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O'Brien hopes to fill Flames' needs

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

For that Western Canada type of game, I know the fans in Calgary the way they are and the way they like their hockey played. I'm a hard-nosed guy and I hope the fans will grow to like me and I'm going to play very hard for them.Shane O'Brien

JERSEY CITY, NJ -- It didn't take long for Shane O'Brien's phone to start ringing off the hook.

First, it was his agent. After that, a call from Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic. One with Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster followed up Sakic’s conversation.

It was the call from his former boss with the Tampa Bay Lightning that got him most excited.

"Any time as a player you get a call from a general manager in the NHL, it's exciting," O'Brien said. "He's such a great guy, Jay. He was happy to have me. I'm excited to be part of the Flames and play in a great hockey city like Calgary. We've got a good young team and have made some moves to get younger.

"It's exciting to be part of a good hockey tradition like the Flames."

The self-described hard-nosed blueliner was initially surprised by the trade that sent him to the Flames alongside David Jones in exchange for Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich.

After the shock quickly dissipated, a feeling of flattery hit O'Brien, a former division rival.

"It's actually kind of cool to be traded for a team that the last couple years you've battled against and seen a lot of them," said O'Brien, who has also had stints in Anaheim, Vancouver and Nashville. "As a player, anytime you get traded, it's kind of bittersweet but when a team wants you the way Jay explained it to me and to go to a good hockey Canadian city like that, it's exciting. You want to be in the hockey market as a player, playing in front of a full building every night. You get that in Calgary. I'm super excited."

The acquisition of O'Brien and Jones instantly makes the retooling Flames a younger team.

With 853 penalty minutes in 483 career National Hockey League games, O'Brien knows he'll be tasked with making Scotiabank Saddledome a tougher building to play in, too.

That's right up his alley.

"For that Western Canada type of game, I know the fans in Calgary the way they are and the way they like their hockey played," O'Brien said. "I'm a hard-nosed guy and I hope the fans will grow to like me and I'm going to play very hard for them. I think my type of hockey will fit in well and I'm definitely excited for the challenge."

The Flames' are counting on O'Brien to provide some physicality on the ice, a deficiency identified by Feaster over the course of the season.

It's a bonus he can aid off the ice, too.

Jumping from one rebuilding franchise to another, O'Brien is more than willing to help the cause.

"I take pride in being a good teammate and being a good character guy," he said. "I'm going to do what I can to help the young kids and just be a good guy in the dressing room every day and just compete hard every night. That's the most important thing in the NHL. It's a grind, but you have to play hard and I take pride in that and show the young kids and they can come along and play the same way."

By providing just that, the 29-year-old hopes to help speed up the process.

"I think it's just important to get the key young pieces and add some leadership in there, some guys that have been in the league a little bit," he said. "It's a younger league now. I don't think it takes quite as long to rebuild as maybe it did 10 years ago.

"With rebuilding, everyone grows together as a group so it's definitely exciting and hopefully we can rebuild quickly and win some hockey games in the near future."

And call the Flames' a playoff contender sooner rather than later.

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