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Treliving happy Engelland gets to go home after being selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

CHICAGO - To wise guys and snake eyes and the unmistakable clink of ice in cocktail glasses.

To opulence and neon and the seductive lure of the The Strip.

Las Vegas is also home to Deryk Engelland.

Professionally, again, as well as personally now.

In that often uneasy balance between workplace and home base, Engelland has hit the proverbial jackpot.

"I'm really happy for him, quite frankly,'' confessed Flames' GM Brad Treliving, bidding farewell to the 35-year-old after three seasons at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"(Vegas) is home to him.

"Part of you is sad that you lose a great teammate, a solid pro, but knowing he's going back 'home' and that he'll be with his family every day …

"Deryk loved his time in Calgary. He'd be the first to tell you that. The coaches, his teammates.

"But this is a real good fit, a tremendous opportunity, for he and his family."

Wednesday, the Las Vegas Golden Knights made the 35-year-old defenceman their selection from the Flames list of available expansion-draft players. He is set to become a UFA on July 1.

The Engelland-Glitter Gulch connection is a long-standing one.

The Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robot D-man met wife Melissa in Vegas during his season and a half - 2003 through 2005 - spent toiling in hockey's (then) outer reaches, on behalf of the Glen Gulutzan-run ECHL Wranglers.

It's gone down into folklore of how Melissa worked as a cocktail waitress and modelled to help raise the $1,500 a month her hockey-playing hubby needed to hire a personal trainer in pursuit of his dream. Of how the sacrifice paid off when he finally cracked the NHL after a nomadic six seasons through the minor leagues before three years ago hitting the jackpot on a three-year, $8.75-million dollar free agent deal in Calgary.

Video: Deryk talks about his time with the Flames and more

While dad spent his winters north at work, Melissa and the couple's young son Cash stayed at the family home in Vegas.

"I'm sure there were times the absence weighed on him,'' admitted Treliving. "When he'd have a little time, he'd go back to see them. Or they'd often fly into Calgary.

"But it's far from … ideal.

"Family comes above all. We in this business are all away from our families enough, do more than our share of travelling, there's enough separation, it's enough of a pull on anybody."

During his Calgary stay, Engelland settled in to the role of a reliable, if limited, third-pair defenceman. He had all the frills of BLT sandwich but in a Rocky Balboa beat-the-odds sort of persona he found a niche on a team that reached the playoffs in two of his three seasons on patrol (How on Earth can you not take a shine to a guy who admits: "I think the moment I sit back and tell myself 'Gee, I've made it' is probably the moment I'll find myself on my way out"). 

"He fulfilled all the things we were expecting and hoping for,'' said Treliving. "I think people would say, comparing when Deryk first came to town to his last year, that his contribution grew and grew.

"You need people like Deryk Engelland as part of a team. You really do. A real blue-collar guy. A great example to the younger players of how to train, how to conduct yourself.

"He had a strong voice, a strong presence, in our room. Those are important, often overlooked qualities.

"I think he'd tell you he grew as a player, as leader, as a person while he was in Calgary.

"We wish him all the best.

"Vegas got a good man."


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