It’s something that I never thought…getting an opportunity to get back into it and kind of pretend to be a hockey player for four days. - Brent Krahn
CALGARY, AB -- And just like that, he was gone.
After electrifying practice for the better part of four days, former Calgary Flames first round pick Brent Krahn was ushered off into the sunset, given his walking papers after defending his net at the lonely end of the rink with all his might.
“I saw the pink slip in my stall this morning,” said Krahn, tongue firmly in-cheek following Saturday’s skate, his last with the Flames. “I knew I was going down. My sticks are being taped together right now as we speak. They’re just going to give me my plane ticket and I’m out of here.
“I got cocky. It went to my head right away, actually. I was out there and didn’t know if I could do it and the first day came around and the boys shot a few to my glove and I thought maybe I can do this. I got to asking for too much and they sent me packing.”
With Reto Berra in Russia representing Switzerland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Karri Ramo still nursing a lower body injury, the Flames turned to the duo of prospect Joni Ortio and the long-retired Krahn, Calgary’s top pick, ninth overall, in 2000 to tend the twine at practice this week.
Krahn envisioned getting a bigger return on his investment.
Sporting gear collected during his time in the Dallas Stars organization offset with some new bright red retro pants courtesy the Flames, the 31-year-old anticipated a Calgary colour scheme that would be a little easier on the eyes.
“That’s the first thing I said, too,” he said. “If I come to play for the Flames for practice, I expect a new set of gear. I was told I was and now they just said, ‘see you later; get out of here’.”
In a more serious tone, the charismatic netminder called skating with the Flames an “absolute blast” to lace the pads up again and face NHL shooters, the first time he’s done so since calling it a career three years ago after eight seasons of professional hockey.
“I thought it was awesome,” said Krahn, who managed just 20 minutes of NHL action in his career. “It’s something that I never thought…getting an opportunity to get back into it and kind of pretend to be a hockey player for four days.
“It’s kind of nice. It makes you think about all the things you took for granted while you were playing, just with fitness and camaraderie and just playing the sport you love for a living. Grateful.”
The light-hearted Krahn spent four seasons playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, ranking third all-time among goaltenders in wins (74) and minutes played (6,778) and is fourth in games played (117), shutouts (7) and saves (2,912) before turning pro in 2003-04.
But three knee surgeries and a host of other injuries derailed a promising career that eventually forced him to bow out of the game at the age of 29.
The past four days, he admitted, have been the most he’s enjoyed the sport since retiring.
“I love the game, I’ve watched the game but never really enjoyed playing it after I quit hockey,” Krahn said. “I have fun playing it, but it’s a different level. It took me a while to even want to put the pads back on again when I retired. I got out there and had fun but I didn’t enjoy it, you know?
“But being back here, I mean, it was great. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed playing hockey since I retired.”
Now working in downtown Calgary with Precision Well Servicing and well above his reported playing weight of 220 pounds, the 6-foot-5 goaltender didn’t hesitate to use that good cheer to poke some fun at his own expense.
“What surprised me,” he started, “was that I didn’t have a heart attack, my groins are sore but they didn’t explode and I’m actually standing here talking. Those are probably the three things that surprise me the most out of the four days.”
Captain Mark Giordano didn’t shy away, either.
“I talked to him the first day and I said I thought he could get down to around 265 (pounds) before he left,” he said. “He took a couple bag skates off, which is expected but I’m glad for him. He came out, he worked hard. It was really nice of him to help us out.”
It worked both ways, admitted Krahn.
Albeit only in practice, the Winnipeg, MB product admitted his biggest surprise caught him in moments of reflection.
“You look back and at the time it’s not a big deal because it’s your life,” he said. “But the more you’re removed from it the more you realize it’s a pretty big deal.”