“It’s always special. I spent nine-and-a-half years in that organization. I grew up with Pierre Lacroix and all those guys and American League – Cornwall, Hershey then Colorado. This is a very special place for me.” - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- It’s been a long time since Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley was a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Over a decade, in fact.
But that doesn’t mean Colorado isn’t close to his Heart.
Calgary’s bench boss started his professional career in the Quebec Nordiques system, first with the Cornwall Aces then the Hershey Bears – the organization’s American Hockey League affiliates – and later with his first National Hockey League gig as head coach of the Avalanche.
“It’s always special,” Hartley said. “I spent nine-and-a-half years in that organization. I grew up with Pierre Lacroix and all those guys and American League – Cornwall, Hershey then Colorado. This is a very special place for me.”
Coaching against his former club has also brought the former Laval Titan coach some success, too. In three previous meetings, Hartley is 2-0-1.
Playing Colorado just two months after parting ways in December 2002, Hartley's Atlanta Thrashers beat the Avalanche 4-3 in overtime. A year later, the two teams split a 1-1 tie before a February 2007 win gave him his second victory against his former franchise.
Hartley wasn’t aware of his undefeated streak against the Avalanche but made it clear that’s the goal every time he steps behind the bench.
“I compete against every team and this was a great experience for me,” Hartley said. “This was a great city, great fans, great organization to work for but when the puck will drop tonight, we’re in the business of winning. Whether you’re playing Colorado or any of the 28 other teams, the goal remains the same. You need to keep winning.”
While Hartley still ponders his Avalanche nostaglia, Alex Tanguay views Thursday’s contest as just another opponent.
Though he spent seven seasons with Colorado and won the Stanley Cup under Hartley in 2011, Tanguay has lost his attraction for the Avalanche.
“It’s been a while,” Tanguay said. “I’m obviously going to cherish memories of the seasons that I’ve had there for a long time. It was fun for me to be a part of it but life goes on, you move on and certainly there’s, other than (Milan) Hejduk, there’s nobody left there that I’ve played with so I don’t think there’s a big affinity there.”
That said, the ties to Tanguay and his former linemate are still strong.
“Milan and I are still pretty close. He’s a great friend,” Tanguay said. “We don’t talk a lot but I enjoyed playing with him. He’s an outstanding player. It was a treat for me to play on a line with him. My first years I played with him and Joe and a little bit later Joe got into some injuries then I played with Peter and him. Outstanding player. It’s been fun playing with him for sure.”
And if Tanguay has his way Thursday, it’ll be fun beating his former teammate and keeping Hartley’s undefeated streak against the Avalanche intact.