The Colorado Flames
Owner Doug Spedding was made the butt of jokes when he announced that he intended on opening up a CHL minor-professional hockey team in Denver just two months after the Rockies moved east to New Jersey.
But Spedding had a three-year plan and he was going to stick to it. The Colorado Flames were going to be the springboard to the next NHL franchise.
However, for now, they had to compete in order to meet Spedding's lofty attendance goals, and compete they did.
The Flames would start the season well. The first game was at Big Mac (McNichols Arena). Gord Hampson led off the Flames scoring with a tally at 2:49 of the first period. The crowd, many of whom were still sporting Rockies memorabilia, was 7,189 strong and roaring approval.
And they roared some more approval after goals from Jim Jackson (2), Dan Bolduc (2), Mike Dwyer (2), Bobby Francis, Rioux and Harrey. That's right, the Flames scored 10 goals en route to a 10-2 victory over the Witchita Wind, who were probably very happy to be blowing out of town after the torching at the hands of the Flames. As a matter of fact, the game was everything a hockey game should be for the home crowd: Lots of fights (5) and plenty of goals from the home team.
Box Score From First Flame Game
Wichita- ...........2 0 0-2
Colorado .......2 2 6-10
First Period- Flames, Hampson (Dwyer, Ribble) 2:49; Colorado, Jackson (Dwyer, Francis); Wichita, Moher (Hansen, Knoke) 14:16; Wichita, Forbes (Hansen) 18:15. Penalties-Knoke, Wichita, 3:06; Lloyd, Wichita, 5:06; Francis, Flames, 8:47; Moher, Wichita 10:22; Beers, Flames 10:39; Turnbull, Flames 13:06; Turnbull, Flames (fighting) 15:15; MacLeod, Wichita (fighting) 15:15; Ribble, Flames, 17:41; Wilson, Wichita, 17:41; Forbes, Wichita, 18:34.
Second Period- Flames, Bolduc (Eakin) 2:58; Flames, Bolduc (Eakin, Jackson) 6:35. Penalties- Wilson, Wichita, 2:23; Mokosak, Flames (minor, fighting) 2:23; Maxwell, Wichita, 7:25; Wilson, Wichita, (fighting) 10:33; Beers, Flames (fighting) 10:33; Leken, Wichita (fighting) 12:34; Mokosak, Flames (fighting) 12:34; Forbes, Wichita, 15:05; Hampson, Flames 15:25; Lloyd, Wichita, 15:25; Turnbull, Flames, 19:09.
Third Period- Flames, Harrey (Francis) 3:47; Flames, Jackson (Francis) 6:43; Flames, Dwyer (Beers, Rioux) 11:50; Flames, Rioux (Hampson) 15:29; Flames, Francis (Ribble) 17:09; Flames, Dwyer (Rioux, Jackson) 18:06. Penalties- Turnbull, Flames, 3:31 (double-minor); Moher, Wichita 3:31 (double-minor); Fulcher, Wichita, 4:52; Dwyer, Flames, 4:52; Lloyd, Wichita, 9:23; D'Amour, Flames, 13:27 (served by Mokosak); Leken, Wichita, 17:49 (major); Hampson, Flames, 17:49 (major).
Despite the early season success, the team would have defensive problems and hover around .500 for much of the year.
The biggest test of the early season for the Flames came against the Tulsa Oilers. The Flames had it on cruise control for much of the game, and enjoyed a 3-1 lead with 15 minutes left in the contest. But the Oilers would turn it on and both goalies were repsonsible for making huge saves. The Oilers would break through though with around five minutes left with two goals in 29 seconds to tie the game at three. But just 39 seconds later, the Flames would get the go-ahead and winning goal from Gord Hampson as the Flames turned it up a notch after the Oilers tied it. Then after the game both teams engaged in a tense standoff on the ice that saw the Oilers crowed around the Flames exit eager to tie the game in the other traditional hockey way, fights. No fights broke out though and normalcy was restored after a few misconducts were handed out.
"They're hollering 'that's hockey,'" a happy
----Denver Post 1982
Dan Bolduc exlaimed as he walked into the aisle that
leads to the Flames' dressing room. He was
reporting the reaction of the crowd to coach Pierre Page,
who was telling his players, "That was a big one to get back."
The Flames started the season with five games without a loss. The first loss was against the Indianapolis Checkers, the Stanley Cup Champion Islanders farm club, in the sixth game. Long-time NHL goalie, Kelly Hrudey, was in net for the Checkers in the 4-1 Flames loss.
Greg Meredith Goes All Out in a Later Game against the Checkers
Kelly Hrudey wouldn't be so dominant later in the season as the Flames torched him (am I using that term too often?) for four goals in 43 seconds in a game back at Big Mac. McKendry, Francis, Prestidge, and Mokosak scored from 10:12 of the second to 10:55 in the same period. This has to be a Colorado professional hockey record.
Inconsistency plagued the team. One night the Flames came out as a team that couldn't be beat. The next night they would be flat. Charlie Bourgeois commented, "It's just having so many young players. I went through it last year in Calgary. You're great one night and the worst hockey player in the world the next night." (Denver Post). Coach Pierre Page mentioned that inconsistency was the sign of a hockey team that hovers around .500.
After a game in Tulsa, which the Flames won 3-2, Page said, "This was a great win for us. This is the kind of game I've been looking for for a long time. It just shows what the guys can do when they want to." (Denver Post) Then two games later, Page said after a 6-4 loss to Wichita, "Some of the guys wo have been great all year were terrible tonight. We played like we were coming off a 20-game road trip." Seems that Bourgeois called it right on the money.
Things were fixing to get a lot tougher on the Flames mainly because of a glorious game from now-headcoach of the Phoenix Coyotes, Bobby Francis.
In a game against the rough and tumble Birmingham South Stars, who sported such infamous goons as Frank "Never" Beaton, Dave Richter, Dave Logan, Steve Martinson and Keith Hanson, Bobby Francis scored five goals, which would be a great career move for him. The Flames won it 6-5 with the game-winner coming from Francis with 8:32 gone in the final stanza. A game later, Bobby Francis was traded to the Detroit Red Wings. Francis would play 14 games for the Red Wings before being shipped to Adirondack, the farm team.
Despite their best player in Francis being sent to Detroit, the Flames would become consistent and win a few and take over first place from the Checkers for a few games in January. The big lift came from a four game in five day series with the Wichita Wind. The first two games were at home. The Flames outshot the Wind 94-47 in the two game series at Big Mac and outscored Wichita 13-7. But that was nothing. Emphasizing that sometimes a good offense is better than a defense you don't really have, the Flames then won two in Wichita 10-8 and 4-2 to take over first place in the CHL as of January 25, 1983.
Then though came a three-game series against Birmingham. The South Stars would maul the road-weary Flames 4-1, 6-4 and 6-1. Seven games in just nine days tends to sap some life from a hockey team, and the Flames were lifeless. The South Stars put 134 shots on Marc D'Amour in the 3-game series.
Birmingham would own the Flames in the second half of the season. After an early season mastery over the South Stars, the Flames couldn't buy a win against Birmingham. When the Flames managed to skate to a tie in a February 28 game, it was like a cat toying with a mouse. The Denver Post noted in its article on the game that Sudden Death was very sudden for the Flames in overtime. Two weeks earlier, the Flames lost in overtime in just 33 seconds against the SLC Golden Eagles. In the final game of the season series against the South Stars, the Flames managed to lose in just 27 seconds. The South Stars took the late season advantage and won the season series 8-7-1. The dominance over the Flames would continue throughout the playoffs as well.
Mike Dwyer scores against the South Stars in a Losing Effort
Late in the season, with the team trying desperately to stay out of fourth place, tensions almost fractured the Flames. Toughguy Randy Turnbull and Mike Perovich got into a fight after a game in Indianapolis. Coach Page fined six players in all for breaking team rules. "Everybody's frustrated right now," captain Dan Bolduc said in the Denver Post "Everybody down here thinks they should be up there (NHL). It's taking a while, buit I think everybody's settling down."
Now the Flames would take their frustrations out on the other team. In a March 31, 1983 game, the Flames would explode with fists and fury against the Golden Eagles.
Golden Eagle coach Tex Evans (Future Whaler Coach) peeled some paint at a team meeting before the game that invigorated the Eagles. Down 2-0 going into the second period and being outplayed by the Flames, the Golden Eagles tied up the game at two. Then Flame goalie Marc D'Amour got a little angry with Eagle Rob Tudor. D'Amour slashed Tudor as the Flames had the puck. When play was whistled, the two were fighting. Then Mokosak came in for the Flames to beat the heck out of Tudor for even thinking about swinging with the goalie. Then the benches emptied. Even though it seems the Flames won the fights, they lost some valuable players. Bourgeois, Walker and Mokosak were all banished, which left the Flames with three defensemen. The Colorado fans even got involved. Thankfully the police were there before Eagle Gord Donnelly, also banished, managed to seriously hurt the unruly Flame fan. With all the fight out of their systems, the Flames would go on and get trounced 5-2 by the Eagles.
The Flames would play around .500 for the remainder of the season, finish second and earn a playoff berth against the Birmingham South Stars. Despite the late season dominance over the Flames, the South Stars would flounder in the first two games in the seven game series.
D'Amour Makes the Save Against the Golden Eagles
Marc D'Amour was the number one goalie all year for the Colorado Flames. On the elevator at the hotel in Birmingham the day before the game, Tim Bernhardt, Flame backup goalie, found that he was going to be starting in game 1 because D'Amour had been called up by Calgary. Bolduc, Dwyer (2) and Hampson scored the goals for the Flames while Wes Jarvis scored with three minutes remaining for the South Stars to avoid the shutout.
The second game saw Bernhardt still in net for the Flames. He would remain busy in the outing. Bernhardt saw 52 South Stars' shots and turned away 46. : Generally giving up six goals in a playoff game would mean a loss, but the Flames defensemen, obviously not playing defense, pitched in in the only way they knew how, by scoring. Charles Bourgeois scored two goals, Tony Curtale had one and Howard Walker scored the game winner at the 6:19 mark of overtime.
The third game was a heart breaker. Back at Big Mac, the Flames held a 2-1 lead with two minutes remaining in the game. Then with 1:19 remaining South Star Dobson scored on the power play to even the game at two. Then with just :19 remaining in the game, Dave Richter crashed the net in a scramble and deflected the puck in with his skate. This game would be the tide turner for the Flames. They wouldn't manage another win in the series.
Marc D'Amour makes the Save Here in the Playoffs
Game four was another disappointment. The Flames had a 4-3 lead with just over eight minutes left in the third period. But the defense couldn't hold it and the Stars went on to score three unanswered goals to win it 6-4.
Game five was the same old story, a late game collapse. After tying the game at three at the 12:19 mark, the Flames died-out. Two unanswered goals gave the South Stars another road victory 5-3.
Game 6 wasn't a late game collapse as it had been in the previous three games. The Flames just didn't have it at all. The Stars scored three in the second period to ice the game and win it 4-3.
Despite the playoff disappointment, it was a good season for the Flames, who finished 41-36-3. Defensive matters would be addressed the following year with the additions of goalie Mike Vernon and defenseman Al MacInnis.