Calgary

After months of planning, Flames fan pulls off 'perfect' proposal at Saddledome

When Sarah Dilling arrived at the Saddledome on Sept. 16, she thought her partner, Jill Keilty, had arranged a private tour for her birthday. But the real surprise came at centre ice: a marriage proposal.

Jill Keilty and Sarah Dilling are teachers in Calgary and huge Flames fans

Watch diehard Calgary Flames fans get engaged at the Saddledome

11 days ago
Duration 0:34
Jill Keilty told her partner, Sarah Dilling, she'd organized a private tour of the Saddledome for her birthday. It wasn't until Dilling got there she found out the real surprise: a proposal. Video courtesy of the Calgary Flames. Photo courtesy of Candice Ward.

When Sarah Dilling arrived at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sept. 16, she thought her partner, Jill Keilty, had arranged a private tour for her birthday.

They walked around the building, people around them were diligently working — on team business, Dilling thought — until they got to the tunnel used by Flames players to make their entrance onto the ice.

They walked out onto the red carpet, and Keilty handed Dilling her present: a pair of Matthew Tkachuk gloves.

"I said, 'Here's your gift and open it up,'" Keilty said in a Calgary Eyeopener interview. "And she grabbed the left glove and they cued the music properly, the box was in the glove."

Those employees around the building sprung into action. A videographer, photographer and sound crew went to work, cuing One Life by James Bay. Once she heard the song, Dilling said she finally clued into what was happening.

Jill Keilty, left, and Sarah Dilling celebrate their engagement at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sept. 16. (Candice Ward)

Keilty dropped to one knee, and popped the question.

"I just told her that with this ring I want the rest of the world to know now that you're taken, we're together," Keilty said.

Dilling says she doesn't even remember if she even said yes. She just knows she nodded vigorously and gave Keilty a big hug.

"I was completely surprised," Dilling said. "I was so emotional."

The couple are both high school phys-ed teachers in Calgary, but outside of work, they're diehard Flames fans, initially as individuals and then as a couple. 

"Obviously I wasn't the one planning it, but if she had told me her plan, I would have said, 'Yep, that makes a lot of sense. That's the perfect place to do it,'" Dilling said. 

"We have a lot of really positive emotions in and around that particular building and place in the city and with the team. And so it just made so much sense.… It's just a very special place to the both of us as a couple."

The proposal took about five months of planning, Keilty says. She hid the engagement ring in a birthday gift: a pair of Matthew Tkachuk gloves. The NHL star played six years in Calgary before recently being traded. (Candice Ward)

Of course, it took a little planning. Keilty says she first got in touch with the Flames organization to set up the proposal about five months ago. She wanted the proposal to happen on ice, so she had to wait for it to be set up. Then, a number of events were scheduled to take place at the building.

All of a sudden, on Sept. 13, she got the call.

"They said, 'Are you ready for Friday the 16th at 2:30 p.m.?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'm ready. I have everything ready,'" Keilty said.

Geordie Macleod, senior director of game presentation and events with Calgary Sports and Entertainment, said he only remembers four or five proposals happening at the Saddledome over his almost two decades with the team.

"We love our fans and always [try to] do whatever we can to thank them for their support. This was a very special situation, obviously, but we had enough time to find a way to make it work for them," he said in an email.


An Instagram-worthy marriage proposal at the Saddledome. We meet the happy couple.

For Keilty and Dilling, it will be a moment they always remember.

They're just starting to think about where and how they want to be married. The summer makes sense they said, and just maybe, some Flames jerseys do, too.

"We're open to it. That's to be determined," Dilling said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor Simmons

Digital associate producer

Taylor Simmons is a digital associate producer for CBC Calgary. She has a masters in journalism from Western University and has worked as a multiplatform reporter in newsrooms across Canada, including in St. John's and Toronto. You can reach her at taylor.simmons@cbc.ca.

With files from Loren McGinnis, Lisa Robinson

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