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Giddyup, partner

Calgary Stampeders part-owner John Forzani, left, looks on as Flames president Ken King tosses the...

Calgary Stampeders part-owner John Forzani, left, looks on as Flames president Ken King tosses the pigskin at McMahon Stadium Wednesday, March 2, 2005. King announced yesterday the Flames bought a 5% stake in the Stamps. (Calgary Sun/Mike Drew)

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

It's been a year and a half since Ken King opened negotiations to try buying the Calgary Stampeders.

It's been a month and a half since he finally reached his goal, albeit in minority fashion.

Yesterday, with the NHL season dead and buried, King and the Stamps elected to finally announce the formal partnership they inked in January when the club was saved from Michael Feterik.

It was then King ended months of meetings with his good pal John Forzani by grabbing a 5% stake in a soon-to-be-revamped football club that had nothing to do with the Flames for decades.

What should have been the most natural of relationships had previously been ravaged by egos and agendas that had many Stamps employees believing the Flames were somehow enemies.

However, with one miniscule investment by a conglomerate of Calgary's richest sports fans (a.k.a. the Flames owners), the hockey club has now ensured several obvious synergies between the two clubs will finally be realized after years of neglect.

For King, the timing was right.

"I talked to Michael (Feterik) 14 to 16 months ago but we just couldn't make a connection," said King, who was wise not to overpay or partner up with Feterik in any way.

"These guys have done an awesome job. Hey, this is the business we're in and this is the perfect entry point. It's the beginning of an important business relationship -- we're going to go slow."

The first physical sign of the partnership came in the form of the Flames recently sending over their accountant to format the Stamps' financial statements.

Since then, several former Flames employees have applied to work for the Stamps on a full-time or part-time basis, which will be at the discretion of president Ted Hellard.

While the Flames' minority share is small in terms of boardroom decisions, the formal association opens the door for the Flames to bring their expertise, marketing and sales experience to a club that has long looked to upgrade infrastructure.

Former Stamps president Mark McLoughlin points out that includes an archaic ticketing system.

"The Flames will hopefully bring their technology to ticket management because it hasn't changed since the '70s and '80s," said McLoughlin, who introduced King and Feterik for their first round of meetings in 2003.

"With that, you can start to do a lot with the technology and start to understand who your customers are and how they can best be served."

It's all being done, as Forzani keeps hammering home, to help put a better product on the field -- a goal the previous owner lost sight of through his incessant meddling.

It's a goal the Flames can help with as the Stamps look to increase revenues and shave expenses to help pay for the inflated price they dished to Feterik.

Hellard warned yesterday no one should jump to any conclusions regarding the Stamps plans to work with the Flames but what's clear is the possibilities are endless given the hockey club's resources.

It could open up joint sponsorship deals, advertising campaigns, ticket packages, reciprocal autograph signings or signage at each other's stadiums.

The organizations can even work together to avoid scheduling conflicts for games, press conferences, concerts or any other event held at either of their venues. Perhaps most importantly, the Flames can help the Stamps improve on the deal that provides fans with the worst concession food in Canada.

The arrangement between the Stamps and Flames marks the first time a CFL and NHL team have joined forces to some degree.

As owners of the Hitmen and landlords for the Roughnecks, the Flames obviously know a thing or two about sports properties.

And yesterday's announcement proved once and for all, the Stamps' rapid transfer from punchline to legitimacy is complete.


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