I grew up here, cheered for the team, watched so many great players go through this organization and to be able to wear this jersey even just for a development camp, it was an honour for sure and something I’m hoping to pursue for the rest of my career. - Morgan Klimchuk
CALGARY, AB -- Looking back on his younger years, Calgary native Morgan Klimchuk's favourite Flames and Hitmen players were a bit unorthodox.
Born in 1995, Klimchuk would have been around for the tail end of Theoren Fleury’s days in Calgary, the rise of Jarome Iginla as a world-class goal scorer, or the domination of Mikka Kiprusoff between the pipes.
Who was his favourite player then? Oleg Saprykin.
For those who don’t remember, Saprykin was drafted by the Flames 11th overall in 1999, and scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history, potting the OT winner in Game 5 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. He was traded during the next off-season.
Klimchuk’s reasoning behind his selection – he liked Saprykin’s fashion sense.
“Don’t ask why, I don’t know, I liked his white skates when I was really little,” Klimchuk told CalgaryFlames.com recently at development camp. “He always stuck out in my mind.”
As for the Hitmen, Klimchuk again chose his favourite player to be another Russian, who had a history of lighting up opposing goaltenders – Pavel Brendl.
Klimchuk followed it up quickly by adding he also idolized Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd, a pair of former Hitmen stars who were recently invited to the Team Canada Olympic Development Camp.
What it all means is that the hockey teams in Calgary course through the veins of the Regina Pats sniper.
His proudest moment of being a Flames fan is like a lot of other Calgarians, the 2004 Stanley Cup playoff run.
“Obviously the Cup run they made with (Martin) Gelinas and (Craig) Conroy and those guys was pretty cool, watching Gelly score all those goals,” said the left winger, alluding to two players who will play key roles in Klimchuk making it to the NHL.
“I remember where I was when I watched them (in Game 7 of the) Stanley Cup Final, I was in a hotel in Red Deer for a hockey tournament there. It just sticks out in my mind because I was so supportive of the team and it was huge for the city.”
At the 2013 NHL Draft, the Flames completed a dream for Klimchuk, selecting him 28th overall with the draft choice acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Iginla trade.
And for the first time as an official member of the organization, he donned the Flaming C crest on the ice recently at Flames development camp.
“I grew up here, cheered for the team, watched so many great players go through this organization and to be able to wear this jersey even just for a development camp, it was an honour for sure and something I’m hoping to pursue for the rest of my career.
“It was a tough week for sure, getting your feet wet while playing with guys this caliber and being on the ice this much but overall, I thought it went very well and I learned a lot for sure.”