Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary

Today’s date marks the birth of the Calgary Flames, which joined the NHL on June 24, 1980, after Albertan interests acquired the Atlanta Flames franchise.

In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a 25-cent silver coin featuring the Calgary Flames. The coin had a weight of 4.4 grams and a 23.9-mm diameter.

In 2014, the Mint issued an NHL coin and stamp gift set featuring the Calgary Flames. Included in the set was pop-up packaging incorporating both the Calgary Flames coin and two commemorative stamps. With a limited mintage of 6,000, the painted cupronickel coin featured a coloured team logo captured within the NHL shield on a frosted background. A set was issued for each of Canada’s seven NHL teams.

With a limited mintage of 6,000, this painted cupro-nickel coin featuring the Flames was stuck by the Mint in 2014.

With a limited mintage of 6,000, this painted cupro-nickel coin featuring the Flames was stuck by the Mint in 2014.

The next year, the Mint issued another coin featuring the Calgary Flames. The $10 silver coin was struck in 99.99 percent pure silver, with a diameter of 34 mm and a weight of 15.87 grams. The coloured reverse design features a stylized silhouette of a hockey player on a rink, along with the Calgary Flames logo coloured in the official team colours. The reverse is engraved with the word “CANADA”, the date “2015” and the face value of “10 DOLLARS”. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.

The Flames hockey club saw its beginnings during the NHL’s first pre-emptive strike against the upstart World Hockey Association (WHA).

In December 1971, the NHL quickly granted a team to Long Island – the New York Islanders – to keep the WHA’s New York Raiders out of the newly built Nassau Coliseum. To balance the schedule, the NHL awarded another team to an Atlanta-based group that owned the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, headed by prominent local real estate developer Tom Cousins.

Cousins named the team the Flames after a U.S. Civil War fire that nearly destroyed Atlanta.

Another coin – this one struck in silver with a $10 face value – was struck by the Mint in 2015.

Another coin – this one struck in silver with a $10 face value – was struck by the Mint in 2015.

Relatively successful early on, the Flames made the playoffs in six of eight seasons in Atlanta; however, the success didn’t carry over to the playoffs, as the Flames won only two post-season games during their time in Atlanta.

And despite the on-ice success, Atlanta ownership failed to secure the team’s finances. Longtime general manager Cliff Fletcher said Cousins’ initial projections made no consideration of the WHA. What’s more, the Flames had poor attendance and never signed a major TV contract.

In 1980, with Cousins experiencing considerable financial difficulty, the team was put up for sale. With few serious offers locally, Cousins welcomed an offer from Canadian entrepreneur and former Edmonton Oilers owner Nelson Skalbania.

Skalbania was fronting a group of Calgary businessmen, and after a last-ditch effort to keep the team in Atlanta fell short, Cousins sold the team to Skalbania for $16 million USD – a record for an NHL team at the time.

On May 21, 1980, Skalbania announced the team would move to Calgary. He chose to retain the Flames name, feeling it was a good fit for an oil town like Calgary, while a flaming “C” replaced the flaming “A” logo.

Skalbania sold his interest in 1981, and the Flames have been locally owned ever since.

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