I was flattered when Tony Spolitini invited me to speak at the annual Spolumbo’s Italian Sportsmen’s charity dinner and was very much looking forward to it. What I didn’t figure on was the amazing playoff run of The Flames - and I never dreamed I would end up with four great seats to all the playoff games! I promised my sons we’d go to all the games together - which would be special enough for any family, but when you consider how many occasions I had no choice but to miss out on with my kids when I was on the road wrestling for twenty four straight years, making the playoffs a family priority goes a long way towards making up for lost time. When I explained to Tony that I couldn’t let my sons down - again, and I had to pull out of the dinner at the last minute, he was nothing but the class act that he always is, fully understanding that this one time I had to put my kids first. Needless to say, I apologize to Tony and whoever missed me. I owe Tony a favor and look forward to making good on my promise next year.
It’s been almost two years since I was immobilized in the hospital after suffering my stroke when Jarome Iginla dropped by for a surprise visit. With all the countless times I’ve stopped in to visit patients, it meant more to me than Jarome and the Flames probably realize to have their support. Jarome gave me a Flames jersey on which he wrote Our team is thinking of you. Since then I’ve been blessed with a pretty darn good recovery and I’ve been wearing the jersey that Jarome gave me to each and every playoff game. I even wear it while I’m watching the games on TV! And now it’s me who is thinking of the whole team! I can’t lay claim to being any kind of a hockey expert like so many of my colleagues at the Sun are but just like everyone else here’s my take on where the Flames are going to go from here.
It’s not so much that any one player is playing great, so much as the entire team working and pulling together. There’s so much that I can say about how well Iginla has been playing but beyond that there’s a confidence and a true sense of leadership that clearly is lighting the way for the rest of the team.
Defensively I’ve felt that Regehr and the boys have done a superb job of keeping their composure. I’ve been especially impressed with Ference’s calm precision in and around his own end. The entire defense has made life considerably easier for Kiprusoff, who never ceases to amaze me. It’s a darn shame that Dennis Gauthier hasn’t been out there much this playoff run because of his knee injury. His presence is sorely missed, no doubt he would have rang quite a few bells by this time!
I’m so happy for Dave Lowry, whose leadership has also lifted the team. I have this vision in my head of Dave skating around the Saddledome hoisting up the cup much the same as Lanny McDonald did back in 1989. The way Lowry’s been laying out the bone crunching hits he must be trying to make up for Gauthier being on the sidelines!
When you talk about leadership it’s hard not to recognize the stand out job that Stephen Yelle has done all year and especially through the playoffs. Clearly the genius behind Coach Sutter’s late season additions Nieminen, Simon and Nilson have helped making getting this far a reality. Donovan, Clarke, Syprykin and of course Gelinas are all playing with an intensity that I believe is unstoppable!
As one of the biggest Flames fans I just want to congratulate Ken King and Darryl Sutter for a super effort all season long. The sea of red is only gonna get bigger and I boldly predict we're not only going to win but also fervent Flames fans will be the deciding factor in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Calgary.