Strip almost 'Red Avenue'

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Mel Risdon isn't much of a hockey fan.

Fact is, the JACK FM radio personality couldn't tell a crosscheck from a crossover.

However, in the spring of 2004, when close to 100,000 Calgarians convened on 17 Ave. S.W. for nightly celebrations of the Flames playoff run, Risdon gave the city something for which it is now known across North America -- The Red Mile.

While everyone in the city started talking about the tremendous outpouring of support with which the 'Dome's Sea of Red migrated west to the heart of the city's wining and dining district, Risdon opened the phone lines one afternoon in search of a name for party central.

"Nobody said Red Mile," she recalls.

"I heard Kiprusoff Way or Iggy Lane, then someone suggested Flaming Mile or Red Avenue. That night I looked at it all, put the two together and figured it sounded good.

"The next day people voted on Red Mile or Red Avenue and that day it was unofficially renamed Red Mile. From there, it kind of took on a life of its own."

Having started with the massive overflow of fans who showed up at the ever-popular Melrose Cafe sports bar, the number of fans grew on the quaint strip with every win. People from all over the city who drove to 17 Ave. to wave their car flags, honk their horns and soak up the team's shocking success were soon turned away as police barred vehicles from the 10- to 15-block stretch.

It gave birth to a Stampede-style celebration that remained remarkably controlled despite rampant flashing from young female Flames fans who gave rise to the internationally known flamesgirls.com, which is now defunct.

Eventually christened The Red Mile by Mayor Dave Bronconnier, the celebration drew praise from the players, police, shopkeepers and city officials who reported very few incidents of violence or vandalism.

Just good old-fashioned revelry.

Recalled Flames winger Matthew Lombardi: "I was never there but a couple of my buddies flew to Calgary and were out having a good time -- they saw some pretty crazy stuff but, at the same time, there weren't many problems down there. People were just having fun."

Lombardi watched the partying from afar as he was sidelined with a concussion most of the playoffs.

"When I went home to Montreal that summer," he said, "everyone was talking about the Red Mile -- everyone knew about it."

All thanks to Risdon and a refreshingly joyous attitude by Calgary hockey fans.


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