A Brief History: Calgary Flames

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A Brief History: Calgary Flames
Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

The Flames joined the NHL in 1971, originally playing in Atlanta. They joined the League along with the New York Islanders. The Flames were owned by Tom Cousins, the same man who owned the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Cousins named the team the Flames after the fire resulting in the "March to the Sea" in the Civil War in which Atlanta was almost destroyed.

The Flames had the early jump on their expansion brethren. They made the playoffs six out of the eight seasons they spent in Atlanta, while the Islanders only won 31 games in their first two seasons combined.

Cousins sold the flames on May 21, 1980 to avoid bankruptcy. Calgary embraced the Flames, unlike the World Hockey Association's Calgary Cowboys, who had folded in 1977. They managed to qualify for the playoffs in their first season in Calgary behind the offense of Kent Kilsson, who put together a 49-goal, 131-point season. In their first playoff run in Calgary, the Flames won a pair of series, beating the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers, before losing to the Minnesota North Stars in the semifinals.

The early success didn't stick, as general manager Cliff Fletcher decided to clean house after a losing season in 1981-82. Throughout the next three seasons, Fletcher brought in young talent that would stick together through the early 1990s. The Flames faced the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final twice, falling in 1986 before winning the franchise's only championship in 1989. Calgary would get back to the Final in 2004, losing to Tampa Bay in a hard-fought, seven-game series.

The Flames were also one of the first teams to sign a large number of U.S. college players in an effort to keep up with their rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.

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