Adrian Aucoin’s phones – both the cellular the land line – went into overtime on June 21. That was the day the Calgary Flames made their first big move of the off-season, acquiring the veteran Aucoin from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Between receiving calls from players and making calls, mostly to Calgary media, Aucoin could have developed cauliflower ear from all the talking.
“I talked to a couple of the guys. Jarome (Iginla) called. Oddly enough a lot of guys who called me had played in Calgary before and they were pretty excited for me because they just loved it here,” recalled Aucoin who entered January with six goals and 15 assists in 39 games with the Flames.
Handed a list of anxious media – television, radio, print, Internet – by the Flames public relations staff, Aucoin touched base with everyone. And those he missed, he either called back or left his cell number in a message for a callback. That’s something that doesn’t happen everyday – a player leaving contact information for the dreaded media. But Aucoin has always been a stand-up guy and if coming to Calgary meant he had to make some phone calls and do a bunch of interviews, he was into it. Adrian Aucoin video highlights
Adrian Aucoin on the power of a slap shot
After all, Chicago had become a bit of a hockey wasteland as the team entered a rebuilding phase. The hype, even in an Original Six city, just wasn’t there. The team was well down the sports pecking order in the Windy City.
“It wasn’t as much as I thought it was going to be,” said Aucoin, who was captain of the Hawks during his two seasons there. “I think there is a lot of pride in the team but because of the struggles the team has had, it really wasn’t as much a microscope as I was hoping.
“When you go to a team like that you expect (the team) to be the centre of attention. You want the accountability of being there and working hard. I think we did that but there wasn’t much hype around us and in turn, that probably put a damper on things for us in the time I was there.”
So, coming to Calgary in a trade is pretty much everything Aucoin, who turned 34 in July, was looking for. You want centre of attention. You got it. You want accountability. You got it. You want to be placed under a microscope? You got it.
Heck, early in the Flames season, there were those dissecting Aucoin’s game with a fine tooth comb and wondering whether or not he could return to form after struggling through injuries in Chicago for two seasons where he managed to play just 92 games. Not a problem for the outgoing, and sometimes downright chatty, Aucoin. That’s the kind of atmosphere he thrives on and fully expected when he came to Calgary. Aucoin lived in Calgary once before, between 1992 and 1994 when he was a member of Canada’s national team.
The Ottawa native was drafted by Vancouver in 1992 out of Boston University but needed some seasoning before joining the pro ranks and the national team provided just that. “It was outstanding,” he said of his stint with the national team, which included a trip to the Olympics in 1994 in Norway. “I was just a young buck on the team. We pretty much just traveled throughout the world and played wherever there was hockey.
“We saw a lot of Canadians in smaller cities (on cross-country tours) where they don’t always get a chance to see that level of hockey. At the age I was, it was easy for me. Getting a chance to play in the Olympics was a feather in the cap because it was two tough years of traveling prior to that.”
Essentially, during his first station in Calgary, the city served a hub and place to swap clothes out of his suitcase and get ready for the next Team Canada trip. But there was still time to feel the hockey pulse of the city and, of course, enjoy some of the finer recreation points on the Rocky Mountains.
“It was great being in Calgary. We’d get days off and go into The Rockies and go fishing and things like that. As everyone knows, there are lots of attractions around here so I was more than thrilled to come back here,” said Aucoin.
Has he noticed and changes?
“It’s a completely different city,” said Aucoin. “The people are the same, which is great. And the neighbourhoods are the same, except they have expanded a bit. It’s nice to come to a place that I am a little familiar with.”
Aucoin is known as player who can log a lot of minutes, play special teams, has a very hard shot, can play physical and, of course, brings leadership qualities to the table.
He’s also proving to be versatile – he has played with Robyn Regehr, David Hale and Dion Phaneuf on the Flames blueline this season.
Still, with all the talent on the Flames blueline -- Calgary also acquired Cory Sarich
and Anders Eriksson in the off-season – it has taken some time for the group to gel. That’s to be expected, said Aucoin, adding that the Flames d-group has the depth and talent to be one of the best in the league.
“Our depth. I think all the guys can play. There are no weak links. We have seven guys capable of playing in every situation.”
Aucoin might have a slight advantage – he played for current Flames head coach Mike Keenan when Keenan was the bench boss in Vancouver in 1998-99. That season Aucoin scored a career-high 23 goals, many of them blistering slap shots from the point.
“(Flames training camp) was the best ever because nobody asked about my game. It was easy. I came to the rink and answered questions about the coach,” laughed Aucoin.
But seriously, how serious is Keenan? “He is very calculated. He knows what he wants and when he wants it. He goes about things in different ways. He is one of those guys who wants you to do what he tells you to do. I think guys realize that. There isn’t a question mark of people not knowing what he wants.”
Aucoin, too, knew what he wanted when he came to Calgary. He wanted to play on a competitive team, a team considered by many to be a Stanley Cup contender.
“It’s such and easy group here. It’s a competitive group on the ice. You are going to fit in no matter what. You show up. Your work hard and put a smile on your face,” said Aucoin, a veteran of 10 NHL seasons.
And yes, Aucoin is smiling about being under the microscope once again.
“As a player it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing or who is watching, you are still going to play hard. But being somewhere where you are being watched every minute of every game, it’s just that much more exciting.”