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ELEVENTH HEAVEN

Mikael Backlund and Frida Engström will tie the knot on Aug. 11, capping off quite the off-season for the pair

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

On the picture-postcard-pretty island of Ekerö come Saturday, Mikael Backlund and fiancée Frida Engström will tie the knot in an Eleventh Heaven wedding.

"Most things are done, just a few details left,'' reports the Flames' all-purpose centreman. "We have a wedding planner overseeing everything, helping out, which has been nice.

"Now it's just kinda pay the bills.

"Mostly, at this point, I'm just really looking forward to it.

"And starting to get a little nervous."

If the significance of the date, Aug. 11, has somehow escaped your detection …

"Frida,'' explains Backlund, "was born on the 11th and, well, you know the jersey number I wear …

"It's lucky for us, so we wanted to pick the 11th day of a month."

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READY TO MAKE A STATEMENT

Austin Czarnik is focused on landing a full-time gig in Calgary this season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Austin Czarnik is on course.

"Shot my first-ever 79 at my new club other day,'' reports the incoming Calgary Flames' right wing candidate.

He and pal Cameron Schilling, a Winnipeg Jets' prospect, are first-year members in good standing at Forest Lake Country Club, nestled in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a towering 3-iron from Czarnik's home in Birmingham.

"Man, that felt great.

"And then I shot 77 two days later at another club. After a whole summer of mid-80s. So I think it's just a little tease."

And he's also on course.

"It's been a pretty hectic summer trying to get ready for camp,'' Czarnik acknowledges.

"But I've done everything in my power to be as prepared as I possibly can.

"I understand this is a really good opportunity for me. That's the one thing I was looking for and we talked about before I signed. An opportunity. That's all anybody can ask for.

"My goal is to make the team out of camp."

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A DIFFICULT DECISION

Buying out Troy Brouwer's contract was not an easy choice for Brad Treliving

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The Calgary Flames have completed a buyout of right winger Troy Brouwer.

After placing the 32-year-old right winger on unconditional waivers Thursday for the purpose of cutting ties, Brouwer cleared this morning and exits the Scotiabank Saddledome following two seasons as a Flame.

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A NEW ADDITION

New dad TJ Brodie is loving his new role off the ice

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

New addition to the family, old collaboration on the horizon.

The summer has proven quite eventful.

"The first month or so,'' confesses TJ Brodie, echoing a familiar lament of first-time dads down through the ages, "you don't seem to be very useful outside of changing diapers. 

"Lots of diapers.

"She's starting to look around and smile lately. You can sort of entertain her. It's a lot more fun now.

"It's been good. Really good.

"And it's just going to get better and better."

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MOTHER KNOWS BEST

'When somebody asks me what pleases me most about his career, I always say: 'How much people love him'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The lady had, considering the emotional resonance of the day, the absolute chicest possible fashion accessory - a pair of Jarome Iginla-inspired ear-rings.

Front of the sweater/Flaming C crest dangling from one lobe, the back signature No. 12 and nameplate from the other.

"When somebody asks me what pleases me most about his career, I always say: 'How much people love him,'' says Susan Schuchard, her son Jarome having officially bid farewell in his old neighbourhood to the league he had enriched, a game he had mastered, for two decades.

"He's had a wonderful career and I've been so lucky to able to watch him play the game he loves, since the age of seven," she says. "I have so many memories. And he's had so many wonderful things happen to him.

"But his character, the way people talk about him as a person, how nice he is, how accommodating to everyone, that's what I take away more than anything."

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'HE DELIVERED'

Iginla was everything the Flames could have asked for, both on and off the ice, says Fleury

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The abdicating king had already, instinctively, grasped the transference of power.

He'd identified the candidate best equipped to ascend his throne.

Even if that heir apparent didn't at first fully fathom the scope of what he'd inherited and would need a few years for the coronation to feel complete.

"Oh, I knew he'd be The Guy,'' Theo Fleury is saying on Jarome Iginla Retirement Day. "That Guy.
"He had to be.

"We sat at many of these after games," Fleury knuckle-rapped the counter at the back of the Scotiabank Saddledome Chrysler Club, "and talked about it.

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'SPECTACULAR PLAYER, SPECTACULAR PERSON'

Tanguay says skill, drive, desire and belief set Iginla apart

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

They were, in a word, simpatico.

Alex Tanguay, the light-fingered sorcerer able to yank the tablecloth off without so much as disturbing a single piece of cutlery, and Jarome Iginla, among the most ruthless finishers of an era.

"I don't know what made us good together," says Alex Tanguay. "His game was based on shooting and power. My game wasn't.

"I was more of a passer.

"So I guess we complemented each other.

"I remember passing the puck to him and it didn't matter where or how hard the pass was. I knew he'd e able to shoot it with power and accuracy.

"Playing with a guy like that, you want to make use of his best assets. So you search them out. Him being on the left side and me being on the right, I remember being able to float pucks into his wheelhouse and … bang."

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BIG DEAL!

Remembering the trade that made Iggy a Flame

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Shortly after New Year's, away on a work junket, Boston, 1996, Al Coates received a belated holiday gift.

It came not in bright, shiny wrapping or under a tree - either plastic or real - but in a 6-foot-2, 190-lb. package.

Only two weeks earlier, the Flames GM had pulled the trigger on a critical deal for the franchise moving forward - trading centre Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas in exchange for a highly-regarded junior prospect.

Some kid name of Jarome Iginla.

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TAKE A LONG BOW

Your Flames Authority George Johnson says Iggy 'became as much a symbol of the organization as that Flaming C logo, as much of a symbol of this town as the Tower.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

He first arrived early the morning of March 21, 1996, the team he'd go on to symbolize already down two-games-to-none in a playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Right out of Kamloops, all of 19, with a funny-looking box-square helmet and a penchant for oversleeping.

More than 22 years later, Jarome Iginla, among the finest of an era, returns here, to Calgary on Monday, to deliver his career goodbye.

Where on earth else?

Woven deep into the fabric of the franchise, this man. 

And vice-versa.

Jarome Iginla ranks, indisputably, as the greatest Flame ever.

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SAYING I DO X 2

Rittich inked new deal with Flames ahead of Saturday wedding

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Those life-changing 'Til-Death-Do-Us-Part vows aren't until Saturday.

A set of one-year nuptials were exchanged today.

"It's been busy,'' sighed David Rittich. "Talking to my agent about the contract, getting everything ready for the wedding …

"Two big things in one week. It wasn't easy."

Rittich and fiancée Nikola are set to tie the knot in front of 90 or so guests on the weekend, a reception to be held at a hotel not too far outside his hometown of Jihlava in the Czech Republic.

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