By Dan Leahul
Six years after the Calgary Flames’ Cinderella playoff run united the city in a sea of red sweaters along 17 Ave, an energy still reverberates throughout Calgary when October rolls around, because for Flames fans, this year could finally be the “one.”
The Flames kick-off the 2010 season on the road against their bitter, and frequently bested, rivals to the North, the Edmonton Oilers. Last season the Flames won all six games against Edmonton and will no doubt look to keep that streak alive.
While the boys are away from the comfortable confines of the Saddledome, Where Calgary sought out the best five pubs to catch the season opener on October 7. So saddle up to the bar and get ready to ride the sea of red.
Best All-around: Flames Central (219 – 8 Ave SW)
150 flat screen TVs spread across three floors, with theatre-style seating in the “virtual arena,” which boasts a larger-than-life HD projection screen. The venue itself is a feast for the eyes, while two 30-foot bars and a menu that goes beyond usual pub grub, with dishes like the Flames Chili, featuring Alberta ground beef simmered with tomatoes, onions, kidney beans and chili spice. Co-owned by the Flames Hockey Club itself, it is the spot to catch Flames’ action. Reservations are recommended.
Best Location: Melrose Café & Bar (730 – 17 Ave SW)
If the weather’s right, this huge lounge is heaving by late afternoon and stays packed all night. On game night, come early and wear red; you’ll be hard pressed to find someone not wearing the Flaming C in the crowd. And its location is smack dab in the middle of the action on 17 Ave—the self-proclaimed “Heart of the Red Mile.” Melrose boasts three bars across three floors with large screen TVs wherever the eye may wander. The menu is substantial and offers great platters for sharing with friends.
Best Newcomer: Hudsons (201 – 5 St SW)
“Canada’s pub,” Hudson’s Canadian Tap House oozes with good hockey vibes and is packed to the rafters when the Flames play. Thirty-four flat screen TVs adorn the walls and 25¢ wings are offered during the first period of play. Flames swag and game tickets are raffled off on game days and the pub boasts two exclusive Big Rock beers, Beaver Tail Ale and Lumberjack Lager.
Best Beer: Bottlescrew Bill’s (140 – 10 Ave SW)
This cozy pub is the nerve centre for Calgary’s discerning beer drinkers, with over 200 brews from the far corners of the earth, including India, China and mainland Europe. Better than average grub from Buzzard’s Kitchen is also served until 1:30 am and there are Flames tickets giveaways on game nights. Pick up a passport and take the “Around the World in 80 Beers” challenge. For the adventurous, prairie oysters (calf testicles) are also on the menu.
Best atmosphere: The Unicorn (304 – 8 Ave SW)
Located downstairs on Stephen Avenue, Calgary’s “original pub” has a relaxed atmosphere, but comes alive when the Flames play. Serves its own in-house beer, Twisted Horn, and has 17 more brews on tap; plenty of choice to wash down some of the city’s most fiery hot wings—try the “suicidal” wings if you’re feeling brave, although mild and medium are also offered. Wednesdays are wing nights. The large projection TV means you’ll never miss a moment of the action.