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DISAPPOINTED BUT FOCUSED

Both Foo and Lomberg have their sights firmly set on impressing in Stockton and earning another turn with the big club

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

During the wooing phase, Spencer Foo found himself being courted by no end of suitors, inundated with ardent proposals.

Tuesday, though, in the first test of what everyone agrees will be a long, productive NHL career, he didn't feel like the jilted wallflower at the senior prom, or consider himself left at the altar.

"It's a big learning curve, college to pro,'' acknowledged the much-sought-after right-winger, lugging the tools of his trade out the doors amidst the bustle of concert set-up at event level of the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"It's disappointing, sure.

"But I've got to take this the right way.

"I've just gotta get used to some little things, improve on some aspects … the speed and the sticks and just the brains of the game.

"It's different. Everybody's better.

"You can't just snap your fingers and adapt to the pro game.

"Obviously I want to be here.

"And I'll be back. Soon."

On a morning when Canadian rockers Nickelback were busy unpacking for Tuesday night's show, a slew of Flames' hopefuls were busy packing up for various points afield.

Foo, goaltender David Rittich, wingers Brett Pollock and Morgan Klimchuk and centre Ryan Lomberg have been ticketed to the Stockton Heat.

Wingers Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier along with D-man Tyler Wotherspoon, meanwhile, were placed on waivers for the purpose of AHL reassignment, while junior-eligible Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki, both eye-catching during camp, are, to no one's faint-dead-away surprise, returning to Kelowna and Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, respectively.

"They're all difficult meetings," said GM Brad Treliving of his morning itinerary. "But you do what you think is right. And the message to them all is: This is not goodbye.

"It's unrealistic to think there's not a ton of disappointment, for the junior kids as well as the guys going to Stockton. So you get a day. You get today. But tomorrow you've got to start again. You still hold your fate in your hands.

"Things in this business change so quickly."

So much focus had been heaped on Foo, the 23-year-old Hobey Baker finalist hailing from Edmonton. Those 26 goals and 62 points for the Union Dutchmen had NHL GMs drooling.

But on his way out the door to California on Tuesday, he vowed to take Treliving's stiff-upper-lip advice to heart.

"It's an attitude, mindset thing,'' said Foo. "You can't do anything about it now. You're down there. So I go and compete just as hard as I do here.

"It's a setback. But that's pro hockey - hockey in general - right? Dealing with setbacks. Actually, I've had a bit of a different path than a lot of guys. I got cut a few times when I was younger, 15 to 17, and didn't play junior until I was 18.

"This is just another bump in the road. How I deal with stuff like this will determine what kind of year I have."

Treliving is forever cautioning against expecting too-much, too-soon from any incoming player, even one armed with Foo's blue-chip collegiate credentials.

"When we sign these players we don't get caught up in the hype part, we get caught up in the fact that he's a heckuva young player,'' he repeated.

"We're not disappointed, by any stretch. Everybody wants these guys to pop! right way. Spencer did some good things.

"This was eye-opening for him. First pro camp. What I liked about Spencer as we've gone deeper in camp, he's understood the continual need to upgrade his play.

"Last night (in Winnipeg) he faced an NHL lineup. He saw the difference. He recognized.

"I have no doubt he's going to go down there and be terrific, in terms of putting in the work."

Another of those demoted Tuesday who made a distinct impression would the the tiny volcano, Lomberg.

"I'm closer than ever before, but that's what makes it harder, too,'' said Lomberg. "Being kinda right there. It sucks. You're disappointed, upset … everything. But it's a hard league to make.

"It's not my job to make these decisions. It's my job to be ready when I get the call.

"I'm going to use this as motivation to get better. I'm looking forward to be as ready as I can the next time I'm here so I don't find myself in this situation again.

"Travel days on the way down are never fun. But I can assure you I'm not going to go down there and be flat, unmotivated. I've never been the guy who's bitter and slouches around. I'm the guy who takes the news and wants to prove people wrong and show them I do belong." 

Treliving has no doubts.

"He lets it all hang out there. I have a real sneaking suspicion we're going to see him again.

"It could be (soon), it could be in a week from now, a month … I don't know. What happens up here plays a part, too, but Ryan has partial control of that. By how he plays. How he competes. How he continues to build his game.

"The progression of Ryan Lomberg, from two years ago when he wasn't even on the scene to today, is a great example for everyone.

"He came in with the attitude: You are going to know I'm out here. I am not just here to blend in.

"I told him when we talked: 'Removing the disappointment of today, look at the steps you've made from a year ago. Be proud but don't be satisfied.'

"I don't know when it'll be but, as I said, I think we're going to see Ryan Lomberg again, too."

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