It was a unique situation and I handled it the best I could at the time. I was happy and I was happy for the opportunity. - Steve Staios
CALGARY, AB -- It’s hard to catch a veteran off guard.
But that’s exactly what the Edmonton Oilers did to Steve Staios, sending their one time assistant captain down the QE2 to the Calgary Flames on March 3, 2010 in the first ever trade between the two franchises.
“The fact I was going to Calgary was a bit of a shocker,” Staios said. “When you get to Edmonton, you realize the rivalry and the Battle of Alberta is something that both cities take a lot of pride in and I was on the other side of the rivalry.”
The veteran of 1,001 National Hockey League games understood the uniqueness of the exchange. The Flames and Oilers had never completed a transaction before Calgary swapped Aaron Johnson and a third round pick for Staios.
But even though he's now over three years removed from the transaction, Staios, now 40, doesn’t consider himself the answer to a trivia question.
“When I look back at my career, I don’t look at things like that,” he said. “It was a unique situation and I handled it the best I could at the time. I was happy and I was happy for the opportunity.”
At the time of the trade, Edmonton was just months away from selecting Taylor Hall with the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Staios joined a Flames team that was pushing to make the playoffs.
Getting thrown into a playoff chase helped Staios shrug off the surprise.
“You know, honestly the first thought I had was of excitement because the situation,” he said. “As a player, you want to be in a situation where you have a chance to play in the playoffs and the situation we were in as a team in Edmonton at that time wasn’t good. It was an opportunity. I looked at it as an opportunity and having that opportunity was exciting for a hockey player. I was excited about it.”
It helped that his new Flames teammates welcomed him into the dressing room immediately despite the longstanding rivalry between the two provincial clubs.
Having gone to battle against Calgary for almost eight straight seasons, even Staios admitted he was a little surprised how easy it was to walk into the Flames’ dressing room.
“When I got into the room, there were guys I’d been in a lot of battles with but had a lot of respect for,” he admitted. “I think if you go into the locker room with players that you felt didn’t have a lot of push-back, you probably wouldn’t have as much respect for them, but I had a lot of respect for the players I was competing with and now they were my teammates.”
Even still, Staios was caught off guard wearing red at times.
Just eight days after being acquired the Flames held a ‘jersey off our backs’ night, an opportunity for fans to win a player’s jersey during a special post-game, on-ice ceremony.
That’s when it hit him.
“You’re standing in the middle of the Saddledome on the blue line and you’re taking a Flames jersey off,” Staios said. “That was quite a few games into it, but that was the first time I took some time to reflect on it. I looked over at Jarome (Iginla) and said ‘This is a little bit of an odd feeling right now’. We had a chuckle over it but that was the one and only time I took some time to reflect on it at that point.”
It took Staios a little longer to pull the jersey on against the Oilers.
The two teams didn’t meet that spring and Staios was a scratch when the two clubs opened the 2010-11 season against each other.
He finally met up with the Oilers on March 26, 2011, just over a year after he was traded.
He made the most of his opportunity.
“When I finally did get a chance to play them in Edmonton, it was very weird,” he said. “We were out of a playoff spot and we were trying to stay alive. I scored a goal late in the game, I think there was only 17 seconds or so left in the game, I scored to tie it up and we ended up winning it in a shootout to keep our hopes alive in the playoffs.
“I had a lot of good memories at Rexall Place playing for Edmonton but that was certainly one of my highlights in my short time as a Flame.”
It was one of many memories that stands out for Staios in a career that spanned parts of 16 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, Atlanta Thrashers, Oilers and Flames.
He still reflects on another in Calgary, too.
“The one thing, it’s not a regret, but I was at the tail end of my career,” he said. “You wish that when you get moved to a team, you could’ve added more than I did. I felt like I did ok with the opportunity that I had the next year, but when I look at that point in my career, when you get to the end of your career, you’re limited in what you can do. In the middle of your career you can add to your game. I wish I went down and helped them get into the playoffs both years I was there.
“That didn’t happen, but Calgary’s a great organization.”