1 June 2023

Calgary Hockey History


Calgary Hockey History

In 1893, the first hockey game in Alberta was...


In 1893, the first hockey game in Alberta was played between the city teams, the Town Boys and the Taylors. That’s where the history of hockey started, both in Alberta and in Calgary itself. As such, the city itself has become one of Canada’s top hockey cities and home to many hockey teams. Learn more at icalgary.

The first professional hockey teams

Real professional hockey came to Calgary in 1921. Back then, the Calgary Tigers, while still amateurs, helped form the Western Canada Hockey League to become the first primary professional team in the city. In 1924, the Calgary Tigers became the first Calgary club to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Due to financial difficulties, the team went on hiatus in 1927 but was briefly revived in 1932 as a minor professional club. The Tigers then moved on to the North West Hockey League for three seasons, winning the championship title in 1933-34. Throughout 1934-35 it was known as the Calgary Consols. The team broke up in 1936 when the league broke up as well. Subsequently, five of the team’s players were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The successor of the Calgary Tigers was the Calgary Stampeders hockey team, which existed from 1938 to 1972. In 1945-46, the Calgary Stampeders were the top team in the Western Canada Senior Hockey League (WCSHL). In 1946, the Stampeders won the Allan Cup and became the Canadian senior hockey champions.

In 1946-47, hockey players reached the Allan Cup finals again. However, as was often the case in senior hockey, there was a growing concern about the status of players, as many amateur teams used former professionals, which violated the rules set forth by the Allan Cup committee. A lot of teams, among them the Calgary Stampeders, faced constant pressure, so they had to declare themselves either a professional or amateur team.

Right before the season of 1951-52, they officially turned professional, joining the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which was renamed the Western Hockey League (WHL).

The Stampeders quickly found success, winning the WHL title in 1953–54 by defeating the Vancouver Canucks. They then faced the Quebec Aces and won a best-of-nine series in six games.

The Stampeders made it to the WHL finals three more times, including in 1955, 1958 and 1959. In 1963, discouraged by their affiliation with the Chicago Black Hawks, they accepted a year-long leave of absence. Afterward,  the team ceased to exist.

Junior Leagues

Junior hockey in Calgary got its start in 1963 when the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) was formed. It also included two Calgary teams, the Calgary Cowboys and the Calgary Buffaloes. These two teams competed together with the Western Canada Hockey League. In 1965, the Cowboys merged with the Buffaloes until they split off four more years later.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League returned to Calgary in 1971 when the Calgary Canucks junior hockey team was formed. The team played its home games at Henry Viney Arena. The Canucks have qualified for the playoffs for 34 consecutive seasons, with the streak snapped in 2006-7. The team has won 11 regular season titles and two Doyle Cup titles. Moreover, it has won nine AJHL championships and one Centennial Cup National Junior A Championship. The team also drafted several players who made it to the National Hockey League, notably Dany Heatley and Mike Vernon. Many others received scholarships to American and Canadian universities.

In 1978, another team for the Junior Hockey League in Calgary, the Calgary Chinooks, was created. Though, this team did not experience as much success as the Canucks.

In 1966, another hockey league was created, the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League(CMJHL), which consisted of seven Western Canadian teams. The league was the brainchild of Bill Hunter, who intended to create a Western league capable of competing with the top leagues in Ontario and Quebec.

Calgary Flames

In May 1980, the National Hockey League arrived in Calgary when Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania and a group of Calgary businessmen purchased the Atlanta Flames hockey team for $16 million and moved it to Calgary, where it was renamed the Calgary Flames.

In their very first decade of existence, the Calgary Flames amassed an impressive list of milestones and accomplishments. In the 1980s, the team made the playoffs every year. In 1989, it became the only team ever to win the Stanley Cup on the Montreal Forum ice.

On September 30, 1981, the International Olympic Committee voted to give the city of Calgary the right to host the 1988 Winter Olympics. Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Games.

The Scotiabank Saddledome sports arena was the main venue for ice hockey and figure skating.  It was the world’s first fully enclosed 400-meter skating rink that protected athletes from low temperatures and sudden wind gusts. During the game, athletes broke seven world records and three Olympic records, earning the facility the title of “the fastest ice on Earth.”

Scotiabank Saddledome sports arena

In 1983, the Calgary Flames Foundation was established as the club’s charitable arm. Since its inception, the foundation and its partners have raised millions of dollars for education, health care and medical research, as well as amateur and grassroots sports.

The next decade was a challenge and a time of change for the team as it sought to replicate its 1980s success. A general reorganization led to the team’s move to the Pacific Division in 1993. For the Flames, another new project in the ’90s was the purchase of the Calgary Hitmen, a local junior team in the Western Hockey League.

The start of the new millennium brought new opportunities for the Flames, including a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2004. In that year’s playoffs, Calgary knocked off three of the league’s best teams before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing the last game of a seven-game series. 

On November 26, 2010, the team recorded its 10,000th goal in franchise history and played its 3,000th NHL game later that season. Then in 2011, the Flames hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in front of 41,000 fans, winning 4-0.

Before the 2013-14 season began, the Flames received a new captain, Mark Giordano. In the 2014-15 season, the Flames won one of their last home games against the Los Angeles Kings and got their first playoff appearance since 2009. 

In the 2015-16 season, the team faced heightened expectations from the community. Those expectations were reinforced with the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. However, along with six other Canadian teams, the Flames failed to make the playoffs. Therefore, head coach Bob Hartley was fired in May 2016 and replaced by former Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Glen Gulutzan. 

But the real change came before the 2018-19 season when there was a great athlete trade with the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2018 NHL Draft. At the end of the season, the Flames finally made the playoffs. The following season, the team changed its roster. In 2021, head coach Bill Peters was accused by a former Flames player of racism and physical abuse. After all, Peters resigned on November 29 and Geoff Ward was named interim head coach. He broke the franchise record by starting his coaching career with seven wins.

Women’s Hockey

Oval X-Treme was established in 1995 as an amateur team for Calgary women’s hockey players. In 2002, Oval X-Treme joined the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) along with the Edmonton Chimos team. The Oval X-Treme team boasted some of Canada’s best female hockey players, including Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette and Cassie Campbell.

The two franchises subsequently left the NWHL to form five teams for the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL). In 2006, the NWHL and WWHL united under the NWHL banner, but not for long, as the leagues could not agree on a playoff schedule. After the collapse of the NWHL in the summer of 2007, the WWHL became an independent league again.