Let’s get off to an honest start. You can’t really “hate” the Flames as an organisation. Of all the Canadian NHL teams, the Flames are the least unlikable. I’m not saying they are likeable, but their fanbase aren’t full of whiners like the Canucks, or the self-absorbed “loud cheering fans” of the Jets*.
Flames fans are pretty chill to be around as a Leafs fan, and that’s probably because of our recent shared history of little success. Our teams even have Lanny McDonald in common, and who doesn’t love Lanny! Oh, and, I guess there’s Dion Phaneuf in common between us too.
More importantly, the Flames have had their share of players that were hard to compete against, but you respected, like the incomparable Jarome Iginla. If anything, Leafs fans can feel a shared sense of the hopelessness and futility of being a fan of a middling franchise in the modern parity-driven 31-team NHL.
But then you remember they’re from Alberta.
Ah, Alberta. Canada’s embarrassing backwater that pretends the 1980’s never ended, and the world has not at all since drastically changed.
While I’m sure some parts are quite pleasant—the part with the dinosaur bones sounds cool—and they have a place called Vulcan—the cities are not pleasant. And Calgary is the worst of the two of them.
Calgarians love their façade of wild-west rule-breaking dynamism, but all that’s really underneath is a rebellious teenager having a temper tantrum and screaming “It’s not fair! You’re ruining my life!” at their mom and dad (Toronto and Montreal) when we have to lay down the law and enforce the rules of the modern world on them [insert bedroom door slam noise here]. They know we’re right, and that someday we’ll pay for them to go to the good university (one in Ontario, or maybe Dalhousie,) but, until then, we’ll tolerate their childish antics up to a point. After all, we remember what we got up to when we were kids back in the 60’s (the 1760’s).
And what is it with those antics? A bunch of overweight middle-aged office workers wearing ridiculous looking cowboy boots and hats for two weeks a year on their commute to work in a gigantic pickup truck from a generic traffic clogged and poorly planned suburban development to a half-empty office tower where they sit at their cubicle, read PPP, and resent Toronto? Perhaps it’s not teenage rebellion issue, but more of a perpetual mid-life crisis?
This might explain the new arena fiasco. The Saddledome is old. Several years ago the whole thing flooded. Not good.
Calgarians were presented with a proposal to pay for the privilege of building a new NHL arena in the City that someone else would own. The pitch was tailored to Calgarians perfectly. “Don’t you want something shiny, young and new to hang off your arm at parties?”
They actually said no. The Flames organisation, aghast at this unfathomable development, enacted Plan B, the only Plan B the NHL has: “relocation threats”. They even brought out Brian Burke to suggest it in the cowardly, plausibly deniable way. Calgarians laughed right in their face.
But then comes the twist. Even after they courageously turned down that first proposal, handing the NHL a big old slap in the face, about three years later they got suckered into a new proposal and just flat out rolled over and said yes, and now the city is slashing their municipal budget spending on everything else. They talked a big game, but, in the end, they caved to the rules the NHL set down on them [insert bedroom door slam noise here].
That brings us to Matthew Tkachuk and this coming season. The Leafs are going to play the Flames seven times in a shortened season, not the usual two times in an 82-game long slog of a season. We’ve been unexpectedly thrown together in the same house, and the Flames will need to be shown that the Leafs are the adults, and the team that will set the rules. Tkachuk is becoming the face of the Flames franchise (sorry, Johnny Hockey), and he is the embodiment of Calgary: a teenager that has tantrums when the adults of the house tell him what to do.
We’re going to have to lay down some discipline like the good hockey parents that we are. Wayne Simmonds will put the spoiled brat in his place for his own good before we move out of this season’s temporary shared accommodation.
In the end, The Flames are Tkachuk’s team, and that’s why we hate them [insert bedroom door slam noise here followed by stomping on the floor and screams of “I hate you Toronto!”].