike Vernon in 1986-87, with Vernon joining the club mid-season from the minors and performing well. Vernon’s strong play against Winnipeg during that regular season earned him the starting gig in the 1986 playoffs (as the Jets were their first-round opponent) and he led them to the Stanley Cup Final.
After spending 1986-87 as Vernon’s backup, Lemelin joined Boston as a free agent. He spent six seasons with the Bruins, but injuries limited him over his past two seasons and he retired midway through the 1992-93 season. His final game was Dec. 29, 1992.
A product of the OHL’s London Knights, Marsh was an Atlanta draft pick in 1978 and played the last two seasons in Atlanta as a regular before making the move to Calgary. He served as the first captain in Calgary, a position he held until being traded to Philadelphia early in the 1981-82 season in exchange for Mel Bridgman. He ended up finishing that season with the Flyers and playing another six seasons there.
Marsh played until 1992-93, making additional stops in Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa before retiring. He actually holds the NHL record for the fewest goals scored by a player with 1,000 or more games played – he never had more than three goals in a season. His final NHL game was on Apr. 14, 1993.
A product of scenic Sweden, Nilsson was an Atlanta draft pick in 1976 but didn’t join the Flames until 1979-80 (as he was playing in the WHA with the Winnipeg Jets). Nilsson played a season in Atlanta and five more in Calgary before being traded to Minnesota following the 1984-85 season. He played two more seasons in North America, split between the North Stars and the Edmonton Oilers, before heading to Europe in 1987.
Nilsson bounced around Europe for the better part of the next 11 seasons, with stops in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Germany and Spain before retiring in 1998. He briefly returned to the NHL with the Oilers in 1994-95, where he played six games. His final NHL game was Feb. 28, 1995, appropriately enough, in Calgary against the Flames.
Lemelin and Marsh played continuously in the NHL, with the 1992-93 season being their last – Marsh’s last game was after Lemelin’s, but give the goalie credit for battling through injuries for his last two seasons. Nilsson didn’t play continuously, but he was the last Atlanta Flame to suit up in the NHL.
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