It is time to end the Forever a Flame program
Photo credit:Photo Courtesy of NHL.com
2 months ago
On Tuesday morning, the Calgary Flames announced that they will be retiring Miikka Kiprusoff’s number 34 to the rafters of the Scotiabank Saddledome on Mar. 2, 2024, in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kiprusoff will join Jarome Iginla, Lanny McDonald, and Mike Vernon as the only four players to have their jersey retired in franchise history. No one will be able to wear numbers 9, 12, 29, and 34 again.
And then there is the Forever a Flame program. Started in 2012 as the brainchild of Ken King, the Forever a Flame program was created as secondary way to honour great Flame players of the past. Players who in the organization’s eye didn’t do quite enough to get their number retired but were good enough to be honoured in some sort of way.
Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk are the only two former Flames to be given the distinction of being Forever a Flame.
The idea of a two-tiered program to honour players is not uncommon. For example, the Vancouver Canucks have a system where they retire jerseys for franchise icons like the Sedin brothers. And they have a “Ring of Honour” where they honour great Canucks who might not have put up huge numbers but had a huge impact on the team and the community. Players like Alex Burrows and Mattias Ohlund. The Canucks do a good job distinguishing the two programs and respecting both ways to honour players. The Canucks have created a nice display around the upper ring of Rogers Arena which features the players number and photo. They consistently add new members to the Ring of Honour and do a great job celebrating it. It is an important part of honouring the history of the Vancouver Canucks.
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The idea of a two-tiered honouring system makes sense and I think Calgary hockey fans would get behind it if it was run properly and taken seriously by the Flames organization. It would be awesome to celebrate the careers of important members of the Flames who maybe shouldn’t have their numbers retired but deserve to be recognized as great members of the organization. Players and staff members like Robyn Regehr, Mark Giordano, Craig Conroy, Jim Peplinski, Gary Roberts, Terry Crisp, Darryl Sutter, Cliff Fletcher, and Bearcat Murray.
Instead, the Calgary Flames have done the complete opposite of the Canucks. There is no criteria to define the difference between retiring a jersey and being a Forever a Flame. There is nothing on the Flames website, social media, or YouTube channel that talk about Forever a Flame and what the program means to the team and it’s fans. The ceremonies are nowhere to be found. There is nothing around the Scotiabank Saddledome to indicate the program exists except for two weird banners that don’t fit in with the rest of the honored players.
It sucks to say, but the program is looked at as a joke among the fan base. When fans discuss obscure former Flame players who had a short, random run with the team, they refer to those players as Forever a Flame. Not the likes of MacInnis and Nieuwendyk. But rather the likes of Tony Amonte, Owen Nolan, Chris Higgins, or Wayne Primeau.
Forever a Flame has been ignored, neglected, and essentially abandoned by the organization. It’s turned into something the fans don’t take seriously and quite frankly don’t care about. Which is too bad because both MacInnis and Nieuwendyk deserve the utmost respect when it comes to honouring their time in Calgary.
Now is the time to abolish Forever a Flame and retire numbers 2 and 25 in honour of MacInnis and Nieuwendyk. They deserve to have their numbers officially retired as members of the Calgary Flames. Both players were instrumental in making Calgary one of the great franchises of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are both among the franchise leaders in games player, points, goals, and assists. And most importantly, they were key members of bringing the 1989 Stanley Cup championship to Calgary.
The Flames have already conducted ceremonies for both players. So that won’t be necessary again. All they have to do is announce that both players numbers are going from Forever a Flame to being retired.
It’s okay to admit a mistake if you’re the Flames ownership group and management team. The fans will appreciate you stepping up and doing the right thing by getting rid of Forever a Flame. The program doesn’t make sense and has been poorly executed. Time to move on, retire numbers 2 and 25, and start to build a new tradition of honouring former players.
What do you think of the Forever a Flame program? Let us know in the comments section.
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