Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs 1 at Calgary Flames 5 - February 14, 2012

After a day off to visit some friends here in Calgary, it was time for the first of two Maple Leaf games in Alberta. My friend Sharpy flew in on Monday night to join me for a week, which meant that we needed two tickets. I had been checking TicketMaster regularly but there were no pairs until a couple of days before the game, when two seats were released in the first row in one end zone. The tickets are ridiculously overpriced, but there are times when you have to take the plunge and damn the consequences (such as being left destitute). As you can see from the photos, these were pretty good seats. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the game.

Scotiabank Saddledome

The Saddledome is a unique venue among all sport. The name is no accident, the building is shaped like a saddle and adds a western flavour to the Calgary skyline. It was built in 1983 to replace the Stampede Corral (below), the Flames' home rink for their first three seasons in Calgary, as well as to host hockey and figure skating for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Along with the Flames, the venue hosts the WHL's Hitmen and the NLL's Roughnecks.

The Saddledome is located on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, one of the world's largest rodeos that is held every July. The easiest way to reach the venue is by using Calgary's LRT system, known as the C-Train. The Victoria Park/Stampede station is linked to the Saddledome via an enclosed pathway with posters for each past Stampede along the walls. It is really interesting to see the changes in the style of these posters over the years.

When you get to the main entrance of the rink, you will see the ticket windows and fan store. If you get there before the gates open, you can have something to eat at Dutton's Canadian Lounge, a sports bar underneath the main entrance; you'll need to have your ticket scanned in and out.

The arena has three levels of seating with the third level being called "Press Level" in an attempt to make it seem like sitting far away is actually cool. To be fair, the first three rows here are reasonable, but as you near the top, the scoreboard is obscured by the sloping roof and you might find yourself watching the game on a couple of large screens rather than the ice. Tickets here were $47 for the game I saw, and much higher for the lower levels.

There is only one concourse which gets rather crowded as game time nears, but with gates opening 90 minutes prior to the game, you can spend about an hour walking around before it gets too busy.

There are a number of displays on the walls commemorating Calgary's hockey history as well as the 1988 Olympic Games; take the time to read them as they are quite interesting.

There were a number of good food options here as well. My choice was the chicken breast wrap from Jugo Juice, reasonably priced at $7 and pleasing to the palate as well. I saw a few other specialty options, including Vietnamese Subs and Noodle Bowls at the Taste of Asia stand. There are also two restaurants above the second seating level on either side: the Saddleroom on the East and the Alumni Lounge on the west. I did see tickets for the Alumni Lounge available on TicketMaster but at $240 they are rather overpriced, even if food is unlimited.

The Flames have several banners on display, including the one commemorating their 1988-89 Stanley Cup championship. As well, Lanny McDonald's #9 and Mike Vernon's #30 have been retired.

Overall, the Saddledome is a great venue that has aged well over nearly 30 years. The staff are very friendly even to us visiting fans and with history on display throughout, it is more than just a hockey rink. I'd like to visit again and see a game that doesn't leave me despondent.

The Game

The Leafs lost 5-1. The difference was Miika Kiprusoff (above, note the retro 3rd jersey), who stopped 41 of 42 shots. It was 2-1 Flames after one, but when Calgary's Paul Byron scored on a penalty shot in the middle frame (below), it made the comeback that much more difficult.

Calgary added two late ones to complete the soul-crushing defeat. Really, do I need to recap the rest of this nightmare? No. Read it here if you wish, I'm going to cry quietly for a while. A few more pictures are below.

Olli Jokinen in the warmup, he scored the second Flames goal

Joffrey Lupul

Phil Kessel and Jarome Iginla (he scored the final goal)

Byron on the faceoff

The Leafs scored off this faceoff when Bozak banged home his own rebound

Tim Connolly

This was the scene I saw the most, Kiprusoff skating out of his net while the Flames fans celebrated a goal. Ugh.


During the intermissions, the Flames' ice girls clean the glass of any spray that may mar the view. A nice touch. The team also announces when there are three minutes left in the intermission to encourage fans to get back to their seats. Not that the fans needed much encouragement the way their team was playing.

Kiprusoff recorded his 301st career win. He used to compete with Vesa Toskala for the back up position in San Jose. Toronto ended up with Toskala. Sigh.

Next Up

I'm driving to Edmonton for tonight's Leafs-Oilers tilt. Yet again we have first row seats, but I'm so depressed that I don't care. Regardless, check back tomorrow for more on that one.



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