Heat turned up on Flames’ top prospect Baertschi
Rookie reports to Abbotsford where coach Ward has no plans to go easy on him
Sven Baertschi celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Minnesota Wild last March 11. He made quite an impression on Calgary hockey fans during a late season call-up, but, due to the NHL lockout, if they want to see him play now, they’ll have to travel to Abbotsford.
Photograph by: Bruce Kluckhohn, NHLI via Getty Images
As far as Sven Baertschi is concerned, however, Ward is more of a drill sergeant in charge of the boot camp required to book passage to the National Hockey League.
The fun officially kicks off this morning for the sensational Swiss sniper at Abbotsford Heat training camp.
First up: the vomit-inducing bike test in the conference room of a Fraser Valley hotel.
“People may be like, ‘oh, here comes Sven. Let’s do this for Sven and let’s do that for Sven,’ ” Ward says. “I’m on a different page. Let’s let Sven do what he’s supposed to do. Let him earn everything he gets.
“We’re not going to throw out the red roses here because he’s coming.”
Don’t get Ward wrong. He doesn’t intend on being a jerk to the top prospect in the organization. He just wants the kid to undergo a crash course in the fine art of succeeding in professional hockey.
Thus the firm approach....
“In order for him to produce up there and go through tough times, he’s going to have to go through some tough times down here,” Ward says. “Otherwise, we would be doing a disservice to our fans in Calgary and to our coaches up there.
“When he goes up there and does go through some rough waters, we need him know how to handle that and know how to act.”
The education of Mr. Baertschi is just one of many intriguing storylines shaping up this weekend in the Fraser Valley. They’re calling it Abbotsford Heat training camp when 45 players — including Flames regulars T.J. Brodie, Lance Bouma Leland Irving and Roman Horak — hit the ice on Saturday morning at the MSA Arena (the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre is booked for a Lingerie Football League game.)
But don’t be fooled. The Calgary Flames coaching staff and brass will watch every move to determine which players deserve promotion to the big league.
And which players don’t.
“For a guy like Krys Kolanos, this is his NHL camp,” Ward says. “A guy like Carter Bancks — mention any name you want, T.J. Brodie, Chris Breen Lance Bouma — there’s no hiding right now. All eyes are right here.
“There’s no hiding, but that’s a good thing in life.”
And the attention is a good thing for some of the lower-profile players who would be hard pressed to earn a second look at training camp in Calgary.
With the NHL pre-season cancelled outright and the season in jeopardy, every player in Abby will get a long look from the men in suits.
“It’s going to be very intense,” Ward says. “The message to the players is there aren’t many times in life — especially in the game of hockey — that you get this kind of focus for this period of time on your performance and your play. The one thing about the American League is that you always hope and wish that you’re going to be looked at for a long period of time, because a lot of time, you just go unnoticed at this level for awhile.
“So we’re going to talk about that.”
They’re also going to talk about the need for maximum effort and competition with pre-season games on the docket for the Heat due, mainly due to geography. The big event of camp comes on Friday with a Red vs. Black intrasquad game.
Cuts will follow on the weekend.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a war to make the team down here with 13 forward spots, and there’s 25 of them here,” Ward says. “That’s a lot of guys to let go.”
In net, Irving has a spot nailed down after signing a professional tryout agreement with the Heat. The Flames opted to not expose him to waivers before the lockout to prevent the risk of another team claiming him.
So Irving feared an entire season lost — should the NHL lockout last that long — if he couldn’t find work.
As it turns out, Irving is eligible to stay with the team on an AHL deal until the NHL labour dispute is resolved because he suited up for the Heat during the 2011/12 Calder Cup playoffs.
“It’s been very scary,” Irving says. “We’ve looked all over Europe and tried to find a bunch of other options. There’s not a lot out there.
“This is really the best thing for me right now. The American League will be the best it’s ever been. There will be a lot of talent down here.”
From a Calgary perspective, perhaps no one more talented than Baertschi.
“He’s a special player,” Ward says. “Everybody in the organization wants good things to happen, and good things will happen.
“But I have to make sure he toes the mark down here.”
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