A couple weeks ago Sportsnet posted the below question, asking fans what the most unbreakable sports records were. In the post they mention some of the most wild and incredible records from throughout sports history. Take a look.
This inspired us to turn to Calgary to see which records may also fall into this category for the team playing NHL hockey out of the Saddledome.
The Calgary Flames have had plenty of talented players and teams across their 40 plus years of existence. Among those players and teams they’ve set some mighty impressive records that may never be broken again in franchise history, or at the very least not for a very long time. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the most unbreakable records in Flames history.
Unbreakable single-season Flames records
Lanny McDonald – 66 goals in a season (1982–83)
Lanny McDonald is without question most known in Calgary for his legendary Stanley Cup Final goal in the Flames cup clinching game six win in 1989. This has led to many people forgetting just how great he was in is prime as a Calgary Flame. Don’t even get me started on people placing Johnny Gaudreau on a Flames Mount Rushmore over McDonald. There’s no better example of that than his legendary 1982–83 season in which he posted a franchise-best 66 goals.
It may not seem like an impossible number to reach when you consider Auston Matthews hit 60 goals just last season, however it’s worth pointing out just how rare 60-goal seasons actually are in today’s NHL. Only three active NHLer’s have posted 60 goals in a season, Alex Ovechkin had 65 in 2007–08, Steven Stamkos had 60 in 2011–12 and of course Matthews’ 60 last season. That’s it.
There have only been three 60-goal seasons since the turn of the century. The last player to hit McDonald’s total of 66 was Mario Lemieux all the way back in 1995–96. In other words it’s been 26 years since anyone in the entire NHL has hit McDonald’s mark.
In terms of just Flames history, the team has never had another player reach 60 goals. They’ve never even had another player register more than the 53 goals Gary Roberts had in 1991–92. Even the great Jarome Iginla capped out at 52 goals in Calgary, which he put up back in 2001–02. The last Flame to hit 50 was also Iginla, all the way back in 2007–08.
Elias Lindholm posted the highest goal total of any current Flame last season, getting a career-best 42 goals. That’s still a massive 24 goals off of McDonald’s record. Don’t count on McDonald’s number being beaten anytime soon, or ever.
Kent Nilsson – 131 points in a season (1980–81)
It was just a different time in the NHL in the 1980s. Like McDonald’s 66 goals, Kent Nilsson’s massive 131 points back in 1980–81 seems almost impossible to break in today’s NHL. Hitting over 130 points in a season is an incredible rarity in today’s NHL, despite it being common place back then.
At first it seems hard to believe a Flame beating 131 points is impossible when Connor McDavid hit 123 points last season in the modern NHL game. However there isn’t a single active NHLer who has eclipsed 130 points in a season.
The closest to reaching Nilsson’s mark among active players is Nikita Kucherov who had 128 points during his Hart trophy campaign back in 2018–19. Joe Thornton also came close in 2005–06 with 125, while Sidney Crosby had 120 in 2006–07. Those three along with McDavid are the only four active NHLers to hit 120-point mark.
If we look at just Calgary Flames, only seven Flames other than Nilsson have even hit 100 points in franchise history, let alone 131. The second highest total in franchise history was Joe Mullen’s 110 points in 1988–89 until Johnny Gaudreau hit 115 just last season. Gaudreau’s season was the stuff of legend and he still fell a whopping 16 points shy of tying Nilsson’s record. It also took 33 years for a Flame to reach 110 points after Mullen did.
In today’s NHL it would take a generational season to hit 130 points. Unless the Flames end up with a generational talent like McDavid in the future somehow, there’s almost no chance any Flame beats Nilsson’s 131 points for a very, very long time.
Miikka Kiprusoff – 76 games played in a season (2007–08 and 2008–09)
Miikka Kiprusoff was the definition of a workhorse during his time in Calgary. To say the Flames ran him into the ground would be an understatement. The team very much went as far as Kiprusoff could take them during his prime, as he didn’t have a notable backup to speak of most seasons.
Case in point, he holds two records that will certainly never be broken in Flames history. In fact they stand up pretty well when comparing them across the entire NHL as well. Firstly, Kiprusoff managed a wild 76 of 82 games played in both the 2007–08 and 2008–09 seasons.
Kiprusoff’s 76 games in a season by a goaltender currently ranks tied for the fourth most in NHL history. After he posted that total for the second time in 2008–09, no goaltender has topped it since. The closest have been Cam Ward’s 74 games in 2010–11 and Cam Talbot’s 73 games in 2016–17. Over the last five seasons, the highest amount of games played by a goalie in one season is Connor Hellybuyck’s 67 in 2017–18, and Juuse Saros’ 67 from last season.
If we look at just the Flames, it makes Kiprusoff’s record look even more remarkable. Jacob Markstrom’s 63 games played this past season were the most by a Flame since, well, Kiprusoff who played 70 in 2011–12. The next highest total in recent memory would be Mike Smith’s 55 games in 2017–18. That should tell you all you need to know about the likelihood of any Flames goaltender playing 76 games again.
This record being on the list is both a combination of the modern NHL and the recent focus on goaltender health and rest, as well as Kiprusoff just being an absolute beast. Don’t expect this one to ever be broken.
Tim Hunter – 375 penalty minutes in a season (1988–89)
You’ll notice a lot of these records were set back in the 80s, and that’s because the NHL was a completely different game back then. Times have changed since then, especially when it comes to player safety and the role of the enforcer. They simply don’t exist anymore in the modern game which makes Hunter’s following two records unbeatable.
Hunter’s 375 penalty minutes during the 1988–89 season currently sits as the ninth highest total in NHL history. In a testament to how much the NHL has changed, all 20 of the top penalty minute seasons in NHL history occurred before the year 2000.
Peter Worrell’s 354 penalty minutes in the 2001–02 season are the most since the turn of the century. There’s only been two more players register over 300 penalty minutes in a season since then, Zenon Konopka’s 307 in 2010–11 and Daniel Carcillo’s 324 in 2007–08.
Hunter along with Ronnie Stern are the only Flames to ever register over 300 penalty minutes in a season. In terms of more recent memory, Flames legend Krzysztof Oliwa is the only Flame since the year 2000 to put up a total even over 200 with 247 penalty minutes in 2003–04.
Over the past 10 years, the highest total registered by a Flame is Matthew Tkachuk’s measly 105 penalty minutes in 2016–17. Hunter’s total is over triple that number. No one is ever even sniffing Hunter’s 375 penalty minutes from 1988–89.
Al MacInnis – 31 playoff points by a defencemen in a season (1988–89)
Al MacInnis’ 1988–89 season was legendary to say the least. The Hall of Fame defencemen was an integral part of the Flames’ first and only Stanley Cup, as he became just the fifth defenceman at the time to ever win the Conny Smythe Trophy after his dominant 1989 playoff run.
That season in the playoffs, MacInnis put up a remarkable 31 points in 22 playoff games, leading not only the Flames in scoring but also the entire NHL. Seeing Cale Makar dominate the playoffs en route to 29 points in 20 games last season makes one think MacInnis’s record is not exactly unbreakable. But take this into consideration.
At the time in 1989 it was the second most points in one playoffs by a defencemen in NHL history. To this day, the total stands as the third highest in NHL history, behind Brian Leetch’s 34 in 1993–94 and Paul Coffey’s 37 in 1984–85. In other words it’s been 33 years and only one player has topped MacInnis’ total. Since the turn of the century, there have been only nine defencemen to even hit 20 points in one playoff run.
Looking at Flames history, we can see why this one won’t be broken for a very long time. The next closest total to MacInnis’ 31 points is 19, which Macinnis himself set back in 1985–86. The next three spots in the top five are all occupied by Paul Reinhart who posted totals of 18, 17 and 15 back in the 80s.
Here’s a shocking and depressing stat. Only five defencemen in Flames history have posted a playoff point total in the double digits. Jordan Leopold’s 10 points in 2003–04 is the only instance since MacInnis did it in 1989 and he was 21 points off the mark. Unless Makar comes home in a few years, this record will be safe for a very long time.
Unbreakable single-game Flames records
Jeff Reese – Three assists in one game by a goaltender (1992–93)
One of the more obscure and unknown Flames records is goaltender Jeff Reese’s three-assist game during the 1992–93 season. His three points are not only a Flames franchise record but also an NHL record. Needless to say it’ll be a tough one for any Flames goaltender to beat this one.
During a February 10 game against the San Jose Sharks, the Flames laid a beatdown, defeating the Sharks 13–1. Their 13 goals that night is actually a franchise record for most goals in a single game. During that game, backup goaltender Reese registered an NHL record three points, all assists. No goaltender since has even tied that total.
Across the history of the NHL, there have only been 43 instances of goaltenders getting two points in a game. That may seem like a lot, but consider that there have been a total of 58,361 regular season games played in NHL history. In other words, a goalie has posted two points in 0.0007% of NHL games. Now consider that Reese posted three.
Since the 2000–01 season, there have only been 12 instances of a goalie posting two points in a game. The closest Flames goalie to matching the record in franchise history is Dan Bouchard who had two points in 1981. No other goalie in Flames history has had two points in a game. Markstrom had three points across the entire season last year. Reese’s mark of three in one game stands on its own as a remarkable feat and unbreakable record.
Unbreakable Flames career records
Miikka Kiprusoff – Seven straight seasons with over 70 games played (2005–12)
If Kiprusoff’s single-season games played record wasn’t enough, this one is probably even more unbreakable. Kiprusoff played in at least 70 games for the Flames for a ridiculous seven straight seasons between 2005 and 2012. Considering how teams manage their goaltenders workloads these days, these numbers are just mind boggling to consider in today’s NHL.
The Flames have struggled to have one single goalie stick around longer than a couple seasons since Kiprusoff left, let alone having one play over 70 games for seven years. Good luck. In total, Kiprusoff played a whopping 514 games across the seven seasons. To put that into perspective, Mike Vernon is the only other goalie in Flames history to even play in over 500 games.
The last goalie to play in at least 70 games in a season in the NHL is Talbot, who played in 73 games in 2016–17 as mentioned above. It’s essentially unthinkable to picture a goalie in today’s NHL playing 70 games in a season for seven straight seasons. It’s a rarity to even see it in one season these days.
Looking at the Flames franchise, no other goalie in Flames history has played 70 games in one season, with Roman Turek’s 69 in 2002–03 being the most behind Kiprusoff’s seven-season stretch. That fact alone is mind-blowing and further solidifies that no Flames goaltender will even beat his mark.
Tim Hunter – 2,405 penalty minutes with the Flames (1981–91)
Unsurprisingly, Hunter also holds another unbeatable record in Flames history when it comes to career penalty minutes as a Flame. Hunter was one of the premier enforcers in the NHL during the golden age of enforcers during the 80s. His ability to rack up penalty minutes will never be matched again in Flames history.
Hunter racked up a remarkable 2,405 penalty minutes during his 11 seasons and 545 games in Calgary. An average of 218.6 penalty minutes a season and around 4.4 penalty minutes a game for 10 straight years. The dude nearly averaged a fighting major worth of penalty minutes a game for 10 straight years. Insane.
Hunter’s 2,405 penalty minutes are by far the most in Flames history, sitting 669 ahead of second place Gary Roberts’ 1,736 penalty minutes. The closest active Flame on the list is Mikael Backlund, sitting with just 395 penalty minutes. The closest to Hunter’s total in recent memory was Mark Giordano, who racked up 759 penalty minutes across 15 seasons with the team. That number is still 1,646 behind Hunter.
It’s no surprise that Hunter holds six of the 10 highest single season penalty minute totals in Flames history. His career total with the Flames will simply never be matched, ever. Players like Hunter just don’t exist in the NHL anymore and the game has moved away from the rough and violent style of the 80s.
Jarome Iginla – 3,992 shots with the Flames (1996–2013)
You knew Jarome Iginla would show up at some point on this list. Perhaps you didn’t think it’d be for shots on goal though. However the more you think about it, the more you realize how unbeatable his career shot total with the Flames is.
Across his 17 years and 1,219 games with the Flames, Iginla mustered up an astounding 3,992 shots. That equates to right around 3.3 shots per game for 16 seasons. Due to Iginla’s incredible consistency, he ended his Flames career with a number that will surely never be broken. His 3,992 shots with the Flames is the seventh highest total in NHL history with one franchise.
In fact, his total just with the Flames alone would rank as the 24th highest career shot total in NHL history. The only active NHLer with more shots with one team in their career is Ovechkin. The next closest is Eric Staal who had 3,033 with the Hurricanes, still over 900 away from Iginla’s mark with the Flames.
In Flames history there isn’t a single player within 1,000 shots of Iginla. MacInnis ranks second with 2,891 shots. The closest active players are Giordano who had 2,029 over 949 games, and Backlund who has 1,932 and counting across 826 games. At 33 years of age, Backlund is still over 2,000 shots away from matching Iginla.
Perhaps the best chance of catching Iginla was Gaudreau who posted 1,622 shots over 602 games in Calgary, but would’ve needed another 2,370 shots to match Iginla. Across a potential eight-year extension, that would’ve required around 297 shots per season. Gaudreau’s career high is 262. Don’t count on anyone coming close to 3,992 for a long time.
Unbreakable team records
13 goals for in a single game (1992–93)
As we all know, goal scoring is way down in the NHL these days compared to back in the 80s and 90s. Goaltenders are better than ever in today’s era and it has become incredibly more difficult to score. For that reason the Flames mark of 13 goals in a 13–1 win against the San Jose Sharks during the 1992–93 season seems unbeatable.
The mark is not only tops in Flames history but also tied for the fourth highest single game goal total in NHL history. The highest goal total by any team in one game since the turn of the century is 12, which the Washington Capitals put up in a 2002–03 game. The next highest is 11, which the Pittsburgh Penguins put up last season and the Ottawa Senators had in a 2001–02 game.
The Flames have never had 13 goals in a game again, and have only registered 12 once, set even earlier in 1990. Since the turn of the century, they have yet to even hit double digit goals in a single game. Their highest single game total since 2000 is nine goals, which they’ve hit six times, including twice in the regular season last season.
Scoring double digit goals in one game is such a rarity in today’s NHL game that it would be a massive shock if the Flames were ever able to register more than 13 goals in a game. Consider this one locked down.
397 goals for in a single season (1987–88)
Building off of the previous record, this one stands as another that is all but impossible to match considering how much the NHL has changed since it was set. Goal scoring being so frequent back then made this record possible, and the lower scoring in the modern game makes it unbreakable at this point.
During the 1987–88 season the Flames posted a total of 397 goals across 80 games, a rate of right around 5 goals per game. To put that into perspective, the Flames were the sixth highest scoring team in the NHL last season and their goals per game was 3.55.
There have only been six instances in NHL history of a team posting more than 397 goals in a season and all six of those seasons came before 1986. Since the turn of the century, the highest total registered by any team is the Panthers 337 goals from last season, while the next highest is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 319 goals from the 2018–19 season. Both are well away from the Flames’ 397 mark.
If we look at just Flames history, the team’s second highest total is 363 which came in 1984–85 and is still 34 off the record. They’ve also only posted over 300 goals in a season 13 times, with all 13 of those seasons coming before 1995. Their highest scoring seasons of the 21st century are the 2021–22 season with 297 goals and the 2018–19 season with 289 goals. Both are 100 or more goals away from the record.
397 goals in a season is a mark that is unthinkable in today’s NHL. It would take an absurd and historic season from the Flames to even come close to that total, let alone beat it. Don’t expect this record to fall.
A stacked Flames record book
It may not have seemed like the Flames had many unbreakable records on first thought, however digging deeper it’s clear that the franchise has seen some incredible achievements over the years. Whether it’s single-game records, single-season records, or career records, the Flames record book is stacked full of some remarkable feats that will surely never be broken for a very long time.