NHL Countdown, Calgary

The 2011/2012 NHL season is a big one for Calgary Flames fans. Big like the last three have been, in that this is the year many questions will be answered. Namely, will the Flames get to the playoffs and restore 17th Ave. to its glorious Red Mile days, or disgrace our city by somehow finishing with a worse record than the Leafs? (Not possible — right?) Either way, you’re going to want to jump on the bandwagon early this year and take in at least a few games at the ’Dome. When you can’t get to the arena, sit down for a cold one at these Flames-fanatical pubs.

Flames Central
The obvious first choice, this Calgary Flames nightspot is the team’s only officially licensed hangout. Starting Oct. 8 for the season opener against the Pens, the former Palace Nightclub or Palace (Allen) Theatre (depending how far back you go) will top up with die-hard fans, team alumni, local celebrities and even the players’ wives and girlfriends, for each and every game. Get in early, get recognized and, on the off-chance we bring home the Cup this year, maybe you’ll be drinking out of Lord Stanley’s skull as Iggy snaps a pic. 219 8 Ave. S.W.

Melrose
The “Heart of the Red Mile” as it’s known, Melrose’s open patio and two-floor barroom was likely where the now legendary playoff party strip got its initial spark of inspiration during the ’04 Cup run (and the bar is likely in the background of 85 per cent of the local topless photos now plastered on the web, which future parents may come to regret). With an attractive staff, tons of flat screens, and drink specials every night the Flames play, Melrose always scores. 730 17 Ave. S.W.

Schanks Athletic Club
Not just a great place to watch the game, but somewhere to get involved in intense “sporting” rivalries of your own, Schanks is a massive indoor playground as much as it is a bar. With mini-golf, arcade games, 10-pin bowling and off-track betting on the ponies, the Athletic Club is the perfect place to plan your next fan party or corporate event. They also host an awesome video golf league during the winter, which gives even more incentive to catch the games there. 103 Crowfoot Terrace N.W., 9627 MacLeod Tr. S.

The Garage
Do not overlook this spot just because it sits in the once thriving (but now less frequented) Eau Claire Market; The Garage is still one of the best sports pubs in Calgary. The place has a laid-back billiard hall atmosphere and an extensive import beer and wine menu. It’s a solid location to meet some of the talented businesswomen of the downtown core on game night. #195, 200 Barclay Pl. S.W.

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Image courtesy of Vlastula
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