Happy brawliversary: the Calgary Flames’ line brawl with the Vancouver Canucks turns 10

Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
On this day in 2014, the Calgary Flames headed into Vancouver for a Saturday night tilt against the Canucks. The season, the first of the club’s long-awaited rebuild, had been a challenge. The Flames began the evening 19 points out of a playoff spot and were in the midst of a 2-8-0 slide.
Looking to shake things up, head coach Bob Hartley opted to start his depth players. And then all hell broke loose off the opening face-off.

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The Flames opted to start their fourth line of Brian McGrattan, Blair Jones and Kevin Westgarth, along with their third defensive pairing of Ladislav Smid and Chris Butler. Seeing the lineup that Hartley drew up, Canucks head coach John Tortorella sent out forwards Kellan Lain, Tom Sestito and Dale Weise, along with defenders Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison.
What resulted following the face-off between Westgarth (a winger) and Bieksa (a defenceman) was five simultaneous fights – goaltenders Karri Ramo and Roberto Luongo had the good sense to stay in their creases – along with 152 minutes of penalties levied just two seconds into the game. The officials decided that the fight between McGrattan and Sestito was the first bout, which meant that the other four fights were judged to be secondary altercations and, by letter of the law, those eight combatants were tossed from the game. (Westgarth was given an additional minor penalty for roughing for his efforts in trying to get Lain to fight him off the face-off before the two actually ended up fighting slightly later.)
The Flames and Canucks each finished the game with four defencemen. Later in the game, Shane O’Brien and Zack Kassian were given 10-minute misconducts, so the Flames were down to three blueliners for a good chunk of the game.
Here’s how blueliner time on ice shook out for Calgary:
  • 38:05 – Wideman
  • 35:42 – Brodie
  • 33:32 – Giordano
  • 21:26 – O’Brien
  • 0:02 – Smid
  • 0:02 – Butler
After the first period, Tortorella infamously tried to confront Hartley at the visitors locker room, leading to a chaotic scene in one of the hallways at Rogers Arena.

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The Flames ended up losing this game in a shootout by a 3-2 score.
Here’s how intrepid reporter Ryan Pike described how the game turned out, as the Flames managed to eke out a point:
To be blunt, they were able to sucker the Canucks into playing their kind of game. In a finesse game, the Canucks skewer Calgary. But through hard work, tenacity and some gamesmanship by Bob Hartley, the Flames eked out an overtime appearance and got a point. If John Tortorella doesn’t take the bait and instead puts five hockey players out instead of dancing bears, maybe Vancouver executes their game-plan. But the Flames go to San Jose with a point, and the Canucks probably aren’t all that happy with their win.
In the aftermath of this gong show of a hockey game, Hartley was fined $25,000 for Westgarth attempting to start a fight off the face-off with Bieksa and Tortorella was suspended for 15 days for trying to get into the Flames’ locker room.

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The whole affair seemed to galvanize a nascent team identity in Calgary and seemed to bolster the club somewhat down the stretch. In the 33 games that followed the brawl, the Flames went 19-14-0. Calgary and Vancouver played twice more during the season, both times Canucks wins with minimal fireworks – though in the season finale Paul Byron received a boarding major and game misconduct for a hit on Daniel Sedin, in a game that also featured Johnny Gaudreau’s NHL debut.
The Flames still missed the playoffs in 2013-14 – by 14 points – but in subsequent seasons several players attributed some of the team’s turnaround in 2014-15 to the team-building that occurred in the aftermath of the brawl.
It’s strange how something that seemed so bizarre in the moment ended up being oddly significant for the Flames in the long run.

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