In Canada and the United States, beer and hockey go pretty much hand in hand. There’s nothing like sitting down and having a cold beer and nachos or wings while watching the game we love. Turns out beer can even save a hockey club from a downward spiral to certain death...or at least missing the playoffs!
The story begins back on January 24th, after the Calgary Flames were spanked hard by the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1...actually, it begins a bit further back on January 19th, with the Flames losing a 4-3 game to the Nashville Predators. That is when a four-game lack-lustre losing streak began. A couple nights later, the Flames were embarrassed badly by the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 7-3 and then beat by even the Toronto Maple Leafs a couple nights later in a 4-0 shut-out.
This brings us back to the 5-1 drubbing in Montreal. Flames Coach Glen Gulutzan summed everything up pretty well, “Yeah, we were pathetic...we were pathetic...yeah...it was a pathetic display”... “No Bite back, no kick back”...”Our top guys didn’t do anything”...”We need somebody to step up!”...”You gotta man-up!”
Now almost midnight, the “pathetic’ bunch is boarding a train to Ottawa where they will face the Ottawa Senators the next night. On the train, Gulutzan approaches a few of the veterans and asks if they need to “have a beer and figure this out”, to which the response was “yup, we do!”. Gulutzan gathered the boys up, electronics aside, and ordered back the beer tubs he had previously ordered the train serving staff to take away, and the team hashed things out over a few cold ones. The bevies not only changed the mood on the train, but it changed the team as a whole. According to a Wes Gilbertson article, D-man Deryk Engelland says the boys were bull-shitting, chiring other guys, and having fun. “Everyone was having a good time. And I think it brought us closer together as a team.”
The next night, the Flames beat the Senators 3-2 in overtime. A collective sigh of relief was let out just before the NHL All-Star break. The team was once again in the Win column, and since the beer train have steamed to an impressive record of 21-7-1 record, which includes a franchise record ten-game winning streak from February 21st to March 13th. It’s that impressive roll and streak that has helped the Calgary Flames clinch a playoff spot for just the second time in eight seasons.
The West being as tight as it is means that almost any team could finish in almost any position, so we don’t know who will face who yet, but I say if we face the Edmonton Oilers, we take the train and let the suds flow freely.