Dear Toronto Maple Leafs Fans,
In those moments of darkness I just wanted to reach out and give a little reassurance.
This is a personal gesture in good will, honestly it is. The Flames have just blown three critical games and while technically still in the playoff race most of us around here never really expected them to be in it. They had a chance of course, but no one was really banking on it once you run all the numbers on the team.
The West has been brutally tough for several seasons now and the Flames trajectory, as pretty much everyone knows, is downward for the immediate future barring some magical trades or UFA pick-ups this off-season. No need to point that out, we know it. But who knows what moves the Feaster will do in the off-season.
The Leafs though, well by all fair analysis should be on the upswing, at some point it has to happen and it is the final years of darkness that seem the worst.
There is one very ugly record that the Calgary Flames have held for a long time, the last 8 years to be precise. It is the record for the Canadian franchise who has missed the playoffs the most times in a row. Yes, around here we refer to it as the 7 year dark age.
The period of time from 1997 to 2003 when the Flames missed the playoffs every single year. Well this year the Leafs will join us and finally provide a little company for the Flames under this tent of shame, that the Flames have sat alone under for 8 years.
One thing about Leaf nation that has kind of bewildered me but I do respect is the fact your fan base is so solid in support. When the 7 year dark age hit the Flames; the fans starting falling like leaves from trees in the Fall. Not something I remember very fondly.
The team was under threat of being moved, the Dome had emptied to half full on some nights. The only thing worth coming to see was some young kid named Jarome Iginla.
It was dark days. Mockery of the team was constant at first than it slipped into pure apathy, which in some ways was much worse. Working in downtown Calgary you sometimes met businessmen in the table beside you at lunch and they would offer you Flames tickets to the game that night because none of their clients were interested in going. Dark days in 2000 I'll tell you and they were good lower bowl tickets at that.
In 2003 if you walked up to the average Calgarian and asked them to name two Flames players you would have got a Iggy and uhhhh? Then of course the magical trade happend, the fluke trade more than anything and Kipper arrived and everything changed.
Now don't take this as gloating, really, don't. This is a misery loves company gesture. It is not like Calgary hasn't done everything it can to help you. The two worst trades in our franchise history were with the Toronto Maple Leafs. We sent you Killer and we sent you Neon Dion for your spare change.
Now Doug Gilmour certainly lived up to the hype, you may be having a bit of 2nd thoughts on Neuf but come on now, he is still a young top 2 D-man and you can't really have buyer remorse given what you gave up. If we had even a 2nd round pick in that deal we could probably accept it but Burke really got Darryl Sutter on one of his hard drinking days.
So unless some kind of miracle happens here, the Toronto Maple Leafs who last made the playoffs in 2004 and missed in 2006 and every year since now have joined Calgary with missing 7 straight years. What is my point, what is my pep talk for you?
Well the next year when Calgary finally ended the streak in 2004 they went to the Stanley Cup Finals and Game 7.
They also went on to make the playoffs for 4 more straight years with the next miss coming in 2010, that was a fun time. Now as the Flames stare into missing the playoffs for the third straight season, well in Calgary the fans are disappearing again, the negative is every where and my message to you Leaf Nation is that it is darkest right before the dawn.
Hold fast and then when the playoffs come and the run comes with it you can just smile as one of those true blue Leafs fans. In my case it was a true Red Flames fan wondering if I had died and gone to some kind of Flames fan stripper heaven on the Red Mile.
P.S. If Edmonton misses again next year, they will also join us in 7 straight years out of the playoffs...
P.P.S - We might consider trading you Kipper for 5 first round draft picks. That isn't unbalanced it is making up for the last two big trades as well...