For 1970s-era NHL hockey fans who remember the eight-year adventure known as the Atlanta Flames, few are likely to forget Dan Bouchard. A tenacious, slightly eccentric and occasionally fight-prone French-Canadian goalie, “Bouch” was an immediate standout between the pipes for the NHL’s first-ever Deep South franchise (platooning with fellow Quebecois & expansion draftee Phil Myre during the club’s first five seasons) – and a survivor in a league where hard-nosed hockey was the norm and where good goalies were at a premium.
Bouchard’s big-league call-up to the Flames in 1972 came amidst a frantic period of NHL franchise expansion and relocation driven in large part by the arrival of the challenger World Hockey Association – which debuted alongside Atlanta (and the NY Islanders) that season.
And while the collective memory of the original Flames remains muddied by a woeful post-season record (reliably exiting the playoffs in the first round, despite qualifying six out of their eight seasons), as well as a then (and still?) persistent narrative of Southerners’ native distaste for ice hockey – Bouchard and Atlanta were actually more competitive and popular than many of the NHL’s other 1970s forays in places like Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, and Cleveland.
When Nelson Skalbania bought the Flames and moved them to Calgary in 1980, most in Atlanta and around the league assumed that the well-publicized financial struggles of the team and owner Tom Cousins (who also controlled the Omni arena and the NBA Hawks) were to blame.
But as Bouchard outlines in this revealing conversation, an explosive league-wide issue was festering behind the scenes – of which he was uniquely aware and determined to address – regardless of the potential consequences to his playing career.
Bouch walks us through an eye-opening story that wends its way through the defunct Quebec Nordiques (including the infamous “Good Friday Massacre” vs. the Montreal Canadiens in 1984), the original Winnipeg Jets, the scandalous downfall of a pro hockey Hall of Famer, and fighting for legendary player/coach Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion both on – and off – the ice.
Thank you VisitArizona.com for sponsoring this week’s episode!
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