Wow, we’re almost there folks. We’re just a couple of weeks away until the bright lights of the regular season are upon us. I hope I speak for the collective of Flames faithful when I say I’m more excited than ever to be a Calgary Flames fan. Don’t lie and say your expectations entering the season this year are the same as they were last year.
At this point last year, we were hoping for a playoff spot. After an absolute rollercoaster of emotions over the offseason, the franchise enters the season with more anticipation than ever! Here’s everything you should, and shouldn’t do as a Flames fan heading into 2022–23!
DON’T: Panic if MacKenzie Weegar doesn’t sign before the season
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what happened in July everyone. That doesn’t mean every player that comes to Calgary is hopping on a plane as soon as their contract’s up and heading “home” (Ohio). MacKenzie Weegar’s an elite defenceman who I’m sure has representation that feels the same way.
The priorities for the front office this summer were pretty clear and locking up Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri was much more important in the short-term. Weegar holding out over the course of the season is scary as he’s in the final year of his deal. But that doesn’t mean the Ottawa-born player won’t fall in love with the city and the C of Red. Enjoy watching him play and hope a deep playoff run will swing him if he’s still undecided come June, after all, the season hasn’t started yet and he can still sign.
DO: Enjoy the Saddledome for all its glory
The Saddledome is old, but not too old to party. After news broke last year that the new Calgary Events Centre funding had fallen through, a lot of emotions were presented by fans to say the least. Stay positive! You never know what could happen and plans are still in the works to see a new arena before the end of the decade.
In the mean time, grab those press level tickets with your friends on a Wednesday night and climb 500 steps to the rafters. Stand in line for that beer for 15 minutes and see if you can spot Harvey roaming the concourse for a picture. Get a Pocket Dawg at their new vending spots.
All in all, make this the season the Saddledome deserves. Cheer louder than ever before, go to as many games as you can and support this team and its rickety old barn in hopes a new banner with “Stanley Cup Champions” enters the rafters before the Flames play out of somewhere else!
DON’T: Call it a bust if Calgary doesn’t start 15–0
Remember your first time in a new city, school or on a new team? It’s intimidating, scary and hectic to say the least. Now imagine that, but you’ve moved from Florida to Canada and traded your Lamborghini in for a pickup truck—life’s a little different. Not to say I think Huberdeau or Weegar are going to have a tough start to the year, but chemistry takes time.
Both these players spent their entire pro careers in one destination and have lives of their own they need to restart as well. The players not only bring new playing styles, skills, and personalities, but also new leadership. Everyone has to find their place in line as the pecking order gets established.
The Flames should have high hopes on the season overall, but it may take some feeling out in October. Hopefully the pre-season keeps trending in the right direction and the Flames can ride some momentum built right into the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche on October 13.
DO: Enjoy Darryl Sutter and the few words that come out of his mouth
It’s no question the grizzled farm boy is a tremendous coach and a tremendous farmer, but in my opinion Darryl Sutter could win an award for his press conference bits alone. Sutter knows what he knows, and as far as he’s concerned, that’s how it should stay.
Watching the sarcastic bench boss dodge questions about personnel, captaincy and well, anything really instills an energy into the room like nothing else. Dare a journalist take a stab at a question he knows Sutter won’t answer? I hope so. Beyond keeping his cards close to his chest, Sutter knows what he’s doing.
After a tough loss, I wait to watch Sutter get up to the podium with that trademark pursed lip frown as he makes an indirect comment about x, y or z. There’s something about a shared sense of disappointment from a coach. You know he’s not going to be easy on this team and you’re just happy it’s not directed towards you.
DON’T: Panic if this team doesn’t name a captain
Leadership is something that doesn’t come one size fits all. Although there’s many great leaders new and old on this year’s roster, the keyword here is “many.” Don’t panic if one specific player doesn’t get a “C” embroidered on his jersey.
Time will tell how everyone in the locker room gels and who presents themselves as the prominent leaders on and off the ice. I think it’s very likely this team goes with three alternates to start the year with the potential for a captain to be named midseason.
Trust the guys you know are holding it together in the room. The fact that there are constant debates and discussions over who deserves the captaincy more is a good thing, I’d rather have that than a situation like Montreal with Nick Suzuki. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were the 2023 Calgary Flames.
DO : Keep the “LOOCH” chants coming
The fate of fan favourite Milan Lucic looked pretty grey before Sean Monahan was sent east with his bag of money. I know Lucic raises mixed opinions but with no Matthew Tkachuk in this year’s lineup, it’s up to Lucic to be that thorn in opponents sides.
Aside from his grit, Lucic is one of those leaders I mentioned above. He’s been there, done that and done it with great success. He will live on the fourth line again and be a presence in the locker room more than anything else.
He knows Darryl’s system and knows what it takes to win. I’m happy he’ll be pestering opposing teams all year long and you should too! If you’re at the Dome, a bar, or even at home, let out a “LOOOOOOCH” every time the big man gets even a sniff of the puck.
DON’T: Throw out your Tkachuk or Gaudreau jerseys
If you haven’t already donated, burned, or tossed your former hero’s jersey yet, please consider holding on. Nothing in the crowd is more entertaining at a live sporting event than some guy with hockey tape and sharpie on the nameplate of an old jersey. Whether your Gaudreau turns into a HUBERD—EAU or your Tkachuk turns into a “BEACH BUM” keep it fun and wear it out.
The Flames crowd is one of the best and wearing those spoofs to the games when our former poster boys make their return will be all the more glorious. We have to remind them what they’re missing out on and in Johnny Gaudreau’s words: “Now that I’m in Columbus, I couldn’t care less what they do as a team”. Well, on January 23, we’ll show him what’s been going on.
DO: Ignite the Battle of Alberta with friendly banter
Keep it civil here people, but don’t forget how bad that second round exit stung last year. If we’re above them in the standings, let them know. If no one else is scoring except for Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid, let them know. It’s Edmonton, take your pick—there’s plenty of ammunition.
But remember to stay level headed! Even though the Flames improved and look better on paper, it’s a long season and Edmonton improved too. Competitive hockey in the Battle of Alberta was far overdue entering last year’s playoffs.
So now that the Battle of Alberta is truly here with real stakes at the playoff level and not just regular season tilts—enjoy it! It took decades before the Flames and Oilers met in the playoffs again so cherishing one of hockey’s best rivalries at its modern era peak is a must. Circle those dates on your calendar and maybe even tune into some Oilers games and enthusiastically cheer for whatever opposition they’re playing.
The C of Red is ready
All in all, look forward for what’s to come for the Flames this season. As fans in the crowd and everywhere else, it is going to be a wild one!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire