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FACING HIS HOMETOWN TEAM

'It's always fun for me to play against Boston.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The jersey, particularly that classic bad-boy black edition, never dates.

The young Noah Hanifin, a rather rangy lad himself, used to mimic the Jumbo Swoop wearing a No. 19 Joe Thornton edition during pick-up games of shinny on Froggie's Pond, a local hangout, back in the day.

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STARRING ROLE

Lindholm shone in home debut - and expect more of the same this season from dynamic forward

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Reading outside reviews is all well and good. 

Seeing the teasers, the trailers, can provide an abbreviated glimpse of the show. But only that. Nothing more.

For the full-on experience, you need an open-ended ticket into the theatre, to watch repeated viewings in IMAX and Dolby Stereo Sound.

Noah Hanifin certainly qualifies, having had a front-row seat for over 230 screenings.

"I really got an idea of just what Lindy's capable of a couple years ago at the World Championships,'' the 21-year-old D-man is reminiscing. "Playing for Sweden, with two high-end offensive guys, he was just ripping it up.

"I mean, he bossed it.

"You could certainly see the potential to score points during our years together in Carolina, too. That's kind of a hidden side of his game. Great shot. Great hands. Elite hockey sense.

"So he gets here, then you put him with two elite guys like Johnny and Mony …"

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LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Tkachuk's goal is simple: "Most of all, I want to help this be a playoff team. For a long, long time."

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

"Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you're ready to play as tough as you're able to, you'd better go out there and do it.

"Players will see right through a phony.

"And they can tell when you're not giving it all you've got."

- NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

 

The ability to elevate, to inspire, to influence, is innate, inborn.

You can't fake it or buy it or appropriate it.

Matthew Tkachuk, quite simply, has it.

"You don't change a thing,'' says the abrasive left-winger of his elevation to the alternate captaincy of the Flames.
"There's a reason you've been given the opportunity in the first place. So, no need to change, I guess."

Nope. Not a thing.

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'IT LOOKS AMAZING'

Mike Vernon loves new Mike Smith mask which was inspired by the legendary Flames netminder

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Mike Vernon has been in a few masks in his time.

On one, never.

"I think it's so cool," admits the home-brew '89 Stanley Cup winner. "Smitty texted me about it this morning. So we've been going back and forth a bit.

"I saw a few photos. It looks amazing.

"I've always said that history is so important. In any business. But nowhere more than in the sports business.

"Sports fans remember the names and the achievements of their heroes growing up their whole lives. I'm no different. 

"It's contagious. And that's what's beautiful. Kids and their grandpas being able to have a conversation about their favourites of different eras.

"I don't think he's honouring me. I think he's honouring the past. That's what important.

"And I'm glad he's having fun with it."

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'FAST' APPROACHING

Tkachuk among the Flames amped up to show off relentless puck pressure in season-opener

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Suffocating. Claustrophobic. Stifling. 

Oppressive to the point of being thought downright pushy.

The collective mindset of a pack of baying hounds chasing down a fugitive escaped from a road-side chain gang.

No time to draw breath, much less draw up an escape route.

Since camp opened, incoming coach Bill Peters has stressed relentlessness on the puck.

Wednesday, he untethers the dogs.

"We're going to play with a lot of pace," promised skipper Mark Giordano late Tuesday morning, as the Flames packed up for the short jaunt west to Vancouver for the season-opener. "A lot of speed.

"We want to be on top of teams.

"Play that in-your-face style hockey which is proving to be successful everywhere.

"We have high expectations of ourselves and we think that brand of hockey suits us. We have to play that way to get wins and we definitely have the guys to do it."

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2018-19 PREDICTIONS - GEORGE JOHNSON

See what George Johnson predicts for Sean Monahan, Mike Smith and Austin Czarnik

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Ahead of the 2018-19 season, CalgaryFlames.com staff made three predictions for the upcoming campaign. Here are George Johnson's takes on three players:

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'SKY'S THE LIMIT'

Valimaki - along with Dube - will start season with the big club

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Juuso Valimaki is in this for a job, not an autograph.

Hobnobbing with A-listers and rubbing shoulders with household names, the stardust and sequins part of the gig, doesn't register on his radar.

Well, for the most part, anyway.

Every 19-year-old should be owed one - if only one - quintessentially teenage moment.

"In San Jose, on a PK," Valimaki was confessing Monday. "I think (Erik) Karlsson was on the ice already a minute. I skated into the corner with him.

"I honestly beat him to the puck. Lifted his stick, got the puck and got it out.

"That was pretty cool."

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'LET'S GET THIS GOING'

Treliving recaps unique training camp and talks about excitement to get season underway

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Good pull from Brad Treliving, considering it's 11 a.m. and the coffee's only just percolating up in the Stanley Cup Lounge at the San Jose Sharks' practice facility, Solar4America Ice.

A Grateful Dead reference is always welcome.

"As the song goes," he mused of a training camp unlike any in recent memory, "it's been A Long Strange Trip."

A split-squad trip separated by a 12-hour flight and 14-hour time shift. A trip of Great Walls and equipment stalls. A trip of a whopping 10 - yup, count 'em, 10 - pre-season fixtures and two more restricted to prospects-only.

A trip of lurching buses and city-stops taking in a combined 39 million inhabitants.

A trip of unique experiences and equally unique challenges.

"Played a lot of games, saw a lot of places,'" continued the Flames GM reflectively. "Seems like mid-November already. As I said: Long. Strange.

"But we're here and now that we've come through it at the other end, in as good a shape as we could ask for, I'd say."

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TUNING UP

Flames finish pre-season with 4-3-3 record following setback in Edmonton

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

EDMONTON - Rehearsals are finally over.

Opening night beckons.

Closing out an extended pre-season that included the two-stop O.R.G. NHL China Games excursion, the Flames fell 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Place.

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BONDING EXPERIENCE

Hamonic and Hanifin developing chemistry on the ice - and a solid friendship off it

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Ideally, they go on to become fused in imagination. Like peanut butter and jam. Wine and cheese. Ketchup and fries.

To a point where the idea of one without the other seems utterly preposterous.

"There is,'' reckons Flames GM Brad Treliving, "a little bit of a big brother dynamic going on in this case.

"Although Hanny's experienced in the league, already three years and approaching 300 games, he's still, at 21, a baby.

"So Travis is that big brother figure ("Yeah,'' concedes 28-year-old Travis Hamonic, with an exaggerated eye roll, "suddenly I'm the old guy …").

"Right from Day One, when we made the deal, the next day I talked to Hammer and told him: 'Hey, we're a long way from training camp but the plan is for you two guys to play together.' And he was on board with that right away.

"We still had to sign Noah, of course, but they were still talking and texting almost immediately, already building that relationship.

"That pairing has been very good ever since China. I thought they were really good (Thursday) night (against San Jose).

"They share a lot of important traits but they both have individual strengths, as well.

"Yin and Yang."

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