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Calgary for dummies

A quick look at the city and team at the other end of the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup.

STEVE SPEARS, St. Petersburg Times Online
Published May 24, 2004

Now that the Lightning has advanced to the Stanley Cup final, it's time to answer a burning question for hockey fans and other interested bystanders in sun-drenched Florida: Ummm, Calgary?

Chances are the average Tampa Bay resident knows less about Calgary than the town whose team lost to the Flames -- San Jose (at least we know the way to San Jose).

Here's a quick glance at Tampa Bay's new north-of-the-border rival:

Population: Calgary is the fifth largest Canadian city with about 1-million residents.

[Tourism Calgary photo]
A skyline view of Calgary, Alberta.

Location: In the foothills of Alberta's Rocky Mountains. Still lost? It's about 325 miles north of Helena, Montana. Timewise, the region is two hours behind America's East Coast. (Canada itself has six time zones.) The city is 3,740 feet above sea level. (Denver, the mile-high city, is 5,280 feet above sea level by comparison.)

Average temperature: About 56 degrees in June. That's about 20 degrees cooler than the inside of many Tampa Bay homes in June, when air conditioning is more important than food or water.

Pro sports: Other than the Flames, Calgary is home to the CFL's Stampeders, the Mustangs of the United Soccer League, the Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and the Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League. (And don't forget the city's broomball league.)

Why the Flames?: Actually, the organization kept the name when the team moved to Calgary from Atlanta in 1980. Why did Atlanta pick the name Flames? The name was the result of a contest and was chosen because of the historical significance of the Burning of Atlanta by Gen. Sherman during the Civil War. Calgary has played in two Stanley Cup finals, winning the cup in 1988-89.

Biggest attraction: The Calgary Stampede, held this year from July 9-18. A "celebration of cowboy culture," according to its promoters, the outdoor event features rodeos, concerts and races. From an international perspective, the city is probably best known as the home of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Getting there: If you wanted to drop in for Game 3 in Calgary, be prepared to fork over some major bucks. Airfare to Calgary for next weekend starts at about $1,000 and you'll have to change planes at least once. If you want to drive, the Pengrowth Saddledome is about 3,000 driving miles from St. Petersburg -- about 47 hours of straight road time, according to Yahoo Maps. But the bright side is that you get to see such wonders as Topeka, Lincoln, Pierre and Helena along the way.

Fast facts: Alberta is the only province in Canada with no sales tax ... Calgary is the country's youngest populated city -- the average age is 34 ... Since holding the Winter Games in 1988, Calgary hosts a Winter Festival every February ... The city and surrounding region experiences a winter phenomenon called a "Chinook" -- a warm, downslope wind that can develop in the Rocky Mountains after a cold spell and raise the temperature by 20 degrees in a matter of minutes.

Sources: worldclimate.com, City of Calgary, Government of Alberta, discovercalgary.com, Yahoo Maps, calgaryflames.com, Tourism Calgary.

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