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 Flames arrived in Calgary in 1980 after relocating from Atlanta, and won their first and only Stanley Cup championship in 1989.
When Did the Calgary Flames Win the Stanley Cup?
The Calgary Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in 1989. This was the franchise’s 10th season in Calgary after relocating from Atlanta.
The Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals to capture the championship. The deciding Game 6 took place on May 25, 1989 at the Montreal Forum. Flames left wing Doug Gilmour scored the Cup-clinching goal and Lanny McDonald, in his final NHL game before retirement, got to hoist the Stanley Cup. Al MacInnis was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the 1989 playoffs.
The Flames’ Playoff Run
The 1988-89 season was a magical one for the Calgary Flames. They finished with a solid 54-17-9 record for 117 points, second most in the league behind the Montreal Canadiens. In the Smythe Division semifinals, the Flames defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Goaltender Mike Vernon was excellent, posting a 1.84 goals against average.
In the Smythe Division finals, Calgary vanquished Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings 4-0. They continued their dominance in the Campbell Conference finals by sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. This set up a Stanley Cup showdown with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens had won the Presidents’ Trophy with a 53-18-9 record and league-best 115 points. But the Flames proved to be too much for Montreal, defeating the Habs in six games to capture the Stanley Cup. Calgary won three close games by scores of 3-2, 4-2 and 3-2 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. After dropping Game 5 in overtime, the Flames closed out the series with a 4-2 win in Montreal.
Key Players on the 1989 Championship Team
The 1989 Calgary Flames were loaded with talent. Here are some of the key players who helped lead Calgary to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title:
- Lanny McDonald, RW – The veteran leader scored 66 points in the regular season and added 16 more in the playoffs. His iconic mustache made him a fan favorite. At age 36, the 1989 playoffs were the final games of McDonald’s distinguished 16-year career.
- Joe Nieuwendyk, C – In just his second NHL season, Nieuwendyk led the Flames with 51 goals and 92 points. He added 11 goals and 22 points in the playoffs on the way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP the following year.
- Al MacInnis, D – The Hall of Fame defenseman scored 74 points from the blue line in the regular season. MacInnis led all playoff scorers with 31 points and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP.
- Mike Vernon, G – Vernon posted a solid 2.65 goals against average during the regular season along with four shutouts. In the playoffs he was even better, with a 2.26 GAA and two shutouts.
- Doug Gilmour, LW – Gilmour had a breakout season in 1988-89, scoring 85 points in the regular season and adding 11 goals and 22 points in the playoffs. He scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6.
- Theoren Fleury, RW – Only in his second NHL season, the feisty Fleury scored 34 goals and added 35 assists for 69 points in the regular season. He added 8 goals and 12 assists in the playoffs.
This core group of talented players helped lead the Flames to the most successful season in franchise history in 1988-89. The team finished the regular season with 117 points, then went 16-6 in the playoffs to capture Calgary’s first and only championship.
Aftermath of the 1989 Stanley Cup Win
Winning the Stanley Cup in 1989 was the high point for the Calgary Flames in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, they were unable to recapture that magic in subsequent seasons. Here is a quick overview of the Flames’ playoff fortunes in the years after their 1989 title:
- 1989-90 – Lost in Smythe Division Semifinals to Los Angeles Kings
- 1990-91 – Defeated by Edmonton Oilers in Smythe Division Semifinals
- 1991-92 – Lost to Oilers in Smythe Division Semifinals
- 1993-94 – Lost to Vancouver Canucks in Pacific Division Semifinals
- 1994-95 – Lost to San Jose Sharks in Pacific Division Quarterfinals
- 1995-96 – Defeated by Chicago Blackhawks in Pacific Division Quarterfinals
As the above shows, the Flames had trouble getting out of the early playoff rounds in the seasons following their Stanley Cup victory, including several disappointing first round exits.
After their championship season, the Flames posted good regular seasons in 1989-90 (99 points) and 1990-91 (100 points). But they could not translate that regular season success into deep playoff runs. Calgary was bounced in either the first or second round of the playoffs each season until finally missing the postseason entirely in 1997.
Where Are They Now?
It has been over 30 years since the Calgary Flames raised the Stanley Cup in 1989. Here is a look at where some of the key members of that championship team are now:
- Lanny McDonald – After retiring following the 1989 playoffs, McDonald dabbled in broadcasting and business ventures. He served as Chairman of the Board for the Calgary Flames from 2009 to 2019.
- Joe Nieuwendyk – He played in the NHL until 2006 with four different teams. Nieuwendyk then became the GM of the Dallas Stars and later an advisor with the Carolina Hurricanes.
- Al MacInnis – MacInnis played in the NHL until 2003, mostly with the St. Louis Blues. His blistering slap shot made him one of the game’s top defensemen. MacInnis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Mike Vernon – Remained the Flames starting goalie until 1994 when he was traded to Detroit. Vernon went on to backstop the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title in 1997. He retired in 2002 and had his jersey retired by the Flames in 2007.
- Doug Gilmour – Played in the NHL until 2003. Was captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for five seasons during which he was one of the league’s leading scorers. Gilmour finished his career with 1,414 points.
- Theoren Fleury – Fleury remained with the Flames until 1999, scoring over 30 goals six times. He later played for the Avalanche, Rangers and Blackhawks before retiring in 2003 with 1,088 career points.
Most of the key members of the 1989 championship team went on to have long, successful NHL careers after helping the Flames win their first Stanley Cup title. Several had their jersey numbers retired by the Flames organization.
The Calgary Flames’ first and only Stanley Cup championship came in 1989, when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the finals. Led by players like Lanny McDonald, Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Vernon, the Flames went 16-6 in the 1989 playoffs to capture the title.
After years of playoff disappointments both before and after 1989, this breakthrough championship remains the high point in franchise history. The 1989 Stanley Cup win is still celebrated by Flames fans as the team continues to try and capture that magic again over 30 years later. Key members of the 1989 championship team like MacInnis, McDonald and Vernon are still franchise icons today.