SUN Hockey Pool

Night was truly electric

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Troy Williams showed up on Electric Avenue about three hours before the opening faceoff and still couldn't find a seat.

At least he could see the big-screen, though. His buddy, who wasn't quite as early, listened to the action on a radio in a jam-packed staircase at the same downtown hot-spot.

"He never saw a minute of it," Williams said. "But he still had a good time."

Long before the Red Mile, Calgary was famous for Electric Avenue, a strip of nightclubs and pubs along 11th Ave. SW that included -- at one time or another -- watering holes such as Banditos, Coconut Joe's, Fox and Firkin, Moonshiners and Three Cheers.

On May 25, 1989, with the Flames trying to finish off the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final series, then-22-year-old Williams made a beeline for the popular strip and finally made it through the front door at a three-storey club known as Electric Avenue.

"I couldn't get into a couple of the other ones. They were full by mid-afternoon," Williams said. "I got into (Electric Avenue), and I still couldn't get a seat, so I sat on the dance floor on the third floor and watched the game.

"You couldn't get any more people in there. Well beyond the fire code, I'm sure."

There's no telling how many patrons jammed into the bars to watch the Flames clinch the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, but it's been estimated 25,000 fans flooded onto the streets in the aftermath of the NHL club's 4-2 victory.

Flames season-ticket holder Don Poruchny, now 55, wasn't downtown the night the team finished off their championship run but celebrated several other victories with his buddies on Electric Avenue.

"I remember us ordering a bottle of Dom Perignon one night when Calgary won," he said. "For us, that was a big thing -- ordering a bottle of champagne ... That was stepping out."

Electric Avenue was also a hub of activity during the Flames' first trip to the Cup finals in 1986 and when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in '88.

Concerned about escalating violence and having so many nightspots in such close quarters, the city implemented restrictions on Electric Avenue in the early '90s, and eventually the revellers found new places to party.

The building where he watched the Flames win the '89 Cup now houses a fitness club, but Williams will never forget the scene that night.

"It was just pure wall-to-wall people," Williams said. "It was just spontaneous -- just going out in the street, jumping around, yelling and screaming ... You high-fived for six blocks of people. It was great."

It was no match for the mayhem of Electric Ave., but the 20,062 fans that could fit into the Saddledome proved they, too, were willing to whoop it up during the squad's magical playoff run.

Jim West, who purchased Flames tickets after moving from Edmonton in '85, could sense the hunger among the fan base. The original Sea of Red can also be traced back to when the Flames were still searching for their first title.

"The Saddledome was rocking," West said. "There was kind of an electricity. When they would lose, there were a lot of tears and when they would win, there was a lot of joy. It was quite a ride."

Poruchny purchased his season seats when the squad still made its home at the Corral and recalls being treated to some heated battles as the Flames and Oilers jockeyed for Smythe Division supremacy.

He has fond memories of 1989.

"It was pretty incredible," he said. "The intensity was unbelievable."


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