Has the Saddledome hosted its final Stanley Cup playoff game?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
A pair of developments happened during the 2023-24 season that will have massive implications for the Calgary Flames franchise going forward. The franchise signed a deal with the City of Calgary – along with a bit of infrastructure money from the province for surrounding developments – to build a new arena. The hockey club also began a retooling process, trading four significant players in-season and getting primarily futures in return.
These developments lead to two revelations. The Flames are likely not to be a notable playoff team for a few seasons. And the Saddledome likely only has three seasons left as the home of the Flames. There are 123 regular season games left on the docket between now and the anticipated move to the new building to begin the 2027-28 season.
How many Stanley Cup playoff games are left in the Saddledome? And have we possibly already seen the last one?
The Saddledome opened to begin the 1983-84 season, after the Flames had spent three seasons in the Stampede Corral – two of them spent watching a new arena being built across the street. The first playoff game in the ‘Dome was on Apr. 4, 1984, a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Colin Patterson scored the first Flames playoff goal in the arena, while Canucks forward Jere Gillis scored the first-ever playoff goal (by any team) n the ‘Dome.
The Saddledome hosted playoff games in 12 of the first 13 seasons that it was open. And while in recent years the Flames haven’t made the post-season as often as they did during the 1980s, fans have still be treated to some big moments. The first-round series with the Canucks in 2015 was, in a word, emotional, featuring big goals and big moments from folks like Micheal Ferland and Matt Stajan. The 2022 series against the Dallas Stars was a seven game war, culminating with one of the most dramatic goals in franchise history, Johnny Gaudreau’s sharp-angle OT winner on Jake Oettinger.
The most recent playoff game in the ‘Dome was, unfortunately, a loss. And doubly unfortunate, it was a loss to the Edmonton Oilers on May 26, 2022 in overtime, with the deciding goal scored by Connor McDavid in overtime. (The most recent Flames playoff goal in the Saddledome was by Calle Jarnkrok.)
Getting back to the question: have we seen the last playoff game in the Saddledome? Well, that depends on if you think the Flames can bounce back and return to the playoffs in the next three seasons.
If we look back to the last time the Flames re-tooled/re-built/re-configured – or your synonym of choice – they waved the white flag in 2013 when they traded Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh. In the first year of the retool, 2013-14, they finished 14 points outside of the playoffs and drafted fourth overall. In the second year of the retool (2014-15), basically everything went their way in terms of puck luck and bounces – this was what Derek Wills dubbed the “Find A Way Flames” – and they made the playoffs. The following year (2015-16), they dipped again and finished 10 points out of the dance.
I would guess that the Flames are hoping for more of a stable progression back to relevance rather than the herky-jerky progression we saw during the Brad Treliving era. (I have a whole other column to write about the lessons they should learn from 2015 coming later on.) Given that, it’s probable reasonable to assume they’re going to be on the outside of the playoff picture in 2024-25. If they progress, maybe they can be within a stone’s throw of the playoffs in 2025-26. And depending on how things go, it may not be complete fantasy to think that we could see playoff games in the final year in the Saddledome in 2026-27.
But a lot of things would need to go well for the Flames in the interim to make the playoffs possible in 2026-27. We’re at the beginning of a process, and we’ve seen this process go off-kilter in a lot of different places over the years. We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of playoff games returning to the ‘Dome before the doors close, but we wouldn’t bet the house on it either.
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