1985–86 Calgary Flames season
|1985–86 Calgary Flames|
Campbell Conference champions
|Goals for||354 (2nd)|
|Goals against||315 (14th)|
|General Manager||Cliff Fletcher|
|Captain||Lanny McDonald, |
Jim Peplinski and
|Goals||Håkan Loob (31)|
|Assists||Al MacInnis (57)|
|Points||Dan Quinn (72)|
|Penalty minutes||Tim Hunter (291)|
|Wins||Rejean Lemelin (29)|
|Goals against average||Mike Vernon (3.39)|
The 1985–86 Calgary Flames season was the sixth season in Calgary and 14th for the Flames franchise in the National Hockey League (NHL). It was a banner season for the Flames, who overcame a franchise record eleven game losing streak to finish 2nd in the Smythe Division and captured the franchise's first Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as Campbell Conference champions. In doing so, they became the first Calgary team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals since the Calgary Tigers in 1923–24. The Flames season ended at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, who defeated Calgary in five games in the final.
The season began with the departure of franchise leading scorer Kent Nilsson who was sent to the Minnesota North Stars in a trade. Rookie goaltender Mike Vernon emerged as the team's top goaltender and Joe Mullen was acquired in a major trade midway through the season. Gary Suter captured the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie while also being named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. Additionally, Suter was the team's lone representative at the 1986 All-Star Game. Håkan Loob captured the Molson Cup.
The Flames upset the heavily favoured Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division final to end the Oilers' hopes of winning a third consecutive championship. The series winning goal was scored into his own net by Oilers rookie Steve Smith. As Smith collapsed to the ice, Flames players celebrated the difference maker in what would finish as a 3–2 Calgary win. Smith's error remains one of the most legendary blunders in hockey history.
The Flames began the year with a similar roster as finished the 1984–85 season, with one major exception. Kent Nilsson, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, was dealt to the Minnesota North Stars for two draft picks. Nilsson was viewed as a player with immense talent who ended each season as a perennial disappointment in the playoffs. Though he scored 99 points the season before, the Flames received few offers before agreeing to send him to Minnesota. As the deal provided no immediate help for the team, co-captain Doug Risebrough anticipated that 1985–86 would be a transitional year for the Flames and the loss of Nilsson might force the team to play a more defensive style when compared to the team that finished second in league scoring the year previous.
The season opened in Calgary with a game against the Winnipeg Jets, the team that eliminated the Flames in the first round of the previous spring's playoffs. It ended with an 8–3 victory for the Flames, but not before a bench-clearing brawl resulted in the ejection of five players. Calgary was one of the top teams in the league in the early going, standing third overall on December 10 with a 15–8–3 record.
Four nights later, they were defeated by the Vancouver Canucks, 4–3, and continued losing for nearly a month. After the Hartford Whalers handily defeated the Flames 9–1 on January 7, 1986, to send Calgary to its 11th consecutive defeat, a franchise record, coach Bob Johnson promised changes. Among them was the recall of goaltender Mike Vernon from the Moncton Golden Flames, who was given the start ahead of Rejean Lemelin in their next game, against Vancouver. He held the Flames in the game long enough for Jim Peplinski to score in the first minute of overtime for a 5–4 victory that ended the eighth-longest losing streak in NHL history.
During the losing streak, on December 29, the Flames hosted Soviet team Dynamo Moscow in an exhibition game as part of the 1986 Super Series. Vernon was given the start for the game to let Lemelin rest and led Calgary to a 4–3 victory over Dynamo. It was the Flames' second victory in three years against a Soviet league club, and came despite what the team considered biased officiating by the Russian referee working the game.
The team enjoyed greater success in the second half of the season, finishing the final 40 games with a record of 22–12–5. Vernon established himself as the starting goaltender by mid February and finished the regular season with only three losses in 15 decisions. The Flames ended the season in second place in the Smythe Division, sixth overall in the NHL, with 89 points. Seeking to upgrade the team's offence as the playoffs approached, General Manager Cliff Fletcher completed a six-player trade with the St. Louis Blues that brought Joe Mullen, a player who had scored at least 40 goals each of his previous two seasons, to Calgary. A second deal in March had the Flames acquire four-time Stanley Cup champion John Tonelli from the New York Islanders and initiated a war of words with Edmonton Oilers general manager and coach Glen Sather, who accused Islanders general manager Bill Torrey of trying to help Fletcher eliminate the Oilers in the upcoming playoffs.
|Los Angeles Kings||80||23||49||8||284||389||54|
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Note: Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.
Schedule and results
|1985–86 Game log
The Flames began the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs with a Smythe semi-final match-up against the Winnipeg Jets, the team that eliminated them in the first round the previous season. Calgary won the best-of-five series in three consecutive games, eliminating the Jets on a Lanny McDonald overtime goal in the third game. The victory set up a best-of-seven Smythe Division final against the two-time defending champion Edmonton Oilers who swept the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round. The Flames opened the series in Edmonton with a 4–1 victory, the first loss the Oilers had suffered on home ice in 18 playoff games.
The two teams traded victories through the first six games, leading to a deciding seventh game in Edmonton. The Flames stepped out to an early 2–0 lead before the Oilers tied it. Disaster then struck Edmonton at the 5:14 mark of the third period. Oilers' rookie defenceman Steve Smith, attempting to play the puck from behind his own goal line, accidentally shot the puck off Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr's skate and into his own net. As Smith collapsed to the ice in shock, the Flames celebrated the goal that was ultimately credited to Perry Berezan. He was the last Flame to touch the puck, though he was no longer on the ice when it went in. The Oilers were unable to come back, losing the game, 3–2, series, 4–3, and ending their hopes of winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup. Smith's blunder remains one of the most legendary errors in NHL history.
The Campbell Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues was also a back and forth affair in which the Flames take a 3–2 series lead into the sixth game in St. Louis. Calgary led the sixth game 5–2 with 12 minutes to play before three quick goals by the Blues sent the game into overtime. Doug Wickenheiser scored to win the game for the Blues. The comeback came to be known as the Monday Night Miracle in St. Louis. The Flames rebounded in game seven, winning 2–1 to claim the first Clarence S. Campbell Bowl in franchise history as Campbell Conference champions. The victory also sent the Flames to their first Stanley Cup final. It was the first time a team representing the city played in the final since the Calgary Tigers lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1924 Stanley Cup Finals.
Their opponent in 1986 was also the Canadiens in what constituted the first all-Canadian final since 1967. Calgary opened the series with a 5–2 victory at home in the battle of rookie goaltenders: Vernon against Patrick Roy. Montreal evened the series with a 3–2 overtime victory in game two in which Brian Skrudland set an NHL record for the fastest overtime goal in playoff history when he scored nine seconds into the extra frame. Already missing three key players in Carey Wilson, Colin Patterson and Nick Fotiu due to injury, the Flames lost their top scorer in Joe Mullen to a neck injury during a game two loss. The Canadiens also won the third game as the series shifted to Montreal, and 1–0 Calgary loss in game four pushed the Flames to the brink of elimination. Montreal broke out to a 4–1 lead in the fifth game, at Calgary, before the Flames made a comeback attempt. They scored with less than four minutes remaining, and then moved within one goal when Mullen – who returned for game five wearing a neck brace – scored with 46 seconds remaining. A desperate push for the tying goal fell short when Roy made several key saves as time expired. Montreal celebrated the 23rd Stanley Cup championship in their franchise history as the fans loudly chanted "thank you Flames, thank you Flames" in appreciation of their team's efforts.
|1986 Stanley Cup playoffs
Battle of Alberta
The Battle of Alberta dominated the Flames' focus late in the season as they continued to struggle against their provincial rival. The two-time defending champion Oilers were nearly unbeatable against Calgary, losing just five of 31 matchups over three years. Calgary's frustration against Edmonton was highlighted by a mid-season game where, after a large brawl that resulted in the ejection of five players from the game, Calgary's Doug Risebrough ended up in the penalty box with Marty McSorley's Oilers jersey. Risebrough shredded the jersey with his skates before tossing it back onto the ice. Oilers' coach Glen Sather, enraged by the act, called Risebrough "childish" and threatened to send him a $1000 bill to replace the sweater.
Realizing Calgary's path to the Stanley Cup would go through Edmonton, coach Bob Johnson devised a seven-point plan for beating the Oilers that focused on limiting Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri's creativity, limiting access to the left side of the ice where the Oilers' top stars liked to skate, leaving their physical players on the ice by not engaging them and utilizing Neil Sheehy and Colin Patterson in roles designed to frustrate the Oiler players. Johnson first utilized the strategy in a late season game that ended in a 4–4 tie. The Flames then defeated the Oilers 9–3 in their final regular season meeting, a game that ended with another brawl and accusations by both teams that the other was sending their goons out after talented players.
The rivalry extended into the stands in the second game of the Smythe Division final in Edmonton. During the game, trainer Bearcat Murray went into the stands to rescue his son Al, also a trainer for the Flames, and tore ligaments in his leg in the process. Al had gone into the stands in an attempt to retrieve Gary Suter's stick, which had been knocked into the crowd and was being hidden by Oiler fans. Fearing for his son's safety, Bearcat jumped into the fray himself, suffering the injury. While being wheeled into an ambulance, Murray blew kisses for the cameras. The incident caught the attention of a group of fans in Boston, who formed the "Bearcat Murray Fan Club", and began showing up at the Boston Garden wearing skull caps and oversized moustaches mimicking Murray's looks when the Flames played there. The Flames lost players on the ice during the physical series as well, as Carey Wilson required surgery to remove his spleen after he was "skewered" by Steve Smith, according to Johnson. Suter had his season ended after suffering torn ligaments in his knee following a low hit by Mark Messier.
When the seventh game ended in victory, Flames fans in both Calgary and at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton spilled onto the streets in celebration. The "C of Red" was born in that playoff series as fans responded to a promotion to wear the colour with such enthusiasm that many stores across the city sold out of red clothing. The effect was most pronounced during games, where nearly every fan in the Saddledome was in red. The C of Red inspired the Winnipeg Jets to create their White Out the following year.
Note: GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; PIM = Penalty minutes
A Mullen scored 44 goals and 90 points combined between St. Louis and Calgary, both totals led the Flames over a full season.
B Eaves came out of retirement May 4, 1986, to replace Carey Wilson, who was injured in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
†Denotes player spent time with another team before joining Calgary. Stats reflect time with the Flames only.
Note: GP = Games played; TOI = Time on ice (minutes); W = Wins; L = Losses; OT = Overtime/shootout losses; GA = Goals against; SO = Shutouts; GAA = Goals against average
Awards and honours
Listed at five feet, nine inches tall by NHL Central Scouting, defenceman Gary Suter was considered too small for the NHL and went unselected at both the 1982 and 1983 NHL Entry Drafts. Suter moved on to the University of Wisconsin where Flames scouts noted that he had grown two inches and was a leading player for his team. Calgary selected him with their 9th round selection in 1984. He joined the Flames in 1985–86 and quickly established himself as the team's top defenceman in the eyes of his coaches and teammates. Suter finished the season with 18 goals and 68 points and was awarded the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in addition to being named to the All-Rookie Team. Additionally, Suter was the Flames' lone representative at the 1986 All-Star Game. Suter's 68 points was the second highest total by a rookie defenceman in league history, behind Larry Murphy's 76.
|Gary Suter||Calder Memorial Trophy|||
|Gary Suter||NHL All-Rookie Team|||
|Håkan Loob||Molson Cup|||
The draft-day trade that sent franchise scoring leader Kent Nilsson to Minnesota, along with a third round selection, for second round draft picks in 1985 and 1987 was immediately controversial in Calgary as players and fans were divided on the merit of dealing Nilsson. While some players felt the trade was inevitable, others expressed their disappointment at the move, including co-captain Lanny McDonald, who wondered how the team would replace Nilsson's offensive production. Former teammate Willi Plett supported the trade, noting Nilsson's inconsistency: "Maybe I shouldn't be saying this, but trading a player like him, it never hurts you."
The Flames completed a second significant trade in February, acquiring scoring forward Joe Mullen along with defencemen Terry Johnson and Rik Wilson from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Ed Beers, Charlie Bourgeois and Gino Cavallini. The Flames had targeted Mullen, who had scored 40+ goals each of his previous two seasons and had 28 for the Blues at the time of the deal, believing he could be a game breaker for them heading into the playoffs.
|May 29, 1985||To Calgary Flames
4th round pick in 1987 (Tim Harris)
|To Toronto Maple Leafs |
|June 15, 1985||To Calgary Flames
2nd round pick in 1985 (Joe Nieuwendyk)
2nd round pick in 1987 (Stéphane Matteau)
|To Minnesota North Stars |
3rd round pick in 1986 (Brad Turner)
|January 16, 1986||To Calgary Flames
|To Quebec Nordiques |
|February 1, 1986||To Calgary Flames
|To St. Louis Blues |
|March 11, 1986||To Calgary Flames
|To New York Islanders |
|March 11, 1986||To Calgary Flames
|To New York Rangers |
|March 11, 1986||To Calgary Flames
|To Chicago Black Hawks |
The 1985 NHL Entry Draft was held in Toronto, Ontario on June 15. The Flames used their first round pick, 17th overall, on American defenceman Chris Biotti. The team was surprised that he had fallen to them, believing Biotti to be the best defenceman available and expressing confidence he would be a star in the NHL. Their predictions ultimately proved unfounded. After spending two seasons at Harvard University, Biotti played three seasons for their minor league team in Salt Lake and another two in Europe before retiring. He never appeared in a National Hockey League game.
With the second round pick acquired from Minnesota in the Nilsson trade, Calgary selected East Coast Athletic Conference rookie of the year Joe Nieuwendyk from Cornell University. Labeled "Joe who?" by media and fans unsure of his potential, Nieuwendyk ultimately had the longest NHL career of any Flames' selection in this draft. He appeared in 1,257 games, scoring 1,126 points and won the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989, the Dallas Stars in 1999 and the New Jersey Devils in 2003, in addition to a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
|Rnd||Pick||Player||Nationality||Position||Team (league)||NHL statistics|
|1||17||Chris Biotti||United States||D||Belmont Hill (USHS-Mass)|
|2||27||Joe Nieuwendyk||Canada||C||Cornell University (ECAC)||1257||564||562||1126||677|
|2||38||Jeff Wenaas||Canada||C||Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)|
|3||59||Lane MacDonald||United States||LW||Harvard University (ECAC)|
|4||80||Roger Johansson||Sweden||D||IF Troja-Ljungby (Sweden)||161||9||34||43||163|
|5||101||Esa Keskinen||Finland||C||TPS (SM-liiga)|
|6||122||Tim Sweeney||United States||LW||Weymouth-North (USHS-Mass)||291||55||83||138||123|
|7||143||Stu Grimson||Canada||LW||Regina Pats (WHL)||729||17||22||39||2113|
|8||164||Nate Smith||United States||D||N/A|
|9||185||Darryl Olsen||Canada||D||St. Albert Saints (AJHL)||1||0||0||0||0|
|10||206||Peter Romberg||West Germany||D||ECD Iserlohn (W. Germany)|
|11||227||Alexander Kozhevnikov||Soviet Union||F||Spartak Moscow (USSR)|
|12||248||Bill Gregoire||Canada||D||Victoria Cougars (WHL)|
- Player stats: Hanlon, Peter; Kelso, Sean (eds.). 2009–10 Calgary Flames Media Guide. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 160.
- Game log: Hanlon, Peter; Kelso, Sean (eds.). 2009–10 Calgary Flames Media Guide. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 175.
- Team standings: 1985–86 NHL standings at The Internet Hockey Database
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- Mummery, 1989, p. 68
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- Duhatschek, 1986, p. 53
- Duhatschek, Eric (1985-12-30). "Flames 'Sergei' became a Red Menace". Calgary Herald. p. C1.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 69
- Konotopetz, Gyle (1986-02-02). "Mullen ticketed to light Flames' fire". Calgary Herald. p. F1.
- Duhatschek, 1986, p. 62
- Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Dan Diamond & Associates. p. 153. ISBN 9781894801225.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 72
- Swift, E. M. (1986-05-05). "Shock after shock after..." Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 73
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- Swift, E. M. "SI Flashback: Stanley Cup 1986". CNN/SI. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
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- "Biggest Stanley Cup playoff chokes". ESPN. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 78
- Broeg, Bob (2000). The 100 Greatest Moments in St. Louis Sports. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press. p. 178. ISBN 1-883982-31-6.
- Kravitz, Bob (1986-05-19). "Trying to shake a bad case of the Blues". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- "Fastest playoff overtime goals". National Hockey League. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 80
- Duhatschek, Eric (1986-01-03). "'Riser' shreds Oiler Jersey". Calgary Herald. p. F3.
- Mummery, 1989, p. 77
- Duhatschek, Eric (1986-04-05). "Calgary spoils Gretzky's party". Calgary Herald. p. F1.
- Johnson, George (2008-11-02). "The One and Only Bearcat". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- Duhatschek, 1986, p. 23
- Duhatschek, Eric (1986-05-01). "A submarine check torpedoes Suter". Calgary Herald. p. F1.
- Keyser, Tom (1986-05-01). "Scarlet Fever leaves road fans delirious". Calgary Herald. p. A8.
- Duhatschek, 1986, pp. 149–150
- Sigurdson, Hal (1987-04-18). "Whiteout aside, defence tells tale". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 83.
- Duhatschek, 1986, p. 93
- Duhatschek, 1986, p. 95
- "Gary Suter player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- Hanlon, Peter; Kelso, Sean (eds.). 2009–10 Calgary Flames Media Guide. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 25.
- Hanlon, Peter; Kelso, Sean (eds.). 2009–10 Calgary Flames Media Guide. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 160.
- Duhatschek, Eric (1985-06-16). "The ultimate fire sale". Calgary Herald. p. E1.
- "Don Edwards player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Tony Stiles player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "John Tonelli player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Nick Fotiu player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Rik Wilson player profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Duhatschek, Eric (1985-06-16). "Rave notices accompany chosen Flame". Calgary Herald. p. E1.
- "Chris Biotti statistics". The Internet Hockey Database. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Simmons, Steve (1985-12-30). "That question no longer is 'Joe who?'". Calgary Herald. p. C1.
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