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Bouma proud of pest role

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

More irritating than summer without sun. More aggravating than never-ending construction on the way to work or constant e-mail solicitations for bank account information on behalf of Nigerian royalty.

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Lance Bouma, pest-in-training for the Calgary Flames.

"He's super annoying out there," says fellow prospect Carter Bancks. "He'll do anything to get you off your game."

The gritty Bouma was captain of the Vancouver Giants last season, while Bancks, nephew of Calgary Stampeders vice-president Stan Schwartz, toiled for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

When Bouma came to town, Bancks felt like a receiver at the mercy of a headhunting middle linebacker.

"He punched me in the back of the head," Bancks says. "Twice. We had a battle there, and he sure gave it to me good. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever seen play in our league. He's so, so strong. And tough. I'm glad we're on the same side now."

That character reference is echoed by another Flames prospect, Mitch Wahl.

"He's definitely a pest," says Wahl, a graduate of the Spokane Chiefs. "He's just really physical. He'll get in your ear. He's not afraid to speak his mind. He plays on the edge. He drives to the net. Actually, he drives people crazy."

The Flames, in recent times, have been many things, but no one would accuse them of driving the opposition crazy.

Scott Nichol played the role of the class pest in Calgary from 2001-03. From there, Ville Nieminen took over and annoyed the heck out of everyone during the 2004 Stanley Cup run.

Since then, the job has changed hands several times with no one man claiming it as his own.

With that in mind, the Flames signed burly Tim Jackman this summer on the recommendation of Brent Sutter. During his time with the New Jersey Devils, Sutter watched Jackman drive the entire Atlantic Division crazy as a member of the New York Islanders.

At 28, Jackman is expected to fill the role of agitator in Calgary. But Bouma, 20, gives the Flames hope for the future. After all, every team needs a Dave Bolland or Cal Clutterbuck clone, right?

"I like Bouma," says Jim Playfair, head coach of the Abbotsford Heat. "He's really responsible in his own zone. He's very good on the walls. And he's been very well coached.

"Now the thing is to let him go out there and trust his skill and free his game up. He's going to be a really solid role player. He's not going to be a first-line player every night, but some nights he could be. But he's going to be a really good third-line, checking player whose going to kill penalties and that kind of stuff ."

The six-foot-one, 210-pounder is clearly destined to play in Abbotsford this season just down the highway from his old digs at the Pacific Coliseum. The Provost product promises to vex the opposition no matter where he plays. In fact, he considers his reputation as a pest a point of pride.

"Go ahead and call me that all you want," he says with a wide grin. "That's a good thing."

Bouma registered 14 goals and 43 points last season in 57 games with the Giants. In the relentless grind of the playoffs, he excelled with four goals and 17 points in 16 games. Through 73 games, Bouma racked up 181 penalty minutes.

Clearly, this is no choirboy.

"I like to try to get people off their game," says Bouma, a third-round (78th overall) pick of the Flames in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "I like to try to get people annoyed. Try to get them worrying about me instead of the game.

"I like to get in there hard on the forecheck and make life tough for the other team."

Not to mention make life easier for his own squad.

"He's the kind of guy you absolutely hate to play against," Wahl says. "But you love to have on your team."

vhall@theherald.canwest.com
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