Let’s get the disappointment right out of the way: sorry this isn’t about Dennis Wideman or Michael Stone. There.
Now on to the real subject at hand, the powerhouse talent from then, Czecholoslovakia, Robert Reichel. The release of players from the Bloc Countries in the late 80’s and early 90’s infused the NHL with a massive influx of talent and the Flames were ready and waiting for Reichel after his performance in the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League. The Flames took the talented centre with the 70th overall pick (4th round) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft and he paid dividends almost instantly once he was able to join the NHL.
His first season with the Flames would be the 1990-91 season, playing in 66 games and putting up 44 points during the regular season. His second season he would start to showcase his talent even more, but it was his 1992-94 seasons the Reichel turned into the offensive force the Flames thought they were getting. During that two year span Reichel would record back to back 40 goal seasons and dish out 111 assists. He would finish second behind Theo Fleury in 1992-93 on the team in points, but he would surpass Fleury in 1993-94 with his 40 goal - 53 assist season and finish the year tops on the Flames roster.
Things were really looking up for the 23 year old as he entered his fifth season in 1994-95, but the NHL labor stoppage canceled the first half of the season and he would go over seas to play for the Frankfurt Lions before returning to the Flames to finish the season. Reichel would have a strong 48 games, scoring 18 times and handing out 17 assists, but trouble was on the horizon.
Reichel and the Flames were having contract issues prior to the 1995-96 season and instead of taking what the Flames were offering, the 24 year old opted to play in Frankfurt again until they could both come to an agreement, which they did before the start of the 1996-97 season. Despite a 101 point season in Frankfurt, Calgary wasn’t really happy with the return on their investment. In 70 games before being traded to the NY Islanders, Robert Reichel would score 16 goals combined with 27 assists as his last stats in a Flames uniform.
Things would get messy again for Reichel, contract wise, and he would play three seasons with the Islanders, be traded to Phoenix, refuse to play and head over seas, be traded to Toronto and then play the final three seasons of his NHL career with the Maple Leafs before having a very successful six year career back in the EHL with HC Litvínov. Got all that?
For his time with the Flames, Reichel would play in 425 games with the Flaming C on his chest, score 153 goals and hand out 201 helpers along the way. He would lead the NHL in games played (82) in 1996-97, but you always had to wonder if the labor stoppage hadn’t happened, would things have been different for Reichel? The talent was clearly there, but contracts, money and stoppages seemed to derail what was a VERY promising career. He should have been the player to help take the Flames to the next level, alas it never happened.
Calgary was in a semi transition phase at the time Reichel was coming of age and they made the playoffs in four of the six years he was with the Flames, but never went far. He would play in 26 post season games in that time frame, collecting 19 points. Still, they are his best numbers point wise (played in 37 games in Toronto with only 8 points) in the post season.
Other Players Having Worn #26 With The Flames
Alex McEndry (1981), Mel Bridgman (1982-83), Steve Bozek (1984-88), Paul Ranheim (1989), Jim Korn (1990), Ladislav Kohn (1998), Eric Landry (1999), Michael Nylander (1999), Tom Chorkse (1999), Steve Begin (2000-03), Travis Brigley (2000), Dallas Eakins (2001), Marcus Nilson (2004-08), Alex Kotalik (2010-11), Guillaume Desbiens (2012), Dennis Wideman (2013), Tyler Wotherspoon (2015-17), Michael Stone (2017-20)
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Is Robert Reichel the best Flames players to wear the #26?
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