Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Calgary Flames - 1989
One on One Turning Point

Calgary Flames - 1989

21 JANUARY 2014
Joe Mullen of the Calgary Flames celebrating with Colin Patterson after a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
After debuting in Atlanta in 1972-73, the Calgary Flames emerged in 1980-81 after the franchise relocated from Georgia. While they had enjoyed a string of successful seasons, being in the same division as the dynastic Edmonton Oilers during the 1980s had contributed significantly to the fact that the franchise had not enjoyed a Stanley Cup championship.

Prior to the 1988-89 campaign, the Flames dealt Mike Bullard (a 100-point scorer the previous season), Tim Corkery and Craig Coxe to the St. Louis Blues for Steve Bozek, Michael Dark, Doug Gilmour and Mark Hunter. Gilmour had served as a defensive specialist with some offensive upside for the Blues.

Doug Gilmour of the Calgary Flames battles at the face-off with Bobby Smith of the Montreal Canadiens during 1989 Stanley Cup Final action at the Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Employing a strong defensive system implemented by head coach Terry Crisp, the team lost just four of its first 28 games that season. After a short slump, the Flames summoned Theoren Fleury, an undersized phenom who was tearing up the IHL with 74 points in 40 games at the time of joining Calgary. Another addition was Sergei Pryakhin, who joined the team in March after the Flames came to an agreement with the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation.

The team was well-represented at the mid-season All-Star Game in Edmonton, with Mike Vernon in goal, Gary Suter on defence and Joey Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk at forward.

Pants worn by Doug Gilmour of the Calgary Flames during the 1988-89 NHL season and Stanley Cup playoffs. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Several players reached milestones during that 1988-89 season, including Joe Nieuwendyk and Joey Mullen, both who reached the 50-goal plateau, and Lanny McDonald, who reached 1,000 NHL points in early March, and two weeks later, scored his 500th NHL goal.

The Calgary Flames finished first overall in the NHL, with 117 points, including a franchise record 54 wins. Joey Mullen finished seventh in scoring with 110 points, earning selection to the NHL's First All-Star Team as well as the Lady Byng Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player.

"It was just an amazing year for our hockey club," recalled Doug Gilmour. "We had 117 points and won the Presidents' Trophy that year (as the team finishing first overall). Halfway through the year, we added a fourth line centre named Theo Fleury. The defence was solid, the goaltending was solid - it was an awesome year to have."

Theo Fleury of the Calgary Flames plays the puck during 1989 Stanley Cup Final action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
In the opening round of the playoffs, Calgary met the Vancouver Canucks in a very challenging series that took seven games to resolve before the Flames eliminated their opponents. Up next was Los Angeles, featuring a King named Gretzky, but Calgary swept the Kings in four games in the second series. The conference final featured Chicago challenging Calgary, but the Flames beat the Blackhawks in five games.

The Stanley Cup final was a rematch of the 1986 final that ultimately was won by the Montreal Canadiens. It is the most recent occasion that the final featured two Canadian teams. In addition, it was the seventh of eight consecutive Stanley Cup finals to feature a team from Alberta.

Al MacInnis enjoying a drink out of the Stanley Cup with the help of teammate Gary Roberts following a 4-2 series win over the Montreal Canadiens in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Calgary drew first blood with Al MacInnis scoring twice in the Flames' 3-2 home win. Montreal evened the series, doubling Calgary 4-2 in Game Two.

Game Three moved to Montreal, and was so tightly contested that it took double-overtime before Ryan Walter of the Canadiens scored a controversial powerplay goal to give them a 4-3 win and a two games to one lead in the final.

The Flames were in a 'do or die' mentality in Game Four, and breathed a well-deserved sigh of relief at the final buzzer as the scoreboard exhibited a 4-2 Calgary win. The teams returned to the Olympic Saddledome in Calgary for Game Five with the series tied. The Flames burst out of the gate and had a 3-1 lead after the first period. The Canadiens scored in the second period to narrow the lead, but Mike Vernon backstopped Calgary to a 3-2 win and lead in the series.

Calgary Flames captain Lanny McDonald hoisting the Stanley Cup as teammates look on following a 4-2 series win over the Montreal Canadiens in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Hoping to conclude the series in Game Six, played at the Forum in Montreal, Calgary coach Terry Crisp dressed veteran Lanny McDonald, who had not been dressed since Game Two, to give him the opportunity to participate in a Stanley Cup championship game. The sentimental move was made sweeter for McDonald when he stepped out of the penalty box in the second period and took a feed from Joe Nieuwendyk, depositing the puck in the net behind Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy to give the Flames a 2-1 lead. Doug Gilmour scored twice in the third period to give Calgary a 4-2 win and the Stanley Cup victory.

If athletes claim they want to go out on a high, then it's difficult to imagine any player ever going out higher than Lanny McDonald - his final game in the NHL was the Stanley Cup-winning game of 1989. "I scored my first-ever goal in the National Hockey League in the Montreal Forum and I scored my last goal in my final game, again, in the Montreal Forum," smiled McDonald. "I was part of the on-ice lineup for that winning game and we were the only team other than the Canadiens ever to win the Stanley Cup on Forum ice. All those things added up to me thinking, 'Boy, it's a sign! It's time I was outta here.' What a great way to go!"

The Calgary Flames celebrating with the Stanley Cup following a 4-2 series win over the Montreal Canadiens in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
No one who witnessed the game will ever forget the massive smile beneath that monstrous moustache as Lanny skated around the ice at the Montreal Forum, hoisting the Stanley Cup for all to see. "To come back and eventually win the Cup playing for a team close to your hometown -- wow! It doesn't get much better than that," he states.

Defenceman Al MacInnis was named recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top playoff performer. With 31 playoff points, he became the first defenceman to lead the league in post-season scoring. In the six-game final, MacInnis scored five goals and added four assists. "You play this game to win the Stanley Cup," begins MacInnis. "It's two months of the hardest, toughest, most competitive hockey. You're playing for your city, your fans and your family. I would love to have won more than that one, but looking back over my career, I feel very fortunate. There are a lot of great players that don't get a chance to win one. To me, you grow up dreaming of winning a Stanley Cup. Without a doubt, this was the highlight of my career."

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.