NASHVILLE, TN -- Since he joined the team in Minnesota on Sunday morning, Carter Bancks hasn't appeared to have stopped smiling.
I've never quit. I just kept pushing through it and it's really exciting (to be here). - Carter Bancks
"It's been a lot of fun these first two days. It's nice traveling on the jet last night, it's a little bit nicer than how we travel in the American League," he chuckled. "Getting two practices in has been great and I'm starting to feel better. I'm getting energized. I felt good in today's practice. We get treated extremely well here. They take care of us so well.
"It's been a great first two days for sure."
The 23 year-old forward was one of the seven players recalled from the Abbotsford Heat on Sunday and will likely suit up for his first NHL game this week. He isn't sure when he will hop into the lineup but head coach Bob Hartley stated that he wants to have the majority of players brought up to get into at least one game. Knowing that his NHL debut could come as early as tomorrow night has a whole flock of butterflies taking up residence in his stomach.
"I don't know when I'm going to play and I'm already nervous, coming out to practice and everything. There will nerves, a lot of excitement. I've worked my whole life for this opportunity and it hasn't always been the easiest way for me but it's definitely worth it. To come up here for this last week, it's already been a ton of fun, a ton of great experience and I'm just looking forward to the next five days."
Having several of his Heat teammates - and his Abbotsford linemate Akim Aliu - in the locker room has helped calm the nerves a bit for the gritty winger. He is seated beside Mark Cundari in the Flames locker room in Nashville and just off to his right are the likes of Aliu, Paul Byron, Max Reinhart and Roman Horak. He has also gotten to know a few of the veterans since signing a two-way deal with the club in 2011.
"It makes it a lot easier coming into the dressing room and seeing familiar faces, a lot of guys I've played with," he explained. "I've spent the last few summers in Calgary working out with Rich Hesketh. I've worked out with Cory Sarich for a few years now and some of the other guys who come in towards the end of the summer."
His recall comes after spending the last two years toiling away in the AHL, battling back from a nasty concussion that cost him several months in his rookie year with the Abbotsford Heat. He has spent a lot of time working through this injury, along with a few smaller ones that have cost him pockets of games over the last two seasons, to get to this point and being with the team today is the culmination of years of dedication to the game.
"It's tough every time you get injured but I feel like it's made me mentally stronger. I've had to learn how to play so that I can play more games in a season and not get injured; use my body and low center of gravity to a bit of advantage. I've been working on that with our coaches in Abbotsford a lot through the last two years.
"It definitely makes it rewarding after having to go through some tough injuries. I've never quit. I just kept pushing through it and it's really exciting (to be here)."
Flames general manager Jay Feaster characterized Bancks as the prototypical heart-and-soul player, a guy who epitomizes hard work, and praised the young forward for being able to work his way to up to this recall.
"He brings it every night," Feaster told CalgaryFlames.com while he kept an eye on practice in Nashville. "He's battled injuries over the last couple of years and even through that, he has always worked extremely hard.
"It's really exciting to see him develop ... we feel has has earned this opportunity."