It's a team I always grew up idolizing and cheering for and then to be able to walk in there was really neat. Getting to play a couple of games last year was a really cool experience. It's been a ton of fun, it's been a dream come true. - Carter Bancks
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The day is March 26, 2010 and Carter Bancks is putting on an Abbotsford Heat jersey for the first time. Little did he know, four years later, that he'd be proudly donning the red, black and silver and he couldn't be happier he is.
Bancks' roots in Calgary run deep. He was born there, his parents both come from there and most of his extended family still lives in Calgary. Those roots only descended deeper the day he got that phone call to join his favourite childhood team's organization. That phone call is something that he never would've imagined could happen.
"When you're twenty and you're kind of sitting there," he explained, "you don't have any NHL deals on the table and you're trying as hard as you can to give it everything you can in your last month, we weren't going to make the playoffs. That was pretty evident. We didn't have a very good year in Lethbridge. You kind of get a little bit worried, you're getting calls from universities, which is a great route to go also, but when I got the call [from the Flames] I was thrilled.
"I got to stay in BC and come to Abbotsford, Calgary's organization. I was ecstatic. I got to come out here and play at the end of that year, I think I got in nine games at the end of the regular season and got to play in the playoff run. That was huge for me. It showed me what the league was about, what I needed to work on. That was one of the biggest points in my career."
It would be difficult to put into words what it'd be like playing in the organization of the team you grew up cheering for as a child. However, the 24-year-old spark plug summed it up in one word: incredible.
"It's kind of funny how it worked out. There's thirty teams I could've gone to, right? Being able to go through training camps up in Calgary in the past - my first training camp up there I remember Jarome Iginla was there. He's been one of my favourite players my whole life and just getting to walk into the dressing room is a pretty cool experience.
"It's a team I always grew up idolizing and cheering for and then to be able to walk in there was really neat. Getting to play a couple of games last year was a really cool experience. It's been a ton of fun, it's been a dream come true."
One of Bancks' earliest childhood memories of his Calgary Flames' is joining in on the Red Mile during the 2004 Stanley Cup run - something that he admittedly will never forget.
"When Calgary was on their Cup run, I went down. I was young. I think I was only thirteen. We went into Calgary to watch the game at my cousin's place, then we all went down to the Red Mile. That was a pretty cool experience. Everyone was chanting. It was packed down there. That was something I'll remember for a long time - just the whole city coming together. It was very cool to be a part of."
As the second longest serving player in franchise history (behind Chris Breen), the Marysville, BC native has seen the roster change around him year-in and year-out, yet he remains a constant.
"I've had a lot of fun here. I've loved playing here. I'm happy to be here. Every year I've been here I've had a great time. The group of guys we've had in that locker room has been incredible every year.
"Last year we were older, but we had a lot of really good people. It was a lot of fun. My second year here, our little playoff run, it was a ton fun. Then this year, just with how well we've been playing and how we're pushing to stay atop of the division with Grand Rapids and Texas, it's been fun … These guys bring a whole new energy to the rink. Everyone's eager and keen to be here and it's kind of brought that out in a lot of us, the older guys as well."
Bancks' leadership has defined him his whole career. He's worn a letter over his heart more often than not. That didn't change when he turned pro.
Now in his fourth professional season, he continues to sport an 'A' on his jersey. But Bancks' leadership doesn't start and end on the ice. In a year filled with youthful inexperience, he's willing to share any advice that will help his rookie teammates.
"It's kind of fun too because I'm 24 years old now, this is my fourth year. I've been here quite a while and can lend some help and support to guys and help them through their first year. It's been a lot of fun in that sense taking on a little bit of a leadership and mentor role and just helping guys along in life as much as you can."
Nobody knows what the future will hold for feisty, undrafted winger, but in the meantime, Bancks will do what he's done his whole life - represent the Flames organization with pride.