Mount Rushmore is a monument located in South Dakota that depicts four of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. But what if we made a Calgary Flames version of this monument? The Flames, like every other NHL team, are built on their history and have franchise greats. Each great has a reason to be recognized, some sticking out more than others due to the success and accomplishments they had with the Flames. So, what players are in the conversation to be on the Flames’ Rushmore and who would actually make it?
The locks to be on the Mount
The easiest choice to be on the Flames’ Mount Rushmore is Jarome Iginla. No matter who you ask, one of the four players will always be Iginla. He’s widely considered to be the greatest Flame of all time and that’s for strong reason. Iginla is the all-time leader for the Flames in many categories which include games played with 1,219, goals with 525, game-winning goals with 83, and points with 1,095.
He also picked up many awards and trophies in his career. He won the only Art Ross, Lester B. Pearson (now known as the Ted Lindsay), and two Maurice Richard trophies in franchise history. Others he won include the King Clancy trophy, Mark Messier Leadership award, and NHL Foundation Player award. Iginla served as captain from 2003 until he was traded in 2013. In his first season as captain, the Flames went all the way to the Stanley Cup final and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
Iginla is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and has his iconic number 12 retired by the team.
Some may disagree with Miikka Kiprusoff being a lock, but I feel that he should always join Iginla when talking about the Flames’ Rushmore. Kiprusoff is the best goalie and likely the second greatest player in Flames history. The only knock some may have on Kiprusoff is that his playing career and elite status was short compared to others, but that shouldn’t matter that much.
From 2005 to 2012, Kiprusoff suited up for 70+ games each season which shows just how amazing he was already. He leads the Flames all time in almost every goalie category, games played with 576, wins with 305, shutouts with 41, goals against average with a 2.46, and save percentage with a .913.
In seven seasons (including six in a row), Kiprusoff finished inside the top 10 in Vezina voting, winning the franchise’s only one in 2006, alongside the only Jennings to be won for the Flames. He also picked up a fourth and third place finish in Hart voting in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Throughout his entire Flames career, Kiprusoff saw the most playoff success in his first. After he was acquired from the Sharks, he backboned the Flames run to the Stanley Cup final in 2004.
A long awaited moment will happen this season with Kiprusoff’s memorable number 34 being retired on March 2nd, 2024.
Who else could join the other two greats?
Mr. Moustache himself, Lanny McDonald has forever had his named stapled with the Flames organization. He was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in 1981 that saw Don Lever and Bob MacMillan go the other. McDonald many not hold as many records as Iginla and Kiprusoff but in just his second season with the team he set a single-season record that seems unbreakable for the near future. That record of course was most goals scored in a season with 66.
What McDonald is remembered for most besides his moustache is his leadership and storylines that followed him in his final season. McDonald served as captain for six seasons and won the Bill Masterton and King Clancy trophies during his tenure with the team. A fairytale is one way to describe McDonald’s final season. He entered the year one assist away from 500 in his career, 11 goals away from 500 in his career, and 12 points away from 1000 in his career. He was also looking for his first Stanley Cup. When the season concluded, McDonald had all of these milestones under his belt. During the run for the Cup, he scored just one goal, his final goal, which just so happened to be the Cup-winning goal. McDonald winning the Cup gave what is likely most iconic photo in Flames history which is of him cradling it.
McDonald has since had his number 9 retired by the Flames, been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and become a chairman for the Hall.
Al MacInnis and his bomb of a slapshot entered the Flames organization in 1981 when he was drafted by the team, 15th overall at the NHL Draft. He joined the team full time in 1983–84 scoring 45 points in 51 games. The Flames and St. Louis Blues were the only teams MacInnis called home, spending 13 years with the Flames and 10 with the Blues. MacInnis finished his Flames career with 822 points which puts as the all time leader for points by a Flames defencemen and third all time when including forwards.He also leads with the Flames all time in assists with 609 and in plus-minus with with a +239.
In 1990–91, MacInnis had what still stands by the only 100-point season by a Flames defenceman. While MacInnis had plenty of top 3 Norris voting finishes, he only won one trophy while playing for the Flames which was the franchise’s only Conn Smythe trophy after winning the Cup in 1989.
MacInnis was inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2007 and has had his number 2 honoured by the Flames with their the Forever a Flame program.
Mike Vernon was born in Calgary, played junior in Calgary, and spent most of his NHL career in Calgary. Just like MacInnis, Vernon joined the Flames organization through the 1981 NHL Draft. He was taken in the third round at 56th overall. Vernon’s first season as starter came at the age of 23 where he quickly made a strong impression receiving a Vezina vote and tending the goal of a playoff team.
1988–89 was his best year with the Flames like many, as he was the goalie of the Stanley Cup winning team and as well finished second in Vezina voting. Vernon is second in a couple goalie categories all time only behind Miikka Kiprusoff. Those categories include games played with 527 and wins with 262 while also being third in shutouts with 13.
Vernon wore number 30 and has had that number retired by the Flames, he will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this November in Toronto.
Another Flames draft pick, Joe Nieuwendyk was selected in the second round, 27th overall in 1985. Nieuwendyk took a few seasons to break into the league, but it was worth the wait as he scored 92 points in 75 games in his rookie year and won the Calder Trophy. He played for five different teams throughout his 20-year career, but spent a majority of it with the Flames. He served as captain from 1991 up until 1995 when he was traded to the Dallas Stars for none other than Jarome Iginla. In his last year as captain, Nieuwendyk won his second award with the King Clancy trophy. He doesn’t hold any all time records but he places quite high in many including third in goals with 314, fourth in points with 616, and fourth again in game-winning goals with 43.
Nieuwendyk’s number 25 has be honoured in the Forever a Flame program and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Although Theo Fleury isn’t the greatest person off the ice, on the ice he was one of the better players in Flames history. Even though he scored 108 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors in his draft year, Fleury was past upon likely due to his size. This led to him being selected as an over-ager in the 1987 NHL Draft by the Flames in the eighth round. Immediately, Fleury denied all odds. He put up 34 points in 36 games in 1988–89 and won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in his first season. He continued to light up the league having multiple 80+ point campaigns with a couple of 100 point ones in there too. He served as captain from 1995 to 1997, giving it up due to feeling it affected his relationship with his teammates and coaches. He won no awards throughout his career. Fleury doesn’t lead any all time categories, but just like Nieuwendyk, he places high in many. Second in goals with 364, third in assists with 466, and second in points with 830 to name a few.
No one else has wore Fleury’s number 14 since he’s retired even though it’s not retired nor honoured by the Flames. Fleury has also not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both the unretired number and lack of induction are very likely due to his controversial political opinions.
The first and only undrafted player in this piece, Mark Giordano signed with the Flames as a free agent and played his first full season in 2006–07 at the age of 24. The following season, Giordano went to the KHL over contract and NHL certainty disputes. Then in 2008–09, the Flames and Giordano agreed to a three-year contract. He fully broke into the league playing 82 games in two of three years of the contract. Giordano’s next milestone came in 2013 when he was named captain at the start of the season. He stayed as captain until 2021 when was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
Giordano has won three awards throughout his career the first was the NHL Player Foundation Award, then the only Norris Trophy in the Flames history and finally the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Giordano is second all time in games played for the Flames and as well as second in goals, third in assists and third in points by a Flames defencemen.
Giordano is still in the NHL and currently playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Some may still be sour about Johnny Gaudreau leaving the Flames for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency just over a year ago, but it’s hard to deny he’s one of the best and most skilled players in Flames history. Gaudreau was selected in the 2011 NHL Draft in the fourth round, 104th overall by the Flames. He played out his three years at Boston College winning the Hobey Baker in his final year. He signed his entry-level contract with the Flames and scored his first goal in his first game on his first shot.
In his first full NHL season, Gaudreau impressed with 64 points in 80 games coming third in Calder voting. That same season, the Flames won their first playoff round since 2004 ending an eleven year drought. 2016–17 was the year he picked up the only trophy of his career so far with the Lady Byng. He looked like he was gonna hit the century mark in 2019 but finished with 99 points, it would have been the first time a Flame had hit that mark in 26 years. Gaudreau also finished fourth in Hart voting that season.
Fast forward through two down years and Gaudreau has a historic season. He hits the 100-point mark becoming first Flame to do so in 29 years. To add on to that he picks up 90 even-strength points, the most since Jaromir Jagr in 1996, a plus-minus of 64, the highest since Wayne Gretzky in 1987 and comes close to some single-season records for the Flames. This was enough for a fourth place finish in Hart voting, an arguable snub of a Hart finalist or winner.
Gaudreau is currently on the Columbus Blue Jackets and just finished his first season with them.
Who is on the Flames’ Mount Rushmore?
The Flames have had plenty of talent and we’ve highlighted the nine players I think are the best and most deserving of being on the Flames’ Mount Rushmore. The players come from many different eras, most from the 80s and 90s who were on the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team, the two I highlighted as locks from the 2000s to early 2010s and were big parts of the 2004 Cup run, and the final two from the more modern Flames of the 2010s and early 2020s. After considering everything, if it were up to me, the four players on the Flames’ Mount Rushmore would be Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Lanny McDonald, and Al MacInnis.