CALGARY, AB -- There is no question hockey is beloved in Detroit but newest Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler knows that love pales in comparison to the fervor surrounding the sport in Canada.
"Passion for hockey in Canada, it's unmatched," Hudler said on Monday afternoon. "Calgary has got a lot of history. A lot of tradition too.
"People are really passionate about (hockey) and that's exciting ... I'm looking forward to this opportunity."
The forward signed a four-year deal with the Flames on Monday after an aggressive pursuit by the club. General Manager Jay Feaster and his hockey operations staff knew they would target Hudler on July 1st and spoke with his agent early Sunday afternoon. They continued to talk to his agent throughout the day and well into the evening hours before picking the conversation up again on Monday morning. The two sides came to terms and Feaster couldn't be happier about the deal.
"For us to be able to bring in a player of this caliber and improve the skill level of our top-six forwards, this a great day for us," Feaster said.
Hudler comes to the Flames after spending his entire career in Detroit, suiting up for 409 games, amassing 87 goals and 214 points.
He scored a career-high 25 goals last season while posting 50 points in 81 games. He finished second in the NHL in terms of even-strength scoring and managed to get over 65 percent of his shots through to the net - creating chances not only for himself but for his linemates via rebounds.
With those kind of numbers and his continued progression during his tenure with the Red Wings, he understands expectations will be high this season.
"I'm going to have a bigger role but with that, pressure comes in. I never liked being without pressure. Pressure is a good thing when you use it the right way.
"This is just the start. I'm going to work and I've got to prove what the organization believes I can do. I know that and I'm really excited about it."
Having spent his entire career around the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Hudler was surrounded by players who are considered masters of their craft. That experience has taught him many valuable lessons with two examples sticking out in his mind.
"Work ethic and calmness," he said. "If something goes wrong, no panicking. You can always figure out a way and find a way to turn things around."
"I've learned a lot and I'm going to use it later on in my career, starting now."