I am not sure how I feel about what I am about to write. On the one hand, I am not a fan of the Flames having long ago pledged my allegiance to the Edmonton Oilers. I give a little fist pump every time the Flames lose a hockey game. Why should I put pen to paper to help the team?
On the other hand, I enjoy hockey and I enjoy going to the games. A stroll to the rink means putting in some time at the Saddledome by virtue of my living in Cowtown. As a game pack holder, I was putting out big dollars to watch eight games a year while gorging on fried foods and beer that left me feeling fried. Although I opted to forego renewing my seats for the upcoming season, I will still attend 4-6 games over the course of the season. I have an interest in making my time at the rink enjoyable. With that said, I propose that the Flames embrace Calgary’s heritage and create a unique and exciting fan experience.
What pops into your head when you think about Calgary? For many people it is the Calgary Stampede. The Stampede is our annual rodeo and exhibition which dates back to around 1912. Folks from around the world descend on Calgary in early July for 10 days of fun and mischief. The dust is blown off our Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots and we celebrate our proud western history. I even manage to stomach a Budweiser or four while watching the rodeo.
The Flames in turn have an annual Western Heritage night during the regular season in the midst of winter. Gone is the regular national anthem singer in favour of George Canyon or some fine Alberta cowboy. Gone from the PA system are the Foo Fighters, Nickelbacks and Motley Crue’s of the world in favour of Garth Brooks, Big & Rich and Paul Brant. The fans come to the barn dressed in their cowboy and cowgirl finest. In Calgary, country is tied to the Stampede and the Stampede is tied to having a lot of fun.
My suggestion is that the Flames make every home game a Western Heritage night. Every game will have a distinct country feel that aligns with the city’s history. Every game will be an excuse to put on your shit kickers and have a blast. For every fan who longs for the Stampede in July, there will be a little taste of it at the Saddledome throughout the winter.
The country theme will help the team as well. It is often said that there really isn’t much of a home ice advantage in the NHL anymore. The ice surfaces are all the same size, the boards are similar and the quality of the ice is as good in Miami as it is in Edmonton. Every rink plays the same crappy music between whistles with the same boring promotional material up on the big screen. They even let the away team wear the home white jersey! (don’t get me started on that) No wonder teams don’t mind going on the road.
Imagine instead that a team comes to Calgary and comes out on the ice to the blast of country music and the deafening din of cowbells. Imagine the full 60 minutes filled with sights and sounds that the opposition will not see elsewhere in the league. The fans would be up for a good time and the Flames would feed off of that energy. The opposing team would be like a fish out of water; exactly what home ice advantage should be all about.