We're trying to instill a full team toughness, team concept that we're going to play together and stick up for each other. I think you saw a good example of that last night. When you play for each other, that kind of stuff is going to happen. - Tim Jackman
CALGARY, AB -- Matt Stajan dropped the mitts over 600 kilometres from Scotiabank Saddledome.
The message was felt in the Calgary Flames locker room.
As Stajan delivered (and took) punches in Calgary's split-squad exhibition loss against the Ottawa Senators in Regina on Monday night, he also delivered a message to others wearing the 'Flaming C'.
It's time to get tough.
"We're trying to instill a full team toughness, team concept that we're going to play together and stick up for each other," Tim Jackman said. "I think you saw a good example of that last night. When you play for each other, that kind of stuff is going to happen.
"That's a great example of him stepping up last night and showing his courage. Teams that play together like that are a lot tougher than individuals. If that's the kind of team we're going to be, it's going to be exciting to watch. It's going to help us along the way.
"It just shows that we're in this thing together and we're going to do whatever it takes to win games and to become a team."
Stajan, who has just two previous fighting majors in his career, instigated the tussle with Michael Sdao after the Senators rookie crunched David Jones with a big hit despite giving up three inches and 29 pounds.
"Matt's maybe had one or two fights in his career, I don't know," Curtis Glencross said. "It's good to see from Staj. It's part of setting an example for the young guys too. There's a lot of veterans out there willing to pay the price and compete every night. We want them to jump on board with us."
Criticized for playing too passive at times last season, the Flames have made a noticeable effort to add more grit to the lineup. The team brought the likes of Jones and Shane O'Brien, while stressing the importance of physicality at every turn.
Newcomer TJ Galiardi believes the message is getting through.
"You can see (it in) a couple of the guys we brought in," he said. "Guys are playing a lot harder. Even as a team playing against the Flames last year, you knew it wasn't going to be too, too hard and I think we want to change that atmosphere around here."
Stajan may have done just that.
His fight was the first of four on the card Monday against Ottawa. Brian McGrattan put Sdao on the spot for a second time, while O'Brien and Patrick Sieloff also chucked knuckles with Senators.
In other words, Stajan wasn't alone.
"It just shows the team is not going to back down and we've got guys that will step up," said Galiardi, who has one career fight to his credit. "Who knows, maybe I'll even get into one of them these days."
Team toughness goes well beyond fisticuffs, but it's a start for a Flames team that finished with 22 majors last season -- 22 behind the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Our ultimate goal is to play hard whistle to whistle," Glencross said. "We want to be a gritty team, hard to play against and we want guys that are willing to pay the price and battle."
And send a message to the rest of the league.
Calgary's a tougher place to visit this year.