Flames legend Lanny McDonald addresses the troops ahead of crucial game in Vancouver
Lanny McDonald speaks with 0-2 club before practice
Booted over to the Stampede Corral Tuesday to make way for the Queen of Talk, Bob Hartley channelled his inner Oprah Winfrey.
Instead of lashing his Calgary Flames for two straight losses, the coach talked about the positives. He preached the importance of living in the solution (working on tightening things up on defence, reviewing the specifics of the new system) rather than seeking out someone to blame for the four points that got away.
Indeed, a sense of calm pervaded the locker-room as the Flames packed their bags for the first road game of the season tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.
“We have some new guys,” Hartley said. “We have some young kids in the lineup, and it’s just a matter of playing an NHL style that’s going to allow us to win some games.
“We can’t fault the effort. We can’t fault the attitude.”
In the spirit of Oprah, Hartley even brought in an inspirational speaker to address the troops before practice.
If Jarome Iginla is the modern-day face of the franchise, Hall of Famer sniper Lanny McDonald is the historical equivalent The moustached one — technically in the house to view a locker-room mural of his hands hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1989 — preached the importance of sticking together through the inevitable ups and downs.
His message fell on receptive ears.
“He hoisted the Cup, and it’s important for everybody to get that,” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “For the young guys, it instils confidence and gives them direction. As an old guy, it gives meaning as to how you need to help your teammates and how you need to bond together.
“He talked about building a base, and that’s it. We’ve done some good things, but all around there’s a few weaknesses in our game. You need to work on those. You need to slowly take those out.”
Tuesday’s practice proved a prime example of the culture change in these parts with Hartley, Jacques Cloutier, Martin Gelinas and Craig Conroy acting as teachers patiently correcting mistakes as they happened.
As Hartley stood at the white board, he could be heard lavishing praise on the boys for their attention and effort.
As for raised voices? Not a one.
“Right now, we’re focusing a lot on making sure that we’re all accountable in our own zone,” Hartley said. “Knowing our responsibilities, knowing when to go from defence to offence.
“We want to be a fast hockey club, a quick-moving hockey club. But one thing is, we can’t give free chances.”
The Flames were guilty as charged on that front Thursday night, falling behind 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks before clawing back to tie it 3-3.
Then came two more mistakes as the Ducks staked out a 5-3 lead, only to have the Flames come back once more.
The final score: 5-4.
“Sure, they didn’t win the game, but I saw some good things,” McDonald said Tuesday afternoon. “In the past if they were down 3-0, it would have been 5-0. They dug themselves out of a hole, not only once but darn near did it twice.
“They’ve got a great sprinkling of experience with youth and enthusiasm. If they stick together, they’ll be just fine.”
As much as Hartley realizes going 0-2 is a terrible way to start a 48-game season, he concurs with Sir Lanny on the reasons for optimism.
“The guys are unbelievable, whether in games or in practices,” he said. “Down early three-zip, they fought back. Then we were down 5-3, they kept coming.
“I have tons of respect for this, because they will not quit. I know they want to redeem themselves. They want to be in the playoffs. There’s nothing more that I want than to help them be in the playoffs.”
After two straight defeats, even at home, gloom and doom can wait for another day.
No doubt, Oprah would approve.
“You guys saw practice,” Hartley said. “We want fun. Obviously, losing is not fun, but I told them we’re very fortunate. We play the game we dream of as a little kid.
“The first two games were not great results. We’re representing a great community, and we have to get better. That’s my job. My partners, the players, we’re all committed to one thing and that’s making the Calgary Flames a successful hockey club.
“I’m challenging them to get better every day, and they’ve been unbelievable. If someone says we don’t work at practice, well, we’re not watching the same practices.”
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