Riser wiser than many

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:09 PM ET


 Having won four Stanley Cups as a player, Doug Risebrough thought he'd pretty much seen it all before the Flames claimed the 1989 crown.

 Then came the presentation of Lord Stanley's mug in the Montreal Forum.

 "I was shocked at how many of the Montreal Canadiens fans stayed to watch the Cup be presented to the visiting team," said Risebrough, then an assistant coach under Terry Crisp.

 "I asked people why it was and they said it was because they remembered in '86 how many Flames fans stayed to watch the Montreal Canadiens be presented with the Stanley Cup."

 Fifteen years later, the Flames finally have a chance to duplicate their 1989 Cup championship.

 Risebrough, who served with the Flames as a player, assistant coach, head coach and general manager, isn't glued to the TV following his former club's fortunes this spring.

 He is, however, smiling about it.

 "To me, it's always been a marketplace that deserved better than what it had up until the last couple of years," said Risebrough, now the president and GM of the Minnesota Wild. "It just took leadership. Darryl Sutter has done a heck of a job and it's good to see the enthusiasm for the game back.

 "You can look at some of the hard times that they've had but, at the end of the day, how many cities can say they went to the Stanley Cup final three times? How many can say they won it once and could win it twice? That's a pretty unique thing."

 And something he isn't surprised to see.

 Risebrough's Wild faced the Flames six times in the 2003-04 regular season. He had a pretty good read on the club well before the curtain rose on the playoffs more than six weeks ago.

 Plus, he's seen his own team go on a similar roll just a year ago.

 "I thought (the Flames) had that potential. All year, they played pretty well. They didn't win all the games but their confidence was building. What puts that confidence over to truly believing in themselves is that first win. That was a big factor with us last year," he said.

 "I think they were playing better than they were given credit for but there was always that doubt -- 'We've seen it before and they might blow apart.' Even when I was there, I was hearing trade rumours about (Jarome) Iginla and I was thinking, 'Are you nuts? This team is on a roll. Let it unfold because who knows how big it could be.'

 "You could see, if they got that confidence, they could do more than just get into the playoffs. I thought they were better than just a make-the-playoffs-team all year."

 The Flames are amazingly close to duplicating the feat achieved by a 1989 squad that was loaded with talent and expected to be a Cup contender throughout the season.

 "To me, the win of '89 is attached to '86," he said. "Eighty-six was the first time we went to the finals but lost. One of the problems in '86 that was solved in '89 was understanding what you have to lose and what you had to gain.

 "I felt in '86 the organization really didn't understand what it had to gain by winning the Stanley Cup. The team in '89 was a lot different. It was a lot of the same players who realized what they could lose. Ultimately, they didn't want it to happen again.

 "It was kind of like a voyage completed."

 Certainly not like he witnessed while being part of Canadiens squads that claimed four straight championships from 1976 through 1979.

 And something that made the title won with Calgary its own special feeling.

 "In Montreal, I just joined a group of people that did what they did then, won Cups. They won five straight in the '50s, four in the '60s and I was happy to be with them when they won four (straight) in the '70s. You just did that there.

 "Calgary was really starting over when I went to Calgary. There was a lot of changes and it was really rewarding. Montreal was always just getting to the end of the product but Calgary was about watching it really unfold."


Videos

Photos