The Red Mile is the name given to a several-block stretch of 17th Avenue S.W. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada during the Calgary Flames 2004 Stanley Cup playoff run. It gained world wide notoriety both for the relative lack of violence while upwards of 80,000 fans celebrated their team's success, as well as for the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere as societal norms were routinely flouted, particularly by women flashing their breasts. The 'Red' originates from the home team colour of the Calgary Flames' jerseys, red, similarly characterized by the 'Sea of Red' seen at many home games in the Saddledome; 'Sea of Red' and 'C of Red' (for the Flames' flaming C) is a play on words.
2004 marked the first time the Flames qualified for the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs since 1996. The Red Mile's beginnings were relatively humble, and consisted of people driving down the Red Mile honking and waving flags, as people walked the streets cheering and clapping hands. Several thousand fans went to bars along 17th Avenue S.W. to watch the Flames on the road against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, and also to watch the team play at the nearby Pengrowth Saddledome for home games. When the Flames eliminated the Canucks in the seventh and deciding game by Martin Gelinas' overtime goal, fans flooded the streets in a relatively spontaneous party celebrating the Flames first playoff series victory since the 1989 Stanley Cup final against the Montreal Canadiens. The fact that this was spontaneous is a phenomenon in itself; there had been no advertising or other form of publicizing of 17th Avenue as an after-game party strip prior to the playoff run.
As the Flames progressed through the subsequent playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning, the popularity of the Red Mile continued to grow, and along with it the party atmosphere. By the time of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final against Tampa, the city was expecting over 100,000 people would flood the area if the Flames were to win the Cup. This, however, was not to be as the Lightning defeated the Flames, though many still believe that the Flames had won in Game Six when a shot was dragged out of the net by Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Red Mile's primary claim to fame was its relaxed attitude towards society's norms, as women bared their breasts to chants like "Flames in six, show us your tits" and "shirts off for Kiprusoff". The growing amount of nudity led to the creation of the controversial flamesgirls.com website that featured hundreds of photos of women flashing the crowd.
The website, and the growing number of revelers with cameras in hand intent only on snapping photos of topless women caused critics to condemn it as little more than the exploitation of women. This argument was supported when the producers of the Girls Gone Wild pornography series came to Calgary in the summer of 2005 looking for material for its series.
However, University of Calgary professor Mary Valentich argued that the nudity was the result of "a complex set of factors, including a desire to celebrate the Flames victories, a desire to break the rules, feelings of stardom and a sense of history, and that many women did not feel that their actions were sexual in nature, but rather a part of the party.
The city began closing off 17th Avenue S.W. to all vehicle traffic and enforcing strict parking laws from 15:30 to 00:00 every game day. The police presence included scores of police officers involved in keeping everything under control through patrols down the street, standing in lines along the street, forming circles of officers in intersections, officers on bicycles, a number of police cars, and the police helicopter, HAWC1.
Despite the police presence, there were very few incidents involving police. For example, someone witnessed a drunken fan carrying open alcohol get pushed into a group of police officers, however the police officers simply confiscated the alcohol and then sent the person on their way. The attitude of the police officers seems to discourage people from committing violent acts.
Some people even suggest a few officers have participated in some celebrations while on duty. To what extent is unknown, however it is common for fans to chat in a friendly manner with the police, and for officers to occasionally shout things such as "go Flames". It is unknown what the internal policies of the police service are on officers participating with fans.
The policy was first enforced during a regular season game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as dozens of officers patrolled the area between the Saddledome and 17th Avenue S.W. handing out nearly 500 tickets during their crackdown. Police justified the crackdown arguing that while there was a notable lack of violence in 2004, the potential remains high in such situations. The time and cost to police during was also a concern. As many as 300 officers patrolled the Red Mile, including the police helicopter, at a cost of over $1 million. The reason for the police presence was that the game was seen as a preview of the opening round of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs which featured Anaheim vs Calgary. The game was the final game of the regular season for both teams.
The police crackdown has divided the community, as many fans found it excessive and even oppressive. A protest rally was organized, though fewer than two dozen people actually attended.
Despite their attempts, police were unable to stop fans from overwhelming the street following the Flames 2–1 overtime victory in the first game of the 2006 playoffs, as over 10,000 fans packed the Red Mile. No major incidents were reported. However, following the Flames' game five victory, police reported that some of the estimated 18,000 fans on the mile were lighting firecrackers in the crowd, and had thrown bottles at officers. One officer suffered a cut, and 12 people were arrested for various offenses.
Following the Edmonton Oilers upset victory over the Red Wings in the first round of the 2006 playoffs, several thousand fans flocked to Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta. Local media labeled it the "Blue Mile" or the "Copper Kilometer", since it closely resembled the events which took place on the Red Mile. There were incidents of violence, including 2 stabbings in Edmonton. The Oilers success has similarly spawned a website similar to flamesgirls.com called The Blue Mile.
Unlike Calgary's Red Mile, Whyte Avenue in Edmonton gained national attention for its level of violence in May 2006; so much so that the mayor of Edmonton, Stephen Mandel threatened to close down the strip: "I hope this doesn't come down to having to shut down Whyte completely ... but this will not be tolerated going into the final series." . In the celebrations following the Oilers advancement into the Stanley Cup finals, 15 people were arrested after several windows were smashed and at least nine garbage fires were set.