There’s no denying the Kings’ fan-base has grown tremendously since they moved to Staples Center over a decade ago. For that segment of their followers, tonight’s game probably doesn’t mean much – other than a chance to continue the positive momentum they’ve shown over the last five games.
However, there once was a time when a game against the Flames was something that people would immediately circle when the NHL schedule was released. Back then, the two teams played in the same division. So, long before the Coyotes, Ducks and Sharks entered the Pacific Division, there was real hatred between the Kings and Flames.
While there’s been talk that the teams would be put back in the same division under a proposed realignment plan, nothing has been set in stone, nor is there a definite timetable of when that may take place.
More than twenty years ago though, there was plenty of animosity between the two clubs and it only intensified after the Wayne Gretzky trade in 1988 – because there will forever be one team the Flames hate more than the Kings and it’s the Edmonton Oilers. Hence, The Battle of Alberta games.
In Gretzky’s first post-season run as a member of the Kings, they downed the defending Stanley Cup champion Oilers in a thrilling 7-game series. Then came a second round match-up with the Flames. Calgary defeated LA and went on to win the Cup that year.
Now with a rivalry in full swing, and a playoff format that required them to play in their division during the first round, it was inevitable the two teams would meet up again for post-season action the following season. Like the year before, LA once again bounced the reigning Stanley Cup Champions from the playoffs, killing any thoughts the Flames had of a repeating.
However, perhaps the most memorable moment from that series was Mike Krushelnyski‘s goal in double overtime of Game 6.
You have to see it to believe it. Take a look – it’s one of those goals that will be replayed forever…
The Kings went on to win the Smythe Division in 1990-91 and then made their own run to the Cup Final in the spring of 1993 -where they had to bench starter Kelly Hrudey and use back-up Robb Stauber to beat the Flames in the first round.
All through that era, there were plenty of other memorable games vs the Flames too, usually filled with lots of penalties…and even some fines and suspensions too.
For example, in March 1991, Kings’ coach Tom Webster was suspended four games after an altercation with the Flames’ Doug Gilmour. But, he was just getting warmed up. The following season, Webster was suspended again – this time for 12 games (!), and fined $10,000 for throwing a stick at referee Kerry Fraser.
[Hear what Fraser had to say about that incident by clicking here to listen to his guest spot on the MayorsManor show.]
There was also plenty of animosity between the players back then too. Long before there was ever a Sean Avery, there was the original pest – a diminutive man in height, but with a heart and drive like no other. Theo Fleury was the guy who everybody loved to hate. And then hate some more.
Former Kings players still talk about their battles with the Flames ‘back in the day.’
So, perhaps if that realignment plan ever gets pushed through the rivalry will return, as the Kings and Flames would be back in the same division again.
For now, it’s just another two points in a 48-game shortened season.
And another chance for Darryl Sutter to beat his old club.
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