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MANGIAPANE'S LEARNING CURVE

The winger's first pro season was an eye-opener on and off the ice

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

In the life of any first-year pro, there's no end to the growing-up.

"The hockey part,'' reckons Andrew Mangiapane, "actually went pretty well, I thought.

"The hardest thing was living on my own. I mean, I was living on my own in Barrie but I had my billets and even then I was only 40 minutes away from my hometown, so I always saw my parents.

"When I moved to Stockton, everything changed.

"I had to cook for myself. And …" Eye-roll. "… Razzy.

"I had to clean for myself. And …" Eye-roll. "… Razzy.

"Not only was I taking care of myself, I was taking care of my roommate."

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LOMBERG ONE STEP CLOSER TO NHL DREAM

The feisty forward earned himself a two-way contract with the Flames earlier this year

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

It's a generational thing, of course. Throw out the name Pat Verbeek in search of a reaction and it elicits only a blank stare.

"No,'' confesses Ryan Lomberg. "Sorry."

But when informed that Verbeek's nickname through a 19-season, 1,400-start NHL career was The Little Ball of Hate, a sense of kinship replaces confusion.

"Now that," Lomberg admits, "I like. That I can relate to."

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FOO EARNS RAVE REVIEW FROM FORMER COACH

Union bench boss Rick Bennett thinks Spencer Foo could have a long NHL career in front of him

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

No more than a half-hour's drive from leafy, austere, 222-year old Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., stands the equally celebrated Saratoga Race Track.

No end of great athletes have pounded down the backstretch at the track nicknamed House of Upsets. Man o' War, Secretariat, Gallant Fox and American Pharaoh, to name but a few.

A thoroughbred of a different sort steps out onto his chosen track for the first time Wednesday, far from the familiar competitive environs of the New York campus.

"This,'' says Union Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett of Spencer Foo, "is a driven young man. 

"What's most impressive about him? Some people call it 'motor.' Compete level.

"There are many names for it.

"He has it.

"Always did, but that quality kind of came to the forefront the last two years with us. And it was really impressive, was really infectious throughout our lineup.

"We had a couple of guys who really pushed, worked so hard, set the tone, and the rest followed their lead. Spencer was one of those players.

"And he was rewarded for that."

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"EXTREMELY HARD-WORKING IN THE NET"

Flames coach sings praises of team's new netminder

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Now Glen Gulutzan isn't one to be tattling out of school, understand …

"Sure, I'll tell you an Eddie Lack story,'' acquiesces the Flames coach, all conspiratorial mischief, from his summer cottage on Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan.

"And he's going to be mad when I do.

"He's going to say I'm lying.

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LACK EAGER TO GET STARTED IN CALGARY

The netminder sees plenty of potential with his new club

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Lazing out on the balcony, the Bay of Naples spreading out in front of him in a kind of right-off-the-pages-of-Condé-Nast perfection, Eddie Lack was blissfully taking it all in.

"It is,'' he reports, "perfect.

"Thirty degrees celcius.

"Right now the sun just popped behind the clouds.

"We got in yesterday. And we're falling in love already."

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WELCOME BACK, KRIS!

Versteeg green lights new deal to return to Flames

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

After idling at the free-agent intersection a spell, Kris Versteeg can ease his foot onto the gas again.

No need for impatience now.

This green light lasts a year.

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FOO SEES CALGARY AS PERFECT FIT

Foo sees big potential in Calgary and that played into his decision to commit to the Flames

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Fit and opportunity.

Those are what tipped the scales for Spencer Foo.

"First of all, it's an absolute blessing to be in the position I am,'' conceded the Union Dutchmen right winger, after making a much-awaited decision on his NHL organization of choice.

"It's tough comparing teams.

"I know it's most kids' dreams to play for their hometown team, the one they grew up cheering for. That was certainly a consideration with me. All four of the organizations I was talked to at the end were great, great people, top to bottom. That made this really difficult.

"But in the end, I thought the best fit for me was Calgary."

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Travis Hamonic has impacted the lives of countless children who have lost a parent through his D-Partner Program

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

CHICAGO - The echoes, the aftershocks still resonate for Travis Hamonic.

Sixteen years ago, he lost his father Gerald to a heart attack. In a split second, the family's world had been turned upside down.

They sold their farm in St. Malo, Manitoba.

For a 10-year-old boy deprived of the love, mentorship and support of a parent, hockey helped at least cope with the inexplicable loss.

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HAMONIC RIGHT AT HOME AT THE 'DOME

The defenceman has a lengthy history at the Saddledome

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

For new digs, the whole setting seemed happily, comfortably familiar.

"I spent a lot of time during my junior career with Moose Jaw and Brandon coming through here,'' Travis Hamonic was reminiscing Monday.

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SMITH READY FOR NEXT CHAPTER IN HIS CAREER

The veteran netminder relishes the pressure that comes with playing in a Canadian market

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The beard's in place, although not the snow white of technicolour movie legend. No staff to be seen, strolling into the Ed Whalen Media Lounge for the first time. 

No stone tablets to tote.

The only commandment being: Thy must stop the puck.

Mike Smith doesn't plan on taking on the role of Moses.

But he can be that guy to lead the people out of the wilderness, if need be.

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