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Surprised junior Baertschi ready for NHL debut

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- On the day prior to his first career game, Calgary Flames prospect Sven Baertschi might have already had his "welcome to the NHL" moment.
After a dozen reporters dispersed following poking and prodding the Portland Winterhawks product for 10 minutes after his first NHL practice, Baertschi needed help to properly organize his equipment in the stall reserved for the Swiss forward.
"Got to get them when they're young," quipped the staffer who assisted.
It's just one of many learning experiences the 19-year-old Baertschi will go through as he preps for his first professional hockey game after being an emergency call-up from the Western Hockey League in the middle of an injury-riddled Flames push for the playoffs.

"I'm crazy nervous but I think that's normal. To jump in now, it's so important. We're in a playoff run. To jump in now, it's a huge difference from the start of the season." -- Sven Baertschi

"I'm crazy nervous but I think that's normal," said Baertschi, who got the call up to Calgary at 8 a.m. Wednesday. "To jump in now, it's so important. We're in a playoff run. To jump in now, it's a huge difference from the start of the season."
Though following the Flames closely, Baertschi was initially concerned with a summons.
"I follow the Flames the whole season," he said. "I want to know what's going on out here. I want to make sure I'm always updated, so I saw it was tough when they had all those injuries, but I wasn't thinking of getting called up or anything emergency call-up, I was worried about the other players that were injured."
The Flames were able to recall Baertschi from junior based on an agreement between the NHL and CHL that states if a team is on its third emergency situation, the club can recall a player from major junior. With the Flames actually on their fourth call-up of that nature, a shocked Baertschi was plucked Wednesday.
"For sure, it's a surprise," he said. "It's a dream. As soon as I got the call, it's just empty in my head. I don't know what to think. As soon as I got the message I called my parents and they couldn't believe it.
"They couldn't believe it. I told my mom to sit down first and I told her and she thought I was just joking around and she started laughing, then I told her I was serious and I think she cried a little bit, so it was really exciting."
Just 48 hours after earning WHL player of the week honors for his efforts with Portland, the Langenthal native left his Winterhawks to join the Flames in preparation for Friday's game against the Winnipeg Jets.


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"I know it's not going to be the same as playing in the Western Hockey League," said Baertschi, who has 33 goals and 94 points in just 47 games with the Winterhawks. "It's going to be a really hard game. A couple guys said it's going to be like playoffs out there."
Tom Kostopoulos, who will play on a line with Baertschi and Greg Nemisz, thinks that given the set of circumstances surrounding the Calgary club, it's the perfect introduction for the former first-round pick.
"I think it's a great situation," Kostopoulos said. "You come into a situation that's a must-win for us and a pressure situation for him. It's a win-win situation for him and everyone is excited. It's a good situation for him to jump into the lineup."
Alex Tanguay, a veteran of 869 career games spanning 12 seasons, hopes Baertschi gets the opportunity to enjoy the experience despite the pressure.
"I just told him to have fun," Tanguay said. "I remember when it was my first time. You have so many thoughts running through your mind you're basically going crazy. I'm sure he'll have a hard time falling asleep tonight, but I just told him to do the things that have brought him here."
Baertschi admitted he's already had a restless night.
"It was already tough to sleep yesterday," he said. "You're nervous a little bit, but on the other side you don't know exactly what to expect and you're worried about that."
That's where Kostopoulos feels he can be of service to the rookie.
"I'll try to talk to him a lot, but I think we just have to let him play," Kostopoulos said. "Everyone is going to make mistakes. He's going to make his good plays; he's going to make mistakes. We can't harp on him too much, just let him play and let him have fun. He'll learn along the way and we'll help him out."
And with veterans around to help him with the learning process, Baertschi can turn his attention to savoring the moments of his first NHL game.

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