Wandering Flames

I remember when the Calgary Flames made the playoffs back in 2004, which was the first time they did in nearly a decade. They were up against the Vancouver Canucks, a formidable team that was placed third in the Western Conference of the NHL at the time. And man, the Flames pulled one out of thin air to win in overtime of game seven (the Canucks losing Dan Cloutier to injuries hurt their goaltending I think).

After that, the Flames proved dominant in the next two rounds, taking out the number one team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings; and the number three team, the San Jose Sharks.  

For the first time since the 88’-89’ season, they were on to the Stanley Cup finals, and it would be against the number two team in the league and the number one team in the Eastern Conference: the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This series was a tough one, but the Flames found themselves up by a game, leading 3-2 going into game 6. If they won that game, they would win the cup. I still remember that feeling as my family and I sat around the TV watching the games and having beer and wine for the first time, and also doing nothing at the church youth group I attended; instead, being asked by the church leader while he wore his Flames jersey, “God is good? God is good!” He usually held the bible open briefly while saying this, only to slam it and lead us to the T.V. in the pastor’s house.

During game 6, Martin Gelinas, the man that scored the series winning goal in the previous rounds, scored what looked to be another series winning goal in the third period. Nikolai Khabibulin, the Lightning goalie, made the save with his pads; however, he caught the puck in between his legs as he crouched down to save, and the camera caught what looked to be the puck crossing the goal line while he did this. Everybody thought the Flames won because of that goal; however, it was never formally reviewed, so was not considered a goal, much to everyone’s pleas.

Game 6 ended up going to double overtime, and with the Stanley Cup playoffs, there are no shoot-outs or tie game, it’s another 20-minute period after 20-minute period until the winner is decided by a goal.

In a couple quick minutes, Oleg Saprykin lost the puck in the Flames zone, and Martin St. Louis, a former Calgary Flame, snagged the puck and scored off the mistake in spectacular fashion. It was so disappointing; we were all pretty sad after that happened.

While being driven home by our youth group leader, we drove past a disheveled man with no shirt, a huge beard, and a very dirty complexion holding a sign and shouting and cheering. We started hooting and hollering for the flames, and the leader of our group started honking in excitement. But that sign was not in support of the Flames; instead, the sign said Tampa was going to take the cup, and for the Flames to fuck off. Our leader gave him the finger, and then lowered his window to tell him to “…kindly fuck off.” A great Christian example.

Since that time, I have met many Calgarians that still hold a candle to the loss, and claim to this day that the Flames were the real winners of the cup. I even held this in my mind right up until a few of years ago, that the Flames were the real winners of the Stanley Cup.

There are many things, many ideas, many loves that we cling to and hold in our hearts. Whether the thought of a sports team being unbeatable, a parental figure being invincible, or a leader staying true to their people and never doing any wrong. At times, when those things happen – those opposite thoughts – we run and hide, or we shout and fight against it. This, to me, is what happened when the Flames lost, and is partly why the fans in Calgary are the way they are.

I worked with this prep cook back back during my time as a cook, and he was from Toronto, the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He talked about the many games he went to and the excitement of the crowd as they watched the Leafs play, all despite not making the playoffs or winning many games. The games sounded really fun and exciting, a lot different from what I know.

When he spoke of his experience going to Flames games, he noted the lack of excitement, along with people sitting quietly in their seats as the Flames played. Only when the Flames scored or were winning did the crowd start to cheer and shout. He said the Flames fans were watching almost with an expectation for their team to win, and nothing else was worth cheering over, except for the odd fight.

It makes you think, don’t it? Is winning something that continues without end? After winning, is it imperative to continue to win endlessly to satisfy that feeling of success? I mean, are we to cheer and be happy only when our team is winning?

When I note how the UCP has responded to COVID-19 cases rising, to increases in deaths, and to the unfortune of Alberta, they seem to be clinging to a time that has long since passed, and for public self-responsibility.

The outcry from many business owners and libertarians in our province tell me that they haven’t been in the ruts of life for a long time. If you have been in the deep pit of life kicking you in the ass, then you would know that you can survive anything, even a shit lockdown.

Where there is a will, there is a way, and I think some people may of forgotten that lesson growing up. I definitely do every now and again, not to mention how easy it is to view events in our life with a “glass half empty” kind of vibe . But of course, the grief that envelopes us can be so hard to notice that embracing that grief, or to speak on it, can be so damn hard.

I think of the grief I felt when I became estranged from my brother. I remember the grief I experienced when I left my career and the people from that time behind. And I remember the grief when I lost someone I truly cared for and loved.

Grief is a tough pill to swallow, and perhaps there should be more of an embracing of grief, a show of understanding and compassion when people act out of anger. A chance to hold space and hear them out. I also think it is important to reflect and remember that we have overcome so much. I have gone through some rough patches in my life that showed me that I can get through most anything.

When I was younger (or even as recent as a couple years ago), I had days where I lived with a dollar or so in my bank account and had to go out and survive for weeks with nothing more than that. I remember not having a job for a couple months, or rather, not having a home to sleep in when I first arrived in Lethbridge with some friends when I was 18. That was rough, but we got by somehow. Some methods were reliant on friends and others, and a couple methods were questionable at best (a story worth sharing someday), but we found that will to keep going and to push through. My parents, while I was growing up, had to make many changes and sacrificed a lot to survive.

I can’t imagine how other people find a way to get by and push through that are less-fortunate then I, but a lot of the anger and frustration I see are from business owners and entrepreneurs, not the downtrodden and less fortunate. I really can’t put that down, nor can anyone for that matter, but as the saying goes, “mo’ money, mo’problems.”

Before I continue, I am not saying to those individuals with money that they don’t matter, or their problems don’t matter. I think there is more to the outcry than, “I need to live!” I think what is being shouted is, “I want to be heard!”

Property taxes, leases, and personal expenses must be taking up a large chunk of a business owners’ revenue, especially when said revenue is getting smaller and smaller. But something has to give, and I think that needs to stem from municipalities, which can provide some relief to their leases and their overhead. Not to mention landlords need to stop insisting on more money and increased leases when now is not the time to do so.

Without these protections or changes to help out these owners, I think they will continue to fight like there is no tomorrow, and continually think that they can only cheer when they are winning in life.

But you see, if you are happy with who you are, if you find solace with your life and what you are doing, with no real need to compare, why must winning matter? If we can’t acknowledge our loses and deal with the grief at hand, then how can we grow?

The Calgary Flames lost in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, and nothing can change that. And the Flames are still a worthy hockey team, and they are our team. My team.

Do we only love the people we care for when they are at their best? Love doesn’t understand that, and I think with continued growth of who we are, we ought to look deep within and see that any of these things that we chase don’t really matter, except our thoughts and compassion for ourselves, and a compassion for those around us.

Being a part of a community means to care and share compassion for your neighbour, and to listen and hear them when they are suffering. I will never pick sides as I don’t see it that way, but I will say that everyone is suffering in one way or another, and what makes us human is the ability to share and be compassionate, to listen and understand in one another. Let’s not lose our humanity trying to win a Stanley Cup.

Will the cup truly make your life better? Or will it distract you from what needs greater attention?

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