By Mike Harrington
CALGARY, Alberta -- I watched the morning skates today like any other game day. I was in row 11 of the Saddledome. And then I realized where the water was.
A vicious flood struck Calgary and environs in June, displacing 75,000 people from their homes and becoming the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. And the water poured into the Saddledome -- all the way up to rows 9 and 10. Everything on the service level was destroyed. Locker rooms, jumbotron control room, kitchen, 1989 Stanley Cup champion memorabilia. Everything. The water was 9-12 feet high on the service level.
You could see today all the new walls, piping, ceiling tiles on that level. The dressing rooms have new wood lockers. But the famous mural of the 1989 Cup champions outside the Flames room -- signed by every player -- was among the irreplaceables lost. They have replaced the championship wall (right) but the old picture was the entire wall and autographed. Can't replace that. (Click on the pictures for a closer look).
Still, it was amazing to see the work and realize it was done in three months and the Flames didn't have to play in Saskatoon for a stretch like was rumored. Insurance covered much of the cost.
"It took me a little while to grasp it," Flames defenseman and ex-Sabre Chris Butler told me today. "I was in St. Louis and I have some friends up here texting me, 'Calgary is flooded.' You're thinking a foot of water on the street and everything is fine. Then you see pictures from up on the hills looking at the Saddledome and Stampede Park and you couldn't believe it.
"It was so sad because there was so much memorabilia on this level from that '89 team. You feel for those guys. Their stamp is on this city and to see a lot of that stuff get lost is heartbreaking. I never thought we'd be ready but it was unbelieveable the work those people put in to get back. The city took a lot of pride in it."
The Flames Web site put up an incredible gallery of photos from the damage. I used a couple in this post. You can see the rest here.