Keeping the good times going: Flames feels the love of town during a record-breaking 10-game winning streak

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There’s something special about playing in a Canadian hockey market when things are going well, as they were for the Calgary Flames.

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Fans can tell you how many saves Jacob Markstrom made who had the big block in the third period (probably Chris Tanev) who passed the puck to Matthew Tkachuk who passed it to Johnny Gaudreau who made Elias Lindholm the game winner.

But on non-game days — like Tuesday — when players are going about their business, stocking up on their SUVs, taking their kids to daycare or school, getting groceries, picking up food, walking their dogs, they can safely report that no one is there City treats them differently. This is despite being the hottest team in the National Hockey League, ten straight winners, poised to make franchise history and looking like Stanley Cup contenders.

“Nobody asks me anything on the street,” reported Flames defender Nikita Zadorov, dryly taking his response to the team’s community/fan love these days. “Definitely not for me. We just come to the rink, we practice, we get better, and we get in the game and pretty much kick our ass. That’s all we do. Then you go home, sleep, relax and spend time with your family. So it doesn’t concern me.”

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Zadorov has played in quite a few hockey crazy markets. Buffalo. Colorado. Chicago.

He had a 10-game heat with the Avalanche during the 2017-18 season from December 29 to January 22 – “which was fun until it ended,” Zadorov pointed out.

Any player will tell you that life is so much easier when a team is hot. It’s more fun to get to the rink. The sun shines a little brighter. The food tastes better.

But Zadorov explained that Calgary fans respect the players’ space when they see them out and about.

Doze off. A punch. Maybe a picture.

“I think Canada is more relaxed on that side (of the country),” Zadorov said. “Guys, they know who you are but they don’t bug you like in America, they would come right up to you or say something. So here it is different. People definitely recognize you but don’t want to take the time and understand that you just had a practice or a game. They don’t want to bother you. That’s where they differ.”

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Tyler Toffoli, who meets Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 15, 2022, says it's hard to go unnoticed in Calgary when he's with
Tyler Toffoli, who meets Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 15, 2022, says it’s hard to go unnoticed in Calgary when he’s with “big man,” teammate Milan Lucic , together is. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /mail media

The exception, according to Tyler Toffoli, is when he’s dating “big man” Milan Lucic.

“Then it’s hard to go unnoticed,” said the Flames’ newest member with a grin.

Truth be told, Toffoli hasn’t been out much since arriving after the trade a week ago – “It’s a bit cold” – so the 29-year-old is still maintaining some anonymity.

But right now there’s a certain feeling inside and outside of the Scotiabank Saddledome. One that’s unlike the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens.

“It’s buzzing and during games on the rink everyone’s excited and we’re just trying to keep winning games and we’re just trying to have fun,” Toffoli said.

The feeling of “having fun” applies to most levels of sport, even to the highest level of ice hockey.

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No doubt it’s probably “fun” to lead the Pacific Division with a 30-13-6 record.

But according to Flames defender Oliver Kylington, it’s always “fun” to play in this city – win or lose.

“I love Calgary,” he said. “It’s a great city. They are big hockey fans. You are passionate. I try not to immerse myself in the noise outside or think about it too much. I think we have a good vibe in our dressing room and we have fun and we try not to think too much about what other people think.

“We just want to bring our game every night and have fun and play hockey.”

Johnny Gaudreau, who celebrates with teammate Matthew after scoring against the St. Louis Blues at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 24, 2022, says fan support for the Flames has always been there — through the ups and downs.
Johnny Gaudreau, who celebrates with teammate Matthew after scoring against the St. Louis Blues at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 24, 2022, says fan support for the Flames has always been there — through the ups and downs. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /mail media

There has never been a run like this in recent years. At least not one that boasts such a dominant front line, contributions throughout the line-up, a heavy focus on structure, rock-solid defence, superb goalkeeping and a ridiculous goal difference (the Flames have surpassed in the last 10 games). their opponents 42-15).

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Even the 2016/17 edition of the group, the last time the team went on a 10-game winning streak under then-head coach Glen Gulutzan, didn’t look as strong.

But Gaudreau insists fan support has always been there — through the ups and downs.

“I think it’s the same,” said the 28-year-old winger, who has basically played with the Calgary Flames since the end of the 2013-14 season. “I’ve been lucky in my eight years here. The fans had a lot of fun in the community, at Starbucks and cinemas and so on. They are always super polite, that’s why I like to play here. Now we play well and they are the same.

“It was great.”

Flames head coach Darryl Sutter is also the master at keeping his teams level-headed and while deserved praise has been given, the resident whipcracker has kept them on track.

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So if you see one of the players on 17th Avenue, have dinner at Major Tom’s, shop for groceries at Blush Lane, or shop at the Chinook Mall, they’ll likely accept your well wishes, too — but they just don’t know it over yet because they won their last 10 games.

This group admits they have a lot of hockey to play this campaign (33 regular-season games to be exact), including Thursday’s clash in Vancouver (8pm, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet 960 The Fan), that ended their seven homestead games.

“You can feel the hustle and bustle of the city and you can feel how excited people are,” Tanev added. “Hopefully we can take that energy and emotion that the people of the city have and allow that to flow into our game and keep winning the track here. There’s still plenty of hockey to come and two and a half months until you can make the playoffs.

“We’ve got a lot of games to win before that’s even possible, but … it’s our job to continue that and create that excitement for people.”

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