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NHL debut worth the wait for Jankowski

Over four years after he was drafted by the Flames, Mark Jankowski finally made his NHL debut on Monday in Brooklyn

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- It was a moment 1,620 days in the making. 
And then some. 
But it was worth the wait for Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski.
"It's a pretty special moment," said Jankowski after making his National Hockey League debut in front of a large contingent of friends and family in Calgary's 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Monday.
"Obviously I've dreamt of this ever since I can remember … playing in the NHL. It was really cool to be out there. There were definitely a little bit of nerves at the start of the game but I felt as the game went on I got a little more comfortable and confident out there."

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Bob Johnson's legacy lives on 25 years later

Former Flames' coach Bob Johnson, who passed away 25 years ago, had a lasting impact on the many lives he touched through his hockey journey

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

The 60-year-old man sat slumped in the wheelchair receiving visitors that night on floor level at McNichols Arena a quarter-century ago.

He'd been driven the hour, those 70 well-travelled miles from Colorado Springs to Denver, by ambulance after undergoing a pulverizing chemotherapy treatment at Penrose Hospital.

"The draft,'' whispered Calgary Flames' assistant coach Paul Baxter, reflective after seeing his old mentor in such a deteriorated condition, "was, what, only three months ago, and he was his old self there. 'Hey, kid!' Slapping you on the shoulder.

"He needs our prayers. But he's a strong man. A fighter."

The cancer that was insidiously attacking Bob Johnson's brain had left him without speech, unable to communicate outside of a pen and paper to jot on. He was gaunt, one side of his body paralyzed.

A male nurse stood close by.

What struck the lucky ones called in for a short visit, though Mario Lemieux. Bryan Trottier. Lanny McDonald, others were those eyes. Bright, alert, still curious.

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Treliving frustrated over Gaudreau injury

Johnny Gaudreau will miss six-weeks after breaking finger from slash

by George Johnson @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Brad Treliving isn't looking for any favours or dispensations.

Not advocating Johnny Gaudreau, or anyone else for that matter, be regarded, treated, like a priceless piece of Dresden china.

He's not a museum piece to be put behind bullet- (or slash)-proof glass.

No Off Limits! or Do Not Touch! signs need be hung around his neck during games.

But multiple chops to the hand area severe enough to result in a busted digit cannot simply be shuffled under the carpet, blithely dismissed in old-school vernacular as 'just part of the game.'

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Pagé cherishes tenure in Calgary with Flames

Pierre Pagé still involved with hockey 20 years after run with Flames

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

With over 10,000 hotel rooms and guest-bedrooms overbooked in season, the tiny medieval Swiss town of Kitzbühel, nestled cozily along the river Kitzbuhler Ache, swells to double its normal size.

James Bond author Ian Fleming once lived there. World famous for its skiing attracting an international celebrity clientele, the World Cup races held on the adjacent Hahnenkamm, colourful gingerbread-style chalets and the majestic 650-year-old St. Catherine's Church, Kitzbühel is of those picture-postcard-pretty little Austrian towns that actually delivers the standard tourist-board hype.

"It is,'' says Pierre Page, one of its 1,800 actual dwelling-owning inhabitants, "so beautiful.

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Kulak turning heads in limited action this season

Brett Kulak has become a reliable piece of the Flames blueline

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- The sample size, admittedly, is somewhat small. The upside, we're learning, is somewhat larger.

"He's just … executed,'' replied coach Glen Gulutzan, when asked about the growing influence of a 22-year-old on the Calgary Flames' hopes of pulling out of their current funk.

"We're leaning on lots of guys in there. It's not warm and fuzzy in our locker room.

"He's one of those guys."

When picking through the debris field for positives to come out of this frustrating string of results, Kulak's rise would top the short list.

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Makarov had immense influence on Roberts, Flames

Playing with Sergei Makarov helped propel Gary Roberts to 53-goal season in '91-'92

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

Children's given names are chosen from a wide scope of inspirations.

Moods. Places. Favourite fictional characters. What's trendy at the time. Pop or movie stars. Beloved family members.

But the stocky, solemn, Soviet right winger on your hockey line?

"That first season I played with Sergei Makarov,'' confesses Gary Roberts, "if we'd had a son born that year, I would've had to call him Sergei.

"I told him that, too.

"I mean, I scored 53 goals playing with the guy. If you look, I'll bet he first-assisted on 35 of them.

"So I figured the least I could do was name someone in my family after him."

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Veteran Stajan integral in guiding young Flames

Matt Stajan has solidified his role with Calgary as a leader on and off the ice

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- When Matt Stajan was in his nappies -- professionally speaking, of course -- he had any number of Matt Stajans to draw upon for an example.

"I was so fortunate," he reflects. "My first year, the veterans we had in Toronto … it was a different league then, a lot of older players.

"But I roomed with Joe Nieuwendyk. Gary Roberts was on the team. Mats Sundin was always the same person, whether we won three in a row or lost three in a row. Same work every day.

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Flames eager to reset on daunting two-game swing

The Flames open back-to-back road games in Chicago on Monday

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- Into the underbelly of the beasts.

The new Madhouse on Madison, the United Centre, with its south side swagger and eardrum-puncturing anthem needs no introduction.

The Scottrade Center at 1401 Clark Ave. in downtown St. Louis may not possess the same ferocious reputation, but it's hardly a place you want to be blundering around in, turning pucks over willy-nilly and giving up odd-man opportunities.

For visiting hockey delegations both destinations should come with mandatory attached Traveller Advisory warnings.

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Elder Hamilton hopes to build off debut

Freddie Hamilton's first action of the season came on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Game No. 6 for the Calgary Flames. 
Game No. 1 for Freddie Hamilton. 
It was a patient wait for the 24-year-old to make his season debut, but one worth it for the forward. 
"It felt nice," Hamilton said after Sunday's skate. "Obviously it's tough watching games. It's nice to go in and play with the team. It would've been nice to get the win, but I'm pretty happy with how I played."

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Cameron working at improving Flames' power play

The Flames are putting heavy emphasis on their power play structure this season

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- The blueprint, says Dave Cameron, is as old as frozen cow pies being whacked through ice-chunk goal posts down a rural dirt road in the dead of winter.

"Right now, I'd say Washington,'' reckons the Calgary Flames' assistant coach, in his first season with the club and in charge of its power play. "For me, that's the best power play going.

"They've got a good half-wall guy.

"They've got a good goal-line guy.

"They've got Ovechkin, that guy with the big one-timer.

"They've got a good shot from the top.

"They've got everything you need. All the parts."

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