High-fives and chants echoed through the city’s 17th Avenue S.W. It was a united front as a sea of red threads worn by thousands of Calgarians created an electric atmosphere.

Flames fans throughout the city and across the country came together in 2004 to experience the Red Mile — a celebration that has come and gone but hasn’t really been repeated since.

The Red Mile seems like an urban Calgary myth these days. The Calgarian tradition has been scarce over the last decade but the Flames are looking better than they have in years, but will fans be able to hit the Red Mile as they have once before?

Since I was about six at the time of the original Red Mile, I reached out to a ‘Calgary Flames Fans’ Facebook group to find people who could describe the sights and sounds of the Red Mile. I was overwhelmed with the volume of responses. Calgarians love to share their stories about this historic celebration.

“The Red Mile was the place to be before, during and after playoff games,” says Calgary Flames fan Khalil Kalaf. “Everyone was united win or loss! We celebrated together and we cried together.”

Arthur Dietrich says he moved from Lethbridge not long before the 2004 season.

“Those games were some of the greatest hockey I have ever seen. Then, the parties at the Red Mile afterward, it seemed like a two-month long party that seemed almost never-ending.”
FlamesNostalgiaNEWAs playoffs get closer, fans are getting a sense of nostalgia in Calgary and are excited to celebrate their team. Photo by Nathan Woolridge

One fan says she was working at Melrose on 17th Avenue S.W. during the celebrations. Sarah Dobson says, “Every night it was the place to be. After the games, we would all be allowed up on the roof and just witness the magnitude of what was going on … It was crazy!”

Dobson was overlooking 50,000 hockey fans that flocked to the avenue to celebrate the Flames’ Stanley Cup run.

History of the Mile

It was the first time that the Flames qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1996. The party grew after fans flooded 17th Avenue S.W. after winning the first round in 2004 against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Flames played both Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks. The Red Mile began to grow with each win. The party grew even larger once the Flames reached the Stanley Cup finals against Tampa Bay Lightning.

As the underdog, the Calgary Flames went all the way to the seventh game of the finals against the Lightning’s. Reports said the city was expecting more than 100,000 people to flood the mile after the game — but it wasn’t meant to be. The Flames lost game seven 2-1.

The Flames have made playoffs a few times since the 2004 Cup run, but haven’t made it past the second round since.

After a regular season game in 2006, Calgary Police was given some insight as to what the Red Mile would look like — they limited and shut down parts of 17th Avenue and created a zero-tolerance policy on jaywalking, public intoxication and public nudity. That season, the Flames made playoffs again, but were eliminated in the first round.

Red Mile revival

This season could see the closest thing to a Red Mile revival. After having a record-breaking year, fans are looking forward to celebrating their team.

But, fans may not have the chance. There is construction scheduled to begin on 17th Avenue starting in April around the same time that playoffs will commence.

The city says that the construction plans are trying to take into account large celebrations that could affect businesses. Events like the Stampede and a possible Flames’ Stanley Cup run are noted as events that could interfere with construction scheduling.

This is something that has fans — who have either attended before or fans like myself who have never attended the Red Mile — asking where playoff celebrations will take place.

Little information has been available about what will happen to 17th Avenue. Playoffs are getting closer every day, which begs the question if fans will be high-fiving and chanting on the avenue with tens of thousands of other fans or if they will be sitting in their homes in front of their televisions.

Well, road work was expected to start back up on the avenue around mid-April, but earlier this week it was announced that construction will be suspended until the completion of the Flames’ Stanley Cup run.

Editor: Rayane Sabbagh | rsabbagh@cjournal.ca

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