Calgary Flames veterans arrived in Calgary a full week before the official opening of training camp to participate in the annual Flames Celebrity Golf Classic. So, with time on their hands they rented some ice and skated every morning at a northwest rink.
And, for something totally different, they went away for a day and a night to bond as a team in Banff.
"Some guys went fishing, some guys went golfing," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla
, the ringleader of the trip to Banff for the vets. "It was a chance to get together after a long summer and get to know some of the new guys."
The Flames added Adrian Aucoin, Anders Eriksson, Cory Sarich
and Owen Nolan over the summer while Keith Primeau and David Hale joined the team late last season. So, roughly a third of the team is new.
Head coach Mike Keenan wholeheartedly endorsed the bonding expedition and hinted it may pay dividends early in the season..
"It's a good start because they recognize that they have to come together quickly," said Keenan. "And it shows that they care for their team, that they have some responsibility in determining how this is all going to get started. They spent some quality time together as a group of men, probably discussing what they expect from each other, what they expect as a group."
The Flames starts the last two seasons have not been spectacular. They have gone 3-6-1 and 4-7-2 in the last two Octobers and Keenan wants that trend to halt.
"You can't take that risk," explained Keenan. "It was really precarious last season at the end of the season trying to get into the playoffs. That puts a strain on your team at the wrong time. This is a tough league. If you can get things done early, it's better."
"It's important to get off to a good start," said Iginla. "But at the same time you don't want to put too much pressure on yourselves because it is an 82-game schedule."
Iginla, inevitably, was asked about the Flames road record versus the home record last season -- the Flames were one of the best teams at home but struggled on the road.
"We had wanted to become a tough team at home and we have done that," said Iginla. "The road record is not a big topic with us right now. When we go ont he road people are going to expect more and so do we. I think we will get it. Overally, you take the good things out of last year and you work on it and you improve on it."