Even though he was set to hit the ice for the first time this summer Wednesday afternoon, Sarich simply couldn’t wait, and stopped by the Calgary Flames\Okanagan Hockey School Wednesday morning to meet with his potential future teammates, answer their questions, and sign autographs.
“It’s fun to hang out with the kids. I can offer them defensive tips but they usually want to know how to score goals, so I can’t really give them a lot of information in that regard,” said Sarich.
“They usually drill me, everything from hockey questions to what kind of car I drive, to who my favourite player was growing up. You get some oddball questions you just try to deal with. The kids are usually pretty unique with the kind of questions they come up with.”
Sarich, who lives in Calgary year-round with his wife Reagan and their three children, takes visible pleasure in meeting his fellow athletes, but along with the hugs and handshakes, he is always sure to relay the secret of his success to the aspiring NHLers.
“I usually share my story of how I became a hockey player mostly through hard work,” said Sarich. “That you don’t have to be the most talented kid out there, sometimes hard work can get you where you need to be.”
The Calgary Flames\Okanagan Hockey School is an international leader in hockey instruction. Players from ages 5-19 from a total of 27 countries have attended Okanagan Hockey Schools, which offer regular and elite programs for players of all positions.
Before sitting down to the barrage of tough questions from his young fans, Sarich warmed up by fielding a series of notably easier questions from CalgaryFlames.com. Sarich’s excitement was noticeable, as his eyes sparkled at the mention of the new season.
“(The upcoming season) is going to be awesome. With our new coach I expect nothing but for us to tighten up defensively. We’re still going to have to score goals, but the focus from the forwards out will be a more defensive mindset. And that can’t do anything but help our team,” said Sarich, who having had a couple of opportunities to meet with Brent Sutter over the course of the summer, is elated with the approach his new coach is taking with the team.
“(Brent Sutter) is going to be very straightforward. They’ll be no grey areas, it’ll be only black and white. Hockey players look to get told when they’re doing things right, and told when you’re doing things wrong. Sometimes you don’t like to get told but in the end it’s the best thing for you and I think that’s the way it’s going to be around here. You’ll know where you stand with Brent.”
Of course along with a new coaching staff, the Flames acquired one of the premiere defensemen in the league in Jay Bouwmeester
. Sarich has nothing but admiration for his fellow blueliner, who he feels can help spearhead a Flames defensive attack.
“Bouwmeester is such a well rounded player. He’s good in all ends. He’s good defensively, he’s good offensively. On top of it all he’s a great skater, he makes it look so easy,” said Sarich. “We can always use a few more numbers from our backend defensively so I think he’s going to fit in well.”
The current wet weather plaguing Calgary is an unfriendly reminder that the days of summer are numbered, meaning that training camp is just around the corner. Sarich has been preparing for the upcoming season since May, and he is ready and eager to take on his share of the weight of expectations the Flames are carrying into the upcoming training camp.
“Expectations are always high going into training camp. The few guys I have talked to are looking forward to it. There are new teammates you have to get to know, and the new coaching staff will give guys a fresh start around here. We have a good group of guys, I think we’re going to have great chemistry which can take you a long way too. You get on the same page early, and guys go to work for each other,” said Sarich, who made his way from the Calgary Flames - Okanagan Hockey School to his own on-ice workout.
“I’m looking forward to putting my skates on today. I’ve been training hard since May, so I want to sneak out for a little vacation soon and take a break from the workouts before I get right back into it and work my way up to September.”
The Flames players are always active in the community, even in the offseason. Keep your eyes peeled as you never know when you’ll run into one of them.