Flames not yet sold on concept
By Vicki Hall
November 12, 2009
CALGARY – Cheerleaders in hockey are considered an American phenomenon, like tailgating in football or the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game in baseball.
Looking for ways to enhance the experience for the ticket-buying public, the Calgary Flames investigated the idea of a cheer team this fall, even holding an audition for young women with dancing experience.
The NHL franchise retained the services of Dana Murphy, the longtime choreographer for the Calgary Roughnecks Drill Crew, of the National Lacrosse League.
“They just want to take baby steps,” Murphy said Wednesday. “I think it’s more like in-stands, sideline stuff with the goal of getting on the ice eventually.”
A tentative game plan called for the dance team to debut later this month at games for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. Murphy said it would be a trial run, of sorts, to see how the crowd took to the idea.
But Ken King, president of both the Flames and Hitmen, is not sold on the idea.
“In my view, cheerleaders are not the kind of thing that goes with Canadian hockey,” King said Wednesday. “I think we have a very serious team and a great fan base.”
King said he has not received a proposal from his staff suggesting the creation of a cheer team. His entertainment department is simply exploring all options.
The president would have to sign off for the cheerleaders to perform at Hitmen or Flames games.
“I’ve always said this is a pure hockey market,” King said.
“A pure hockey market by my definition — and I think I coined the phrase, pure hockey market–is respect for the game, understanding of the game and appreciation. It’s about the hockey.
“What I care about is making sure we have the best hockey product on the ice.”
The Flames raised some eyebrows back in 2003 by unveiling the Fire and Ice Girls, who sweep snow with shovels during stoppages in play. The girls–all of them fit and extremely attractive–wear skimpy outfits that display bare midriffs.
The Fire and Ice Girls also help with in-house promotions and contests at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
But the idea of a dance team takes the concept to a new level.
About 25 young women between the ages of 18 and 26 attended the September audition, with the vast majority of them having formal dance training.
Murphy has studied dance–including ballet, jazz and hip-hop– since she was a little girl. Upon graduation from high school, she joined the Calgary Stampeders Outriders cheerleading team.
From there, she helped found the Drill Crew more than eight years ago.
“They’re as important to us as the team itself,” said general manager Brad Banister. “They’re just so involved with charity and the entire Calgary community.”
The Drill Crew professional dance team is comprised of 16 to 18 female dancers that perform at all Roughnecks home games.
“We have our own fan base,” Murphy said. “We’re part of the entertainment.”
Murphy is extremely dedicated to her craft, and she sincerely hopes old-school hockey fans can keep an open mind about what may seem a novel concept.
“Obviously it’s a new thing,” she said, “but promoting healthy, talented girls is not going to be the end of the world.”