Standing in the sleepy bustle of the clubhouse lobby at County Hills early Thursday morning, Brad Treliving had a confession to make.
"I got up this morning,'' reported the general manager, somewhat sheepishly, awaiting his tee-off time at the Flames Celebrity Charity Golf Classic, "and suddenly I thought to myself: 'Geez, you know, I don't think I have a pair of golf shoes …'
"Then I remembered I got some last year at this tournament."
He looked down and wiggled his feet.
"Just shows you how much golf I play.
"Straight out of the box."
A busy off-season, finalizing deals, re-signing players, stockpiling talent, kept Treliving extremely busy, leaving precious little time for Titelist 3 hunting off in dense underbrush somewhere.
Starting now, the blueprint begins to take shape.
"We're ready to go,'' announced Treliving. "Everything seems to go quickly, rush by, until the last three or four days, when it seems to crawl.
"The group's been here the last few days, skating, did their testing (Wednesday). I know we're starting early but it's always a kind of statement to me when we have a lot of guys here in the city early.
"It shows they're eager to get going. Which is what you want to see."
Things really start rolling Tuesday early afternoon with a 14-hour flight to China for the O.R.G. NHL China Games, Sept. 15 and 19 pre-season dates against the Boston Bruins, in Shenzhen and Beijing, respectively.
"We've talked about this before but the unique thing is that in a normal camp, you've got 60-odd players,'' said Treliving. "For us, the opportunity to get the lion's share of our core group together right away gives us a competitive advantage.
"There are going to be players staying here in Calgary but they shouldn't feel that they've got no chance. I've already told our young guys: 'Brock Boeser didn't go to China with Vancouver last year. He stayed here. And he wound up having a pretty good year.'
"So we don't think, by any stretch of the imagination, that our evaluation is already done. Still, getting a large portion of the group together early is important, especially with the changes in personnel and with the coaching staff.
"I think it's coming at a really good time for us."
While in China, the team will do a bit of a sightseeing, such as a trip to the Great Wall during the stop in Beijing, but the emphasis is on preparation.
Solid starts to seasons are paramount in today's NHL.
"As much as it's going to be a great experience, it's not a vacation,'' stressed Treliving. "Four practices, two games, one pre-game skate.
"That's important work.
"And it's Priority No. 1.
"The next priority is getting back and getting ourselves up to speed as quickly as possible. We land in Calgary in the middle of the night (on Sept. 19) and then have six games in nine nights."
Those players included in the China junket will receive two full days off, per CBA rules, and are due back to camp on the 22nd.
"We've already put together a schedule on re-integrating them,'' says Treliving. "Ryan (Van Asten, strength and conditioning coach) and our sports science people have worked all summer devising a nutrition plan, when to sleep on the plane and when not to, when to eat. All that sort of thing."
Assistant coach Martin Gelinas and director of team operations Sean O'Brien have served as guinea pigs of a sort following their fact-finding trip to China earlier in the summer.
"What we've noticed,'' said Treliving, "and it's not real rocket science, is that once you're back and get those initial couple days to recover, it's imperative the guys get active as soon as possible.
"A 14-hour flight and a 14-hour time change … it's certainly something new for me. I've been to Europe a hundred times but this, this is new in my experience and a lot of other people's too, I'm sure.
"It'll be interesting.
"We're all looking forward to getting there and getting things started."