The Calgary Flames opened up their 2022–23 season with a tough task at hand, attempting to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Colorado Avalanche. On further reflection, they had an even tougher task: attempting to snap their 12-game, repeat: 12 game(!) season-opener losing streak. This streak is a statistical improbability, and the fact the the Flames hit double digits is just mindboggling.
However, they’ve done it. They’ve snapped the streak with a 5–3 victory over the Avalanche. Can’t ask for a better start to the new season, and no better way to usher in a new Flames era.
Brett Ritchie, Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andersson, Tyler Toffoli, and Elias Lindholm all scored to power the Flames into the win column. Also, newcomers MacKenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri, and Jonathan Huberdeau all earned assists in their Flames debuts.
The season opening losing streak
The last time the Flames won a season opener, it was on October 1, 2009 against the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames won by a final score of 5–3, with goals from Mark Giordano, Rene Bourque, Adam Pardy, Brandon Prust, and Dion Phaneuf. Miikka Kiprusoff picked up the win despite an average showing.
Yes, those names combine to form an entirely distant era of Calgary Flames hockey, but it really has been that long since the Flames won the first game of a season.
Since then, they’ve lost every single season opener.
|October 7, 2010||@ EDM||0–4|
|October 8, 2011||vs PIT||3–5|
|January 20, 2013||vs SJS||1–4|
|October 3, 2013||@ WSH||4–5 SO|
|October 8, 2014||vs VAN||2–4|
|October 7, 2015||vs VAN||1–5|
|October 12, 2016||@ EDM||4–7|
|October 4, 2017||@ EDM||0–3|
|October 3, 2018||@ VAN||2–5|
|October 3, 2019||@ COL||3–5|
|January 14, 2021||@ WPG||3–4 (OT)|
|October 16, 2021||@ EDM||2–5|
We’ll go over the details of every loss, including the names of scorers and some goalies. This should really highlight how long this streak has lasted, as names from yesteryear will transition to more recent names, yet there is the everlasting constant of every single game being a Flames loss.
2010–11 – Edmonton Oilers
Nikolai Khabibulin—playing in his second season with the Edmonton Oilers—shut the Flames out in front of a sold out Rexall Place crowd, stopping all 37 shots he faced. On the other end, Kiprusoff struggled in net in all situations.
Overall Pain: 1/12
2011–12 – Pittsburgh Penguins
The Flames welcomed the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins and got off to a first period lead courtesy of Curtis Glencross. However, the Penguins scored for straight goals in the second: two on the power play from Matt Niskanen and Evgeni Malkin, two even strength from Tyler Kennedy and Craig Adams.
Overall Pain: 2/12
2012–13 – San Jose Sharks
After the lockout concluded and the shortened schedule became clear, the Flames would start the season off with three losses, unknowing at the time that it would be Jarome Iginla‘s last hoorah as a Flame.
Overall Pain: 3/12
2013–14 – Washington Capitals
At this point, the Flames barely even noticed that they were on a losing streak to open new campaigns, it was hardly anything of note. However, the fourth loss in a row started to raise the smallest of alarms.
The Flames actually scored three goals in the first to get off to a healthy lead thanks to David Jones, Stempniak, and Jiri Hudler. In the second, the Capitals pulled closer with Connor Carrick scoring once, and Alex Ovechkin scoring twice. However, Lance Bouma scored as well to maintain a one-goal lead.
The third period saw Nicklas Backstrom tying the game up, and the Flames were promptly ousted in the shootout, failing to score at all while Mikhail Grabovski and Ovechkin converted against Karri Ramo.
Overall Pain: 4/12
2014–15 – Vancouver Canucks
The season of the Find-a-Way Flames. Every game was a nail-biter and comebacks victories came aplenty. However, that wasn’t the case for Game 1. Two goals from Paul Byron and Hudler were not enough to counter Vancouver’s three goals from Alexandre Burrows, Zack Kassian, and Radim Vrbata. Henrik Sedin added an empty netter for good measure.
Surely, a five-game losing streak to open a season would be going against all odds and the Flames would find a way to snap said streak soon, right?
Overall Pain: 5/12
2015–16 – Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks visited the Flames to start the next season again, setting up a perfect revenge match for the Flames to counter last season’s opening loss. However, it was also a perfect revenge match for the Canucks, who were looking to respond to their first round loss to Calgary (take 24 seconds to rewatch Matt Stajan’s series-clinching goal).
Overall Pain: 6/12
2016–17 – Edmonton Oilers
The Flames were shifting gears here, as this would be the year with Brian Elliott (and Chad Johnson) in net. Elliott had a good a shot as any goaltender to help the Flames snap their now-very-known losing streak.
However, the Flames and Oilers put on a bit of a track meet, and in the end it was essentially Connor McDavid that pushed Edmonton over the edge.
The first period saw three Oilers goals from Pat Maroon, Tyler Pitlick, and Kassian, while Alex Chiasson potted a goal for the Flames. The second period saw the Flames tie it up on two straight shorthanded goals from Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik. McDavid would score twice here, the second of his goals coming on a penalty shot.
Overall Pain: 7/12
2017–18 – Edmonton Oilers
Again, another revenge game for Calgary, who were now trying to desperately break free from this streak. Of course, a season-opening loss does not make or break a season, but losing eight in a row? Unheard of.
Moving on from the tandem of Elliott and Johnson, the Flames brought in Mike Smith to be the starter. This was the season that saw Eddie Lack‘s short stint with Calgary, who came over from the Carolina Hurricanes in a deal where the Flames were tasked with buying out Ryan Murphy. However, David Rittich would make his case as the backup over the course of the season.
Smith was immediately burned by McDavid, who scored his second career hat trick to easily put his team on top. Cam Talbot stopped all 27 shots he faced from the Flames.
Overall Pain: 8/12
2018–19 – Vancouver Canucks
The third time’s a charm, right? The Flames had their third opportunity to snap their losing streak against their division rivals in the Canucks, and it’d be their ninth overall attempt. Oh, how we were all so naive.
Elias Pettersson scored the game’s first goal in the first period. The score would remain 1–0 Vancouver until the third.
Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic scored in quick succession, then Matthew Tkachuk responded only to have Jake Virtanen restore the three-goal lead. Sean Monahan answered back but that was all the Flames could muster, and Tyler Motte had an empty netter. The Canucks proved to be problematic.
Overall Pain: 9/12
2019–20 – Colorado Avalanche
You have to hand it to the NHL schedulers. After the Western Conference regular season champions were embarrassed by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, they had a chance to get revenge in Game 1 of 2019–20. There was simply no way the streak would hit double digits, and playing with motivation to beat the team that eliminated them should have been all they needed.
The first period saw the Avalanche scoring two goals from Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantenen, whose goals sandwiched a Flames goal from Monahan. The second period saw two goals per side, as Johnny Gaudreau and Giordano scored for Calgary, and J.T. Compher and Rantenen scored for the Colorado. The one-goal Avalanche lead was maintained to the end of the game and Donskoi added an empty netter.
Achievement unlocked: Double digit season opener losing streak.
Overall Pain: 10/12
2020–21 – Winnipeg Jets
In resuming the NHL during the pandemic, the all-Canadian North Division pitted the Flames against the Winnipeg Jets to opening the 56-game campaign. By all accounts, the Flames looked more poised than ever to finally snap the streak.
After the first period, the trio of Tkachuk, Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm had the Flames up 3–1 as only Patrik Laine scored for the Jets. The second period however, saw Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor tie the game up.
Overtime came along and Laine promptly ended the game, extending the Flames’s losing streak to 11.
Overall Pain: 11/12
2021–22 – Edmonton Oilers
The Flames definitely blurred the lines between tragedy and comedy, pushing this season opening losing streak to infamy in the professional sports world. With hockey more or less returning to a fairly normal season, the Flames at this point were expected to be mediocre at best. With Darryl Sutter leading the bench, the roster looked less-than-optimal on paper.
The 12th straight loss felt almost inevitable with the roster the Flames iced—after all this was before the Flames found their new identity. There was a hodgepodge of philosophies and systems from the Geoff Ward coaching era mixed with Sutter’s checking approach, and Sutter said so himself that the Flames were not conditioned at all.
With many already expecting the Flames to lose, prophecy turned to reality. Former Flame Derek Ryan opened the scoring, McDavid following suit to make it a 2–0 Oilers lead after one. McDavid socred again in the second but Andrew Mangiapane responded.
The Flames answered back again with Elias Lindholm pulling the game within one goal, but it only took Puljujarvi 26 seconds to restore the Oilers’ two-goal lead. With the game coming to a close, McDavid potted his third of the game for his eleventh career hat trick. The fact that the Flames’ season opener losing streak includes two separate McDavid hat tricks is just a factoid you can only laugh at.
Overall Pain: 12/12
2022–23, pain no more
The pain scale stops there. The Flames are finally free of the most cursed streak that had no business being as long as it did. You can put Game 1 into the win column!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire