The challenging, illustrious history of the last Calgary Flames game before Christmas

Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
Friends, hockey is a game defined by people, and people are defined by their rituals. In the grand history of the Calgary Flames franchise, the club has seen some of its best (and most challenging) moments fall right before the holiday season.
As the Flames prepare to wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule in Anaheim on Friday night, let’s take a quick run through the illustrious history of their other pre-Christmas games.

Record and general patterns

The Flames franchise, in their final game before Christmas, has gone 21-15-9 all-time. (They went 6-1-1 in Atlanta, and 15-14-8 since relocating to Calgary.)
There are theoretical reasons why playing the final game before the holidays at home or on a road trip would be challenging. At home, players would have to worry about family arriving, gifts to buy and wrap, and general last-minute off-ice distractions. On the road, the players would have those concerns, but also be away from home and unable to deal with those types of things (and so their to-do list at home would only grow in their absence).
Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern in either direction. At home the Flames have gone 9-6-5 in their last game, while they’re 12-9-4 on the road. The slight skew towards road dates may merely be a product of scheduling noise – generally-speaking, the league’s pattern has been to balance travel right before Christmas with a lack thereof right after Christmas, and visa versa.
The Flames didn’t play a traditional “last game before Christmas” in X seasons:
  • 1994: Lockout; rescheduled season didn’t start until January
  • 2004: Lockout; no season
  • 2012: Lockout; rescheduled season didn’t start until January
  • 2020: Pandemic; rescheduled season didn’t start until January
  • 2021: Games were scheduled, but the Flames’ entire team unfortunately tested positive for COVID and so a dozen games were rescheduled

Memorable games

In 1974, Atlanta goalie Phil Myre made 44 saves in a very dramatic back-and-forth game with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. A power play goal from Curt Bennett midway through the third period clinched a victory for the Flames.
In 1984, the Flames and Vancouver Canucks prepared for the holidays with a back-and-forth game filled with goals (nine!) and fights (three!). Colin Patterson scored the game-winner with 1:02 remaining in regulation, sending Canucks fans to the Pacific Coliseum exits feeling like they had received coal in their stockings.
In 1985, the Flames were in Chicago at the tail-end of an unsuccessful five-game road trip – they had lost the first four games. They had a lead heading into the third period, but gave up the tying goal in the third period and the winner in overtime to extend their skid to five games. They ended up losing 11 games in a row.
Between 1988 and 1991, the Flames lost their last game before Christmas to the Edmonton Oilers for four consecutive years. The streak was broken in 1992 after the league scheduled their final game before the Christmas break against Winnipeg rather than Edmonton.
In 2014, the rebuilding Flames had a defining performance at Staples Centre against the Kings. Heading into the game, the club was riding an eight-game losing streak and it looked like that game would continue. But Johnny Gaudreau led a comeback with his first career hat trick to force overtime, where Mark Giordano scored the winner. It was a star-making performance for Gaudreau, and a game that showed what the new-era Flames were capable of doing against good teams.
What’s the most memorable pre-Christmas Flames performance that you can recall? Let us know in the comments!

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