SAN JOSE - 'The Dungeon,' as it was called, was actually more like a refuge.
It was home.
The foundation for it all.
Caledonia native Cam Talbot spent every off-season there in the shadow of the QEW, developing his game with longtime tutor Pat DiPronio at the Grainger Training Centre.
That is, until he opted for a different approach and spent the previous two summers - prior to signing with the Flames - at his home base in Edmonton.
"They were, statistically, my worst years," Talbot recalled earlier this month.
"So, it seemed like the right choice to go back."
A new team, new city, and a return to the fertile goalie boutique in Hamilton's industrious Nashdale district.
It's truly new beginning, in every way possible.
Tonight, Talbot will look to put those lessons to good use as he makes his official Flames debut in a building he's quite familiar with.
Video: I've put in a lot of good work in."
"I knew at some point I was going to get in a game, and this one made sense given my last game of the pre-season was here, the back-to-back with travel and stuff," he said.
"Just kind of prepared for that in practice and stayed ready."
Added coach Bill Peters: "He's been excellent. He's been excellent in practice and his battle level has been high. … I expect him to be real good and expect his teammates to play real hard in front of him."
Talbot closed out the pre-season two-and-a-half weeks ago with a flawless, 24-save effort in 40 minutes of work right here in San Jose.
Sure, it's been a while since, and exhibition stats are worth about as much as a pet rock, but Talbot is trying to draw from that as much as possible as he looks to shake off the rust and give the Flames a good run in the second of back-to-back nights.
"You try to use some of it, but it has been a while since I've been in there," Talbot said. "I want to keep it simple once I get in there, not try to do too much and just play my game.
"I've put in a lot of good work in over the last two-and-a-half weeks, on and off the ice, to keep my body ready for this opportunity."
Talbot is 5-6-0 lifetime, with an .886 save percentage and a 3.43 goals-against average against the Sharks in the regular season, but has fond memories of this building as a member of the Oilers when they knocked off the locals in the first round of the playoffs.
Talbot was dynamite that spring, scoring back-to-back shutouts and finishing the series with a jaw-dropping .927 save percentage.
Video: "They're very aware of what the issues are."
"The first 10 minutes in this building are key," Talbot said. "They come out really hard and if their fans get behind them early, it can be a tough building to play in. We have to come out and keep it simple - myself included - limit their second opportunities and not give them too much to get fired up for, because they can really feed off that."
Talbot, admittedly, struggled last year, but is entering the 2019-20 season with a sense of rejuvenation.
In part because of the aforementioned mod to his off-season training regimen, but also because of his affable partner-in-crime, David Rittich, who's been the ultimate supporter throughout.
"It's been great," Talbot said. "We kind of have the same demeanour, the same personality off the ice. We're both kind of laid back and we get along really well. It's been a good working relationship so far with me, him and (goalie coach Jordan Sigalet), and I'm just really looking forward to this opportunity tonight."
The feeling is mutual.
"He's a great guy," Rittich said. "I've really liked working with him. He's a great goalie, a great person, and we get along really well.
"We support each other. If one of us has a tough night, or a tough day in practice, we're there [for each other]."
The Flames are coming off a tough 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last night, and are now facing a well-rested Sharks team, who avoided their worst start in franchise history with a victory Thursday over the Chicago Blackhawks.
But don't let their 1-4-0 record fool you. This is a talented squad that can easily burn you, especially with longtime Shark Patrick Marleau back in the fold.
Everyone - goalie included - will have to be at their best in this one.
"It's important not to give them any second opportunities, so I'm going to have to be aware, we're going to have to talk a lot in our zone, and close quickly," Talbot said. "You can't leave anything along the boards, because they pull it right off and fire it back towards the net to create that cycle down low back again.
"Limiting those chances and coming out of our zone as a group is going to be huge for us tonight."