My passion for the Flames started during the 2004 Stanley Cup Final run. At the time, I had just completed by first minor hockey season in tyke (Age 5-6) and had just begun to learn how great hockey really was. Early on in the run, I remember my parents began to let me stay up to watch parts of the games before they got too late and then every morning would save the sports section for me to look at. To this day, I still read the sports section of the newspaper every morning looking for Flames news.
I still remember as that run continued, falling in love with those Flames and following the scores and series as much as I could. Of course, my favorite player was Jarome Iginla as it was for many Flames fans during that time, and then cheering for Kipper, Regehr, Craig Conroy or "Condroyd" as I called him for some reason.
After that season ended, my parents bought me one of those playoff commemoration magazines made by the Calgary Herald, and I remember continuously reading through it many, many times and still occasionally do to this day when I find it.
My newfound love for the game of hockey would be immediately tested with the 2004-05 lockout, but another season of tyke hockey helped keep it going. Playing on a team affectionately called the Golden Flames, I remember we were lucky enough one day to get an opportunity to play at the Saddledome, and as a 6 year old, that was the coolest thing ever. Come to think of it, it still would be!
My early elementary school years were spent watching a Flames team that was actually pretty good (note to past self: Enjoy it while it lasts). Of course, the success of those seasons never rivaled the success of the 2004 cup run, but nevertheless it helped build me into a true Flames fan by watching a few seasons of winning hockey.
I distinctly recall a night when I was probably 9 or 10 and had a school event going on the night of a playoff game against the Sharks. There was some sort of event with families and students in late evening, but I remember my teacher and a group of probably ten adults and students including myself snuck down to an empty classroom and had the Flames game streamed on a small computer monitor and we cheered and high fived for most of the game while a boring event went on down the hallway.
During those seasons and the ones that followed, I painfully watched the Flames regress from division winners, to average playoff team, to bubble team, and downhill from there leading up to what became the rebuild that is still going on today. Although it's still much better than being an Oiler fan!
At the same time as all of this, I was very privileged to be playing minor hockey and to make memories, friendships, and lessons that I will carry for years to come. While I was never all that good at hockey, usually playing in the middle to bottom divisions in competitive hockey, I learnt the importance of loving hockey "the game for fun", and not hockey "the game where only winning matters" . Hockey is a game meant for all ages and skill levels, and enjoyment of the game should always be placed over the pressure of winning or losing at a youth level. It is from learning to play hockey for the enjoyment and not so much the winning, that I learned that hockey is a game I want to play for the rest of my life.
For this upcoming season, I'll be moving east into the heart of Leafland for university, and will miss the steady diet of Flames news that I get in Calgary. I'll miss taking the packed C-train down to the Saddledome on game nights, or watching games with my family. The Flames will forever be my team, and I will proudly wear the Flaming C anywhere I go into the future. Go Flames Go!