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Iginla advised Lucic to jump at chance to join Flames: 'I'm just grateful that I'm friends with one of the guys who I idolize most and that now I get to play for the team that he was most famous playing for.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The big bear promises there's no shortage of growl left.

"What I wanted,'' the newest Flame, Milan Lucic, is explaining from the family's off-season ocean-side digs in Manhattan Beach, Calif., "is to walk into a situation where I could just focus on playing and helping the team win.

"When I arrived in Edmonton three years ago I was really excited, believe me. I wanted it to work, so badly, but - in retrospect - maybe I put too much on my plate.

"Looking back now, I think I put too much pressure on myself, trying to be this … guy.

"This leader. This player. This power forward. This big presence off the ice. All this type of stuff.

"I didn't feel like myself at all.

"I'm not blaming anyone there for that. Whatsoever. I just bit off more than I could chew.

"And I think in this situation I can just be myself. Just go about my business; play my game. Play hard. Be physical. Be a good teammate.

"That was definitely one of the things really appealing for me."

Friday, the 31-year-old Lucic, one of the toughest hombres of a generation, agreed to a southern migration, waiving his no-trade clause to close a deal that sent him to the Flames and winger James Neal north to the Oilers.

"Initially, I thought no way - but no way - am I going to the other side of the Battle of Alberta," he concedes. "But after talking to Brad (Treliving), talking to Bill (Peters), talking to Geoff Ward who I spent seven years with in Boston, and some guys who'd played in Calgary, it seemed to sound like a place I wanted to go; where the fit was right.

"I had a great conversation with Mike Cammalleri and then one with Kris Versteeg. One of my best friends is Brian McGrattan.

"Then, of course, I had a really good talk with Jarome (Iginla). He told me what a great hockey town Calgary is, how much the people are behind the Flames. It's a fan base that loves seeing effort. They obviously want to win but regardless they love the heart-and-soul guys, the guys who give their all, who don't compromise, which I like to think speaks to the way I play.

"Jarome and I got to know each other really well the year we played together in Boston. We were linemates, we shared a lot of stories, went out to dinner together a lot. 

"I like to think he knows me pretty well and that's why he took time out of his day to give me a call and help me with my decision. And he did help me make up my mind.

"I'm just grateful that I'm friends with one of the guys who I idolize most and that now I get to play for the team that he was most famous playing for." 



Another table-tipping component in Lucic's decision was, naturally, the Flames' 107-point, second over-all finish a year ago. He watched the exponential improvement from as close as is competitively possible, three hours up QEII.

"In order for me to move on from Edmonton it was important to go to a contending team, a team that was playing meaningful hockey on a night-to-night basis,'' he emphasizes. "Throughout my career that's brought out the best in me and in my game.

"This is a bit more of an older team, with an older captain, which I had in Boston with Zdeno (Chara). Gio is coming off his best year, winning the Norris Trophy - and deservedly so. That's a great starting point for any team.

"Missing the playoffs three of the last four years … I don't want to do that anymore. As I said, I want to be playing meaningful hockey on a night-to-night basis and with the excitement and energy I can bring I think this will revitalize me and help this team take the next step."

When asked what characteristics he'll bring to the Scotiabank Saddledome after 890 games, 501 points, 1,072 PIM, two Stanley Cup finals appearances and a ring, Lucic replies:

"Excitement. Energy. What I've heard from the guys on the Flames, they're excited about me coming there, too. Which is great to hear.

"I want to bring the sort of energy that I know how to on a day-to-day basis, and also add some experience. I've gone through it all - going to the finals and winning, going to the finals and losing, winning seasons, losing seasons. I've run the gamut.

"Missing the playoffs three of the last four years … I don't want to go through that again."

This one-for-one deal, the big man believes, will benefit both first-person parties.

"I think James Neal will fit in well there with what they've got going on in Edmonton; the style he plays and what he brings.

"And vice-versa.

"I think it's going to work out for the both of us. I really hope it does.

"Especially on my end."

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