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Flames and the Other Denver Team?



   This would be a strange season for the Colorado Flames and their fans.  The Flames saw the highs, they set a then Colorado hockey record for attendance in one game (15,000+) and they improved remarkably from their 82/83 campaign.  But there were lows as well.  Once again the Colorado fans got involved against the Tulsa Oilers and the league would undergo serious financial problems, which led to its demise at the end of the season.
   Things started out badly for the Flames.  The Salt Lake Golden Eagles opened up the season by trouncing the Flames 6-2.  The first win of the season would happen a night later on the road against those same Eagles.  The Flames won it the hard way, they scored three goals in the third period to overcome a 3-1 deficit.  They won 4-3
   The first sign that the season would be exciting occurred in an early season game against the Tulsa Oilers.
   Down 4-3 with only 12 seconds left, the Flames Pierre Rioux missed a shorthanded breakaway opportunity that would have forced overtime.  Soon after the game ended, Flame coach Pierre Page broke into referee's Dan Marouelli's dressing room and gave the referee a lesson in CHL rules.
   Page came out of the dressing room after Marouelli admitted to making two huge mistakes that help cost the Flames the game.  At 19:15 of the third, Charles Bourgeois took a tripping penalty then got an additional two for arguing.  For some reason, Marouelli made the Flames skate two players short instead of one.  Marouelli admitted to also making a mistake when he didn't kick Oiler Cam Connor out of the game for coming out of the penalty box after a misconduct penalty to start a fight.
   Even opposing coach, and former Whaler, Tom Webster had bad words for now-NHL ref Marouelli.  "Needless to say, I'm not the only coach who complains about him. He threw me out the last game we had in Salt Lake."




Dan Bolduc Celebrates


   A month into the season the Flames were a dismal six wins and seven losses.  However starting November 11th, the Flames best team attribute became resilience.
   The Flames went out and grabbed an early 4-1 against the Indianapolis Checkers.  The Checkers though would come back and tie it 5-5 before the Flames finally won it in overtime 6-5.  In the game, Flames forward Gord Hampson was slashed in the neck by Checker Monty Trottier.  Despite falling to the ice, going into convulsions and spending two days in the hospital with a concussion, Hampson saw and remembered who did it, even if the referee didn't.
   That, as it turns out, was the corner for team.  The Flames began to win games left and right.  Wins over the Checkers, Team Canada and Team USA (those games counted in the CHL standings), and comeback wins over the Montana Magic signaled that the team was improving.
   As a matter of fact, the Flames were a version of the "Comeback Kids".  Beginning in December and extending through January, the Flames seemed to comeback in almost every game.  New Year's Eve, the Flames scored three goals in the final eight minutes, including the game-tying goal by Mario Simioni with only 47 seconds left in regulation, to force overtime.  The Flames would win it in overtime thanks again to Simioni, who flipped his rebound up over the shoulder of Montana goalie Ken Ellacott.  It was the hattrick goal for Simioni, who was only playing because of injuries to Jeff Brubaker and Todd Hooey.
   A night later, the Flames would again rally for three goals, with the tying goal coming in the final minute of regulation for the second time in two nights, to force overtime and eventually win in Salt Lake 5-4.
   A couple of nights later the Flames were in Indianapolis.  Gord Hampson, the recipient of a Monty Trottier cheapshot earlier in the season, was chomping at the bit to back at the Checker player.
   Hampson waited exactly one minute and 19 seconds.

"He's not gonna come near me anymore.
I don't think," said Hampson, who knocked Trottier
down twice before finally squaring off with him in a fight
just 1:19 into the game.  "If he does,
I'll just fight him again."
---Rocky Mountain News Jan. 6, 1984.


   Hampson would set up two goals with nifty passing plays once he settled down.  Goalie Marc D'Amour wasn't finished with Trottier by any stretch.  Besides only letting in one soft goal to backstop the Flames to a 4-1 victory, D'Amour viciously slashed Trottier and earned a two-minute penalty.
   "Yeah, it was a cheapshot, but he deserves it," D'Amour said in the Rocky Mountain News.  (Writer's Note:  You gotta love hockey)
  The next night the Flames would finish the series sweep in Indianapolis.




Dan Bolduc Lets the Slapper Go

   Team resilience would be tested.  The Flames had to fight (both figuratively and literally) to beat the Tulsa Oilers and then had to come back from two-goal deficits three times against the Montana Magic to continue that franchises' woes.
   While winning, especially overtime wins, were becoming the norm for Flames (yes, they did lose a few in overtime as well) the team was beginning another norm as well.  With guys like Keith Hanson, Jeff Brubaker, Neil Sheehy, Mike Clayton and Charles Bourgeois, the Flames were beginning to cultivate a "goon" image, which was perfect for a February fourth game against the Indianapolis Checkers and, for different reasons, a February 24th game against The Oilers.
   Governor Dick Lamm issued a proclaimation saying Saturday February 4 was officially "Colorado Flames Hockey Day in Colorado".  In town for the event was Colorado hockey favorite, Don Cherry.
   The Flames were out to set the CHL attendance record, which was previously though to be held by the Kansas City Red Wings.  (Right before the game, league officials said the actual record was held by the Indianapolis Checkers, the team facing the Flames that night.  As a result, the attendance of 15,583 that night was a few hundred short of the real record)
   Before the game, Cherry, known for his advocacy of the "rough stuff", gave a speech to the hockey lovers in attendance.

"If they could only see this in New Jersey, where they're drawing about 9,500 a game," Cherry began.
   "Tell me," he continued, "does anybody know where Ray Miron (GM for the Rockies who many insist was the man personally responsible for the downfall of the first Colorado NHL team) is?"
   A funny thing happened to me last night.  For the first time since this building opened; I saw a Colorado goalie stop a puck."  That was in reference to Mike Vernon's 14-save effort in shutting out the Checkers in the first period of Friday's game and alluded to his constant complaint of a lack of a goaltender when he coached the Rockies."
---Rocky Mountain News Feb 5, 1984

   (Writer's Note---As a matter of fact, Cherry has alluded to one-time Rockies' goalie Hardy Astrom more than once when he sees soft goals let in by goaltenders.  He calls them "Hardy Astrom Specials")
   Obviously inspired, the Flames won easily 6-2 despite the fact that this was their eighth game in 10 days.  Pierre Rioux, mired in a bad slump, scored four goals to lead the Flames to victory.




Clearing the Crease


   The middle of February saw the Tulsa Oilers fold.  They would continue playing all road games as just The Oilers.  The team's homebase was in Denver.
   Two hockey teams?  Yes, two hockey teams.  Unfortunately, the Coliseum wasn't up to par for home games, and McNichols was already too busy with the Nuggets and Flames to house The Oilers as well.  So The Oilers were going to be the barnstorming team of the CHL by playing all of their remaining games on the road.
   While Colorado may be big enough for two professional hockey teams (see Avalanche and Gold Kings presently), Denver certainly is too small.  On February 24th, 1984, the fans would let The Oilers know who exactly they were behind.

Grant Ledyard looked up from the bench
in a somewhat subdued Oiler's dressing room
and said to no one in particular, "That's no way
to welcome us to Denver."

---Rocky Mountain News February 25, 1984

   After the game, a 5-4 Flames victory, the players from both teams were mingling on the ice pushing and shoving one another around.  A fan then threw beer on Oiler Mike Blaisdell.  Then another fan spit on Mike Backman.
   That was all The Oilers would take.  Mike Backman hurled his stick in the crowd and Graeme Nicolson climbed over the plexiglass to get at the fans.  Steve Martinson, who had been given a match penalty earlier in the game for headbutting Neil Sheehy, was back on the ice and in the crowd as well.  Several other Oiler players went into the crowd.  Then the King-Idiot Flames Fan got into it.  Claiming to be an off-duty police officer he began waving a gun and badge trying to stop the surging Oilers from continuing into the crowd.
   This game changed some things for the Flames' management.  The St. Patrick's day game was slated to be "50-Cent Green Beer Night".  Since that game was against The Oilers as well, the promotion was dropped.  "Stick Night" was scheduled the same night as "Green Beer Night".  The Flames' management gave out certificates to be redeemed at the end of the game for people wanting hockey sticks.  It's clear to see the reasoning here:  Hockey Sticks and lots of beer are generally a bad thing to give fans already with boiling blood.
   The St. Paddy's Day game was subdued.  Coach Page called it a "dance" and was sarcastically thankful "that nobody (hockey players) got hurt" in the very light-checking game.
   The fans did their part for the label, but as a result of a late-season game against the Checkers, the Flames were officially tagged as a "Goon Squad".    The Flames were getting the business end of a 11-3 beating handed to them, when they decided to send the message for the next night's game against the Checkers.  Fights were breaking out, Jeff Brubaker was given his seventh misconduct for the season and suspended indefinitely ("It should have been five and five {a major for each player}.  But I beat him up so bad they felt sorry for him and gave me a misconduct," Brubaker said later.) and even Flames' trainer Toby Wilson was given a game misconduct for verbally assaulting the referee.

"I think we've had everything go our way
all year.  We've had a good (8-2-2) overtime
record and we've given teams heart attacks with our comebacks.
Tonight we suffered a stroke," coach Page said in the Rocky Mountain News.


   The Flames obviously sent the right message as they avenged the loss the next night 4-2.
   A few days later, Page answered the "goon" charges by saying, "We have life.  We don't quit...We just don't like to be embarrassed the way we were that night and we were embarrassed."




"Who's A Goon?!!!"


   The Flames clinched the CHL crown against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles late in the season.  Their final regular season game for the franchise was also a victory, 4-3 against The Oilers.
   The playoffs opened up at Big Mac against the Checkers.  Following the script from the previous year, the Flames bolted out to a 2-0 series lead by winning 5-3 and 3-2.
   Then they travelled to Indianapolis and lost games 3,4 and 5 by scores of 3-2, 6-3 and 6-5.
   Game 5 was unfortunate for the Flames.  2:12 was remaining in the game when referee Bill McCreary checked Pierre Rioux's stick.  The curvature was found to be illegal.  Therefore a two-minute penalty was assessed against the Flames.  With just over a minute left, Monty Trottier deflected a shot into the Flames net.   The Checkers went on to win when Kevin Devine deflected a Gerald Diduck shot with just about nine minutes gone in OT.    Checkers' goalie Rob Holland made 40 saves in game 6 and the CHL's league-best goalie Mike Vernon let in a very soft goal to allow the Checkers to steal the series four games to two.  Despite losing the same statistically as the year before, the Flames were just a little short in the last two games.
   "It just doesn't seem fair.  We played very good, but they played excellent," Flames' defenseman Tony Curtale said after the game.
   And that's how the franchise ended.  There regular season record was 48-25-3.  The CHL folded after the season.  If it's any consolation, The Denver-based Oilers won the Adams Cup in a four game sweep over the two-time defending champion Checkers.



Drew Litton's Response to the Flames Playoff Collapse