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Calgarians reflect on 20 years since Flames’ playoff run sparked the rise of the Red Mile

Hockey fans will remember it well: the birth of the Red Mile during the Calgary Flames’ Stanley Cup run in 2004.

That season, the Flames weren’t even supposed to make the NHL playoffs, but they did, and the team just kept on winning.

It was a Cinderella story for the Flames that ignited fans in a way we have not seen since.

When the team knocked the Vancouver Canucks out in Round 1, a spontaneous party erupted in the streets of Calgary. Fans were so excited to see the underdogs take the win, that they filed out of bars along 17th Avenue Southwest in celebration.

The sea of red jerseys that could be seen on the street is how the Red Mile got its name. Those celebrations continued after subsequent games and grew to tens of thousands of people as the Flames battled against Detroit, San Jose, and finally Tampa Bay, against whom the Flames lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

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The Red Mile is one of those “where were you when” moments. If you were in Calgary during that cup run, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing.

Melrose Cafe and bar, which is no longer on 17th Avenue Southwest, was considered the “Heart of the Red Mile” in 2004. Owner Wayne Leong recalled that the energy was electric.

“It was organic,” he explained. “Nobody knew exactly how it would unfold. The energy was incredible.

“We brought TVs and put them outside on the patio … on the street, and it just organically grew one series after another. It was so exciting.”

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Shane Bycuik said he only went to the Red Mile twice. But he did have Flames season tickets and got to go to a number of the games at the Saddledome.

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During Game 6 of the final round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he snuck two small bottles of champagne into the arena.

“I was ready to pop the cork when we did win the Stanley Cup that night, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” Bycuik said.

He said he has kept them, waiting for the Flames to win a Stanley Cup to open them.

“I’m going to crack them when we win the cup eventually. Hopefully it’ll be in my lifetime. If not, I have two sons that can carry on that tradition.”

Shane Bycuik with the two champagne bottles he’s had since 2004, waiting for the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup before he opens them. COURTESY: Shane Bycuik

Fans might also remember a song that became an unofficial anthem of that 2004 cup run. Set to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” Brendon Sanguinetti wrote “In Da Dome,” with references in the lyrics to Flames stars Miikka Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla and Martin Gelinas bringing the cup home.

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Sanguinetti performed the song alongside Drew Allum under stage names “Don Getti” and “Drew Atlas.”

The two performed on the Red Mile, on TV, at Olympic Plaza during the party for the Flames after the season was over. They also even performed at the late Ken King’s house, who was the president of the Calgary Flames at the time.

“He had a big party, or a dinner, and he booked us to be the dinner music,” Sanguinetti said.

The fandom from 2004 extended all across the country. The CCM factory was making tens of thousands of jerseys a day and shipping them all across Canada. Car flags kept selling out the second they got in stock. Even then-prime minister Paul Martin, jumped on the bandwagon, calling the Flames “Canada’s team.”

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The legacy of that ’04 team lives on. You can still see “Red Mile” signs along 17th Avenue Southwest. Iginla and Kiprusoff’s jerseys now hang in the rafters at the Saddledome. Those jerseys will be moved to the Flames’ new arena once the ‘Dome comes down.

A photo taken in March 2024 during Miikka Kiprusoff’s jersey retirement night. Dallas Flexhaug/Global News

Fans are hoping a new arena will bring a fresh start and another cup run to their team, before another 20 years is up.

Allum said fans will be ready.

“Nothing has changed in terms of Calgary’s passion for their sports teams,” he explained. “So, I don’t know if you’ll have as iconic of a moment with one song (“In Da Dome”) encapsulating it, but as far as the energy from everybody in the town: 100 per cent.

“Come on, Flames.”

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