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Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Biggest Days in Flames Franchise History

With multiple first round selections for the first time since arriving in Calgary, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has been labelled by some as the "biggest day in Flames history". While that's a bit extreme considering Calgary has won a Stanley Cup in its past, I do agree that June 30, 2013, is pretty high on the list of big moments, with the potential to climb even higher if picks 6, 22 and 28 turn out as good as they could.

Here is my very subjective list of the 10 most significant days in the history of the Flames -- after their arrival in Calgary in June of 1980. Do you agree or disagree? How would you re-order? Where do you see the 2013 draft slotting in? Is there something you'd add to the list?

1. Thursday, May 25, 1989 - Doug Gilmour scored twice and Colin Patterson and Lanny McDonald also scored -- Lanny with the dramatic go-ahead goal, as the Flames won 4-2 in game six at the Montreal Forum to win its first Stanley Cup. Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe as the playoffs most valuable player.

2. Wednesday, Apr. 30, 1986 - Calgary had a great regular season (40-31-9), posting the league's 6th best record. Unfortunately, being stuck in the Smythe division with the league-leading Edmonton Oilers (56-17-7) resulted in the 'Battle of Alberta' taking place in the second round of the playoffs. A tremendous series went to game seven with Calgary stunning the Oilers 3-2 on the most legendary goal in team history. Perry Berezan's dump-in is collected by Steve Smith behind the Oilers net. Smith's attempted pass hits the back of the leg of goaltender Grant Fuhr and ricochets in, putting the Flames ahead for good at 5:14 of the third period.

3. Monday, Apr. 19, 2004 - It had been 15 long years since the Flames had won a playoff series and they had missed the playoffs seven years in a row when as the No. 6 seed, they took No. 3 seed Vancouver to game 7. It looked like a case of "here we go again" when Matt Cooke scored with six seconds left in the game to tie it 2-2. But, 1:25 into OT with Ed Jovanovski in the penalty box for the Canucks, Martin Gelinas scored to win it and the Flames moved on to play Detroit.

4. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1995 - Calgary GM Al Coates acquires 18-year-old Jarome Iginla, who was the 11th pick in the 1995 draft, as well as Corey Millen from Dallas in exchange for disgruntled holdout Joe Nieuwendyk. Iginla led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 and in 16 seasons, he was the face of the franchise, playing 1,219 games and amassing a franchise-best 525 goals and 1,095 points.

5. Sunday, June 30, 2013 - Jarome Iginla is gone, so is Miikka Kiprusoff. After years of trying but failing to get back to the Stanley Cup to complete unfinished business from 2004, the Flames are finally in full-on rebuild mode and it begins on this date in New Jersey at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with the team having multiple first round selections for the first time. Calgary will pick at 6, 22 and 28 and GM Jay Feaster needs to get it right or more so, not get it wrong, to re-stock the cupboards and get the franchise pointed back in the right direction. It's easily the most important draft in Flames history.

Update (July 2/13)My recap of the roller coaster ride that was draft day for the Calgary Flames.

6. Saturday, June 15, 1985 - At the NHL Entry Draft in Toronto, Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher traded Kent Nilsson to Minnesota in a deal that included getting the North Stars second round pick that year, 27th overall, in return. The Flames used that pick to draft Joe Nieuwendyk from Cornell. Nieuwendyk made an immediate impact scoring 51 goals his rookie year. He followed that with years of 51, 45 and 45 goals and as the team captain, the Flames went on to become Stanley Cup champions in 1989.

7. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003 - Faced with an injury to starting goaltender Roman Turek, Calgary GM Darryl Sutter traded a second round draft pick to San Jose to acquire Sharks third-string goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. What a pick-up that would turn out to be. He backstopped the Flames to the Stanley Cup final in 2004, won the Vezina trophy in 2006, and is the team's all-time leader in games (575), wins (305) and shutouts (41).

8. Wednesday, May 14, 1986 - Two days prior, looking to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time, the Flames suffered a colossal meltdown in game six in St. Louis. They blew a 5-2 lead with 12 minutes left and lost 6-5 on Doug Wickenheiser's overtime goal in what the Blues dubbed "The Monday Night Miracle". Back home for game 7, Calgary won 2-1 on goals by Al MacInnis and Colin Patterson and the Flames and Lanny McDonald were off to the Stanley Cup for the first time.

9. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1988 - Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher swung a 7-player trade with St. Louis in which Mike Bullard went to the Blues and Doug Gilmour was the key piece coming to the Flames. Gilmour, a terrific playmaker, had a huge impact in his three-and-a-half years in Calgary and was an integral part of the Stanley Cup-winning team in 1989.

10. Saturday, Oct. 15, 1983 - After three seasons of temporarily playing at the cramped Calgary Corral before crowds of less than 9,000, the Flames finally moved into an NHL-type building, opening the doors on the newly built Olympic Saddledome, which would eventually boast a seating capacity of over 20,000.

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