Where does the Theo Fleury trade (flame) rank all time?
In terms of the magnitude and emotional burden around it. He was the heart and soul of the flames, Fleury was the trademark name of the franchise and most well known name in Calgary, having spent every season of his career with team. Lets not forget how the Fleury trade went down.
In his final season (98-99) with calgary, Theo was easily a top 5 player in the league at the time. He was an elite superstar, at the absolute top of his game. With his value being at an all time high, flames couldnt resign him for the big dollars so off he went to Colorado. Also in his final season, he broke the flames record surpassing Al MacInnis as highest scoring flame of all time and also cracked 800pts that season. I remember that year, this city was just on pins and needless worried if we can resign him.
At the time of the trade, I have to say it was one of the few trades that absolutely shook the entire city and all Fleury fans. It was devastating to flames fans. I would rank it up there with the Gretzky trade forsure.
sadly, the fleury trade wasn't all that big a deal for its time (the era between brian mulroney's term to the second lockout). coffey, gretzky, messier, fuhr, anderson, tikkanen, lowe, hawerchuk (then later housley too), selanne, gilmour, vernon, nieuwendyk... all the way up to ryan smyth. wow, typing that made me sad.
i do get that fleury had a very special relationship with calgary and its fans. actually, it's one of the reasons i consider him a borderline HHOFer-- because unlike the ciccarellis and the gartners, his career actually meant something, he left an indelible mark where he played, and that should count for something in a hall of fame. but that being said, i think in the grand scheme of things the fleury trade was closer to dale hawerchuk than patrick roy.
I remember it being something that was in the works all season. Or so it seemed. Fleury was free agent at the end of the year. He loved Calgary but that was such a dead end franchise at that time and there was no hope for the future either. I almost assumed it was happening and would have been surprised had it not.
A headline in the Hockey News had a picture of Theo with the title "Will he stay or will he go". When I saw that, I casually said he'd leave. I guess I just wasn't surprised at all. No small market team was keeping their star players in 1999. They couldn't afford them.
The magnitude of it is totally overblown by the OP. I remember when it happened and yes there was an outpouring of sadness. Was it sadness because it was Fleury in particular? I don't think so. In retrospect a lot of people thought "Good riddance."
Anyone who actually expected the Flames to retain Fleury as a free agent was kidding themselves. Everyone grounded in reality knew it was a foregone conclusion he would be traded for something. The fact that he was a free agent at the end of the season and it was a foregone conclusion he'd leave meant that the trade offers to the Flames were pretty mediocre. I remember a lot of talk about a potential deal with San Jose centred around Jeff Friesen (who was then a well-respected prospect), but the Sharks wouldn't part with him.
It didn't "shake the city to it's core". Please, get real. This was nowhere near the scale of the Gretzky trade. Everyone knew it was coming.
Emotionally it signified more than anything that without some sort of financial mechanism to support the smaller Canadian teams the Flames were probably going to relocate. It signified that the Flames, through a revenue deficit outside of their control, would for the foreseeable future not be competitive. Fleury was the last Flame from the 1989 Cup team, the last vestige of an extremely competitive team, and the trade to Colorado was the last nail in the coffin in the hopes of having a competitive team again.
one other factor behind the fleury trade's impact is that it was considered to be a last straw. mullen, gilmour, suter, vernon, macinnis, nieuwendyk, roberts... now even fleury? he was the last guy from the powerhouse, and he was their franchise player. i think the cumulative disillusionment of all of the earlier trades helped to make the fleury trade seem like a bigger deal at the time than it seems now in retrospect.
it felt like the end of competitive hockey in calgary, and really 90s pro sports economics ushering in the end of competitive hockey in all of the canadian markets except toronto and maybe montreal and vancouver.