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The Maher Report: Quirks and quandries

by Peter Maher / Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are pleased to welcome Peter Maher as a guest writer at and in Blaze Magazine. The long-time play-by-play broadcaster is in his 29th year of calling Flames games and has not missed a single puck drop. Maher is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
if Brandon Prust’s father had hit a golf ball straight, the forward may not be an NHL player today.

Fredrik Sjostrom had to overcome his fear of ice resurfacers in order to have an NHL career.

If it weren’t for a Russian coach in Finland, Olli Jokinen might be a soccer player today.

Curtis Glencross’ pre-game ritual includes bodychecking a teammate.

These are just a couple of quirks and quandaries the quartet of Flames players recounted.

Prust, the rugged Flames centre, was a Tier II junior player in Ontario not drafted by the Ontario Hockey League in the bantam draft. Who knows where his career might have gone if his father hadn’t hit a golf ball onto an adjacent fairway of a golf course in London, Ontario.

“My Dad hit a drive on to the wrong fairway and when he went over to get the ball, coming up the fairway was Dale Hunter, coach of the London Knights. Dale asked dad what I was doing and was told I had no plans for the coming hockey season. Dale informed my dad that the Knights thought I was planning to go to a U.S. college and didn’t pursue me. GM Mark Hunter contacted me the next day, and soon I joined the team,” recalls Prust.

Not only did he gain a berth on the Knights, but he helped them win the Memorial Cup in 2005. His big assignment in the championship game was to shadow superstar Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic.

In 2004, the feisty Prust was drafted by the Flames in the third round. He was traded by the Flames in March as part of the transaction to acquire Jokinen, but General Manager Darryl Sutter brought him back in another deal this summer.

Although he managed to conquer his fears, Wayne Gretzky’s fear of flying was well known in his early NHL years. For Sjostrom, it was overcoming a fear of ice resurfacers.

The winger from Sweden notes, “When I was two or three years old, the first time I went to a rink, the Zamboni’s size and noise scared me. I cried, and my parents had to take me home. As I got older, I got over it and got hooked on hockey.”

Sjostrom, who began his North American hockey career with the Calgary Hitmen in 2001, joined the Flames this summer, signing as a free agent after toiling with the New York Rangers in 2008-09 where he collected 13 points in 79 games.

As a youngster growing up in Finland, Jokinen was hooked on hockey and soccer until one day, the coach of his junior hockey team, a Russian, asked him if he wanted to be a hockey player
or a soccer player.

“I picked hockey, and he really took an interest in making me a better player. I worked out with him for five to six hours a day and then would practice with the team. I was tired a lot, but it was all worth it in the end,” Jokinen muses.
Glencross has a pre-game ritual he follows: “When we come on the ice for the warm-up, I go to a special faceoff dot outside our blue line and stretch, always the same dot, home or away. Then I always skate two laps and go to the bench, sliding down to bodycheck Dustin Boyd. That gets both of us into the game early.”

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