The quick answer is yes, the Calgary Flames have won the Stanley Cup once in their franchise history. In 1989, the Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games to capture their first and only Stanley Cup championship.
The Calgary Flames are a professional ice hockey team based in Calgary, Alberta. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The franchise was founded in 1972 in Atlanta as the Atlanta Flames before relocating to Calgary in 1980.
In their 50-year history, the Flames have reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times – in 1986, 1989, and 2004. They were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens in 1986 but finally won the championship in 1989 by defeating the Canadiens in the rematch. Their last Finals appearance came in 2004 when they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Outside of their victory in 1989, the Flames’ success has been limited despite having players like Lanny McDonald, Joe Nieuwendyk, Theoren Fleury, Jarome Iginla, and Miikka Kiprusoff suit up for the team over the years. They have won their division six times but have not finished first in their division since the 2005-06 season.
But for a few weeks in 1989, the Flames were on top of the hockey world as Stanley Cup champions. Reliving their playoff run shows how Calgary captured that elusive first title.
1988-89 Calgary Flames Season
The Flames were coming off a disappointing 1987-88 season where they finished with 43 wins but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. With stars like Nieuwendyk, McDonald, Doug Gilmour, Al MacInnis, and Mike Vernon on the roster, the Flames had championship aspirations heading into the 1988-89 campaign.
The addition of rookie defenseman Gary Suter helped strengthen the Flames’ blue line. First-year head coach Terry Crisp implemented an aggressive forechecking style that balanced out Calgary’s skill and grit throughout the lineup.
Led by Nieuwendyk’s career-high 51 goals and Iginla’s 85 points, the Flames were one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. They finished with a solid 54-17-9 record for 117 points, second-most in the NHL behind the Montreal Canadiens (53-18-9, 115 points).
Calgary won their second straight Smythe Division title to secure home-ice advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. With the regular season complete, the Flames looked poised to make a deep postseason run.
The 1989 Playoffs
First Round vs. Vancouver Canucks
The Flames drew the neighboring Vancouver Canucks in the first round. Led by Stan Smyl, Tony Tanti, and goalie Kirk McLean, the underdog Canucks pushed Calgary to the limit right from the start. The series went the full seven games, but the Flames prevailed with a gritty 3-2 overtime win in Game 7 on home ice.
The series was highlighted by a galaxy of stars, with McDonald scoring 4 goals for Calgary, including the series-winning overtime tally. For Vancouver, Pavel Bure electrified with his blinding speed and offensive skills, scoring 5 times in the hard-fought series.
The overtime victory set up an explosive second round Battle of Alberta matchup with the Edmonton Oilers.
Second Round vs. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers were the Flames’ provincial rivals and had won four of the previous five Stanley Cup titles. Led by Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-best 90 assists and 149 points, Edmonton finished with 84 points compared to Calgary’s 117 during the regular season.
But with the playoffs being a different animal, the Oilers proved why they were the class of the Campbell Conference for much of the 1980s. Backstopped by Grant Fuhr in goal, Edmonton pushed Calgary to the limit once again before the Flames prevailed in seven games.
Joel Otto’s overtime goal in Game 7 sealed thevictory, but not before McDonald forced the extra session by scoring with 37 seconds left in regulation. The entire series featured tense, one-goal games filled with star power.
Having survived two straight seven-game thrillers, the Flames looked battle-tested heading to the Campbell Conference Finals.
Campbell Conference Finals vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago presented yet another difficult challenge for Calgary. The Blackhawks were led by Denis Savard’s 105-point season and a tenacious defensive corps featuring Dave Manson and Doug Wilson.
With both teams playing tight-checking, defensive hockey, each game was hard-fought and closely contested. The Flames eventually prevailed in five games to win the conference crown, punctuated by Al MacInnis’ winning goal in overtime of Game 4.
After three grueling playoff series, Calgary had finally reached their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history.
Stanley Cup Finals vs. Montreal Canadiens
A rematch of the 1986 Finals that Montreal won, Calgary looked for revenge against the Canadiens and their goalie Patrick Roy. But Montreal posed a stiff challenge, having won the Wales Conference title after finishing just two points behind the Flames in the regular season standings.
The Canadiens took the first game in overtime on Lanny McDonald’s goal. However, the Flames struck back and won the next two games in Montreal to take a 2-1 series lead.
After splitting the next two contests, the pivotal Game 6 saw McDonald score once again in a thrilling overtime win to move Calgary to the cusp of their first championship.
In Game 6, Doug Gilmour capped off an MVP playoff performance with the Cup-clinching goal midway through the third period. The Flames erupted in jubilation as they celebrated their come-from-behind series win over the Canadiens and long-awaited first Stanley Cup title.
1989 Stanley Cup Champions
Powered by McDonald’s playoff-leading 11 goals, Gilmour’s 22 postseason points, and Vernon’s rock-solid goaltending, the Flames overcame the odds to win three grueling seven-game series on their way to the Cup.
The roster was filled with talent, boasting seven future Hall of Famers: McDonald, Nieuwendyk, MacInnis, Robert Sutter, Brett Hull, Joe Mullen, and Al MacInnis. But in the end, their deep lineup and ability to win close games carried them to the summit.
McDonald ended his esteemed career by lifting the Cup as Flames captain, capping a storied career with his only NHL championship.
Here is a look at the full roster that brought Calgary its first and only Stanley Cup title:
|Lanny McDonald “C”|
Aftermath and Legacy
The 1989 championship remains the only Stanley Cup victory in Flames history. They returned to the Final in 2004 but fell in a hard-fought seven-game series to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was the beginning of a decline for the Flames. After a few more playoff seasons in the early 1990s, Calgary missed the postseason seven straight years from 1997 to 2003.
Former superstars like Iginla and Kiprusoff led a resurgence in the mid-2000s, but the Flames have won just a single playoff series since their 2004 Cup Final run.
As the years pass, that magical 1988-89 season means more and more to long-suffering Flames fans. It represents the lone bright spot in franchise history and the only time “Stanley Cup Champions” was engraved next to Calgary’s name.
Players like McDonald, Vernon, Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, and MacInnis have achieved legendary status in Calgary for their roles in delivering that memorable championship.
The 1989 Stanley Cup title remains the crown jewel of the Calgary Flames franchise. Their playoff run was filled with suspense, iconic moments, and performances that created legends in the hearts of Flames fans.
By winning three grueling series and defeating the dynastic Oilers and Canadiens, the Flames overcame all odds to reach the mountaintop in 1989.
It was a championship decades in the making and the realization of the ultimate dream for long-suffering fans in Calgary. Even though 30+ years have passed, the 1989 Flames live on as heroes who gave the city its first and only taste of Stanley Cup glory.