Without loyal fans, there is no game. There is no league, there is no celebrating victories, there is no Flames fever gripping the city right now. Any hockey game can be awesome, but it takes the fans in crowd cheering every play to make a game truly memorable.
Flames fans are amongst the most loyal fans in the league, sticking by their team through the years of disappointment and heartbreak. We as fans have endured long seasons with struggling teams, teams that barely missed the playoffs, and first round exits. Years of old teams, unable to succeed playing boring Sutter style hockey, resulted in the Flames being found stale by their fans. Through these difficult times, we stuck around knowing that one day it would get better.
As this rebuild begun only a few short years ago, we assumed that like Edmonton, our glory days were many seasons away. Yet we still watched the games on TV or spent our money to go watch at the Saddledome knowing very well that a loss was probably in the cards. We stuck by the boys wearing the Flaming C and cheered them on through good times and bad.
And now look at where we are today (albeit a few years ahead of schedule).
This magical season has brought on a new wave of hockey fans, as well as causing many to re-immerse themselves in following news about the Flames almost religiously. The young players such as Gaudreau, Monahan, and Brodie have captivated a fanbase over these last few season and created an atmosphere that is unique within the NHL. Fans and players alike now share a mindset where the game never ends until the clock hits zero. Witnessing the Saddledome filled to the brim with red has been amazing, and the team has rewarded their fans with victories.
Bob Hartley, who deserves a lot of credit for this success (and hopefully the Jack Adams award) has said on many occasions that his team shares a special relationship with its fans. He's also noted that he hopes this is his last career stop as a coach. This is an honour for the Flames and their fans considering he's won a Stanley Cup in Colorado as well as coaching in many leagues all over the world. He's been having as much fun as the players which has contributed to the success of the team.
Personally, I fell in love with the Flames back in 2004 when I was very young as they made their amazing run to the finals. I remember with fondness idolizing players such as Jarome Iginla or Craig Conroy for many seasons.
It wasn't long ago that I spent much of my time playing street hockey in my neighbourhood with my friends shouting "Pass from Gelinas, Iginla scores! Great save Kiprusoff!" and on some days now I hear other children shouting "Deke by Gaudreau! Shot by Monahan! Huge save by Ramo!" as a new generation of Flames fans become inspired by what's occurred this season.
The Flames have captured or recaptured the hearts of many throughout this city and abroad with their effort and never quit mentality. Watching the Red Mile return to '04 size has been special, and anyone who's had the luck to attend a home playoff game surely won't forget the atmosphere any time soon. Watching thousands pack downtown bars and fill the streets after a victory, flying flags and parading around large cutouts of Bob Hartley or Sean Monahan are things that have made this playoff run so fun to be a part of.
Wherever this run ends, the Flames and their fans alike won't forget how this season has gone from predicted last place finish, to the second round of the playoffs. Now anywhere you go in Calgary on game day, you'll be hard pressed to not find somebody in a Flames jersey. It's been awhile Flames fans, so let's keep enjoying this!
The C of Red is back!