Getting thrown right in there, it'll be fun. I just got in yesterday and I'm playing tonight so it's exciting for me. Growing up, this is what you always dream of, playing a game in the NHL and I'm going to get to do that tonight. - Ben Hanowski
CALGARY, AB -- Unmistakable on the ice with locks flowing out the bottom of his helmet and below his shoulders, Ben Hanowski's hair made an immediate impression in his first day on the job.
He's hoping his play can leave a lasting one on the Calgary Flames.
Wrapping up his four-year career with St. Cloud after being eliminated in the Frozen Four semifinal by Quinnipiac on Thursday, Hanowski inked his first professional contract with the Flames on Friday and is set to make his professional debut Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
"Getting thrown right in there, it'll be fun," said Hanowski, acquired as part of the deal that sent captain Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I just got in yesterday and I'm playing tonight so it's exciting for me. Growing up, this is what you always dream of, playing a game in the NHL and I'm going to get to do that tonight."
Hanowski's first impression on his teammates may not have been a great one.
Stepping out on Scotiabank Saddledome ice for the first time, nerves might've overcome the 6-foot-2, 198-pound right winger.
"[I was] just trying to make some good passes and I didn't do it right away so I felt bad. I threw a couple in skates," Hanowski said. "[I'm] just try to get a feel for the new gear and just get the legs going a little bit I haven't been on the ice maybe as I'd like to be. It was exciting. It was fun to be out there with these guys and be a part of this team."
He can take another turn at impressing when the puck drops against the Wild, a team Hanowski grew up cheering for.
"I'm just going to try to bring some energy and work hard and keep the game simple," he said. "Manage the puck, get pucks in when I can and get them out of our zone and play with as much energy as I can and contribute any way."
Understanding the situation, that's all that's expected out of him from coach Bob Hartley.
"We want him to get his feet wet but we understand his situation," Hartley said. "He didn't get any training camp with us or anything so everything is new, for Ben and at the same time for us. We're going to ease him in. There's no pressure. I told him 'just be yourself, bring us your best game' and we'll go from there."
From collegiate athlete to National Hockey League player in a span of 96 hours hasn't afforded Hanowski a lot of time to adjust.
Or get a haircut.
Looking to make his mark on the ice, Hanowski has found a way to contribute off it. The 22-year-old is sporting the lengthy locks for a good cause - charity.
"I wish I would've been able to cut it before I came up here but me and some teammates from St. Cloud State are growing out our hair for Locks of Love, a foundation for kids with cancer who don't have hair," he said. "I'm growing it out and when I get home, I'm going to cut it and donate it to that and it will go to making a wig for someone less fortunate."
His charitable actions haven't excused Hanowski from some good-natured ribbing from teammates though.
"I think I might be cutting it," he said. "Jiri Hudler's been giving me a good time about it. I was taping my stick and he gave me a pair of scissors and he said it's not for the tape. A couple jokes already."
All kidding aside, a stint to close out his season in Calgary affords Hanowski the chance to not only leave an impression, but take something with him once the year draws to a close.
"I'm hoping that with this opportunity I'm going to learn a lot," he said. "I'm going to absorb a lot of information, gather a lot of information for this summer - working out and stuff - and what it's going to take for me to be a good professional hockey player.
"I think right now I'm going to learn as much as possible for however long I'm here and take as much advise and help I possibly can and use that to better myself for the future."
To help turn that initial impression into a lasting impact for the Flames.