Fresh beginning for Begin: Veteran aims to restart his career with his old team
Calgary drafted the 34-year-old in 1996 and now he’s here on a pro tryout agreement
The Calgary Flames gave Steve Begin his first opportunity when they drafted him shortly after his 18th birthday in the second round of the 1996 NHL entry draft.
And now, at age 34, the team is giving him another shot.
The sizable centreman and veteran of 488 career NHL games made his first appearance at WinSport Tuesday to introduce himself to potential teammates and evaluate his off-season conditioning.
“It’s a thrill for me to be back here,” Begin said. “I get a chance so I have to take it. I know what I have to do. I have to show up. Right now, I feel good — in top shape. Like I said, it’s been a long ride for me so, I’m excited.”
The ride has also been bumpy and full of road blocks.
Last summer, the six-foot, 192-pounder found himself on the operating table to repair a torn labrum and remove bone spurs. Recovery hasn’t been easy. But neither has his career in the NHL.
After spending seven years in the Calgary organization —- and winning a Calder Cup and an AHL MVP trophy with the Saint John Flames in 2001 — Begin moved onto the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and Nashville Predators and spent significant time in the minors.
But thanks to a professional tryout agreement from the Flames this off-season, he’s been gearing up to hit the ice — whenever that date may be.
“I’ve been in the gym pretty much every day,” said Begin who has racked up 52 goals, 100 points, and 539 penalty minutes in the NHL. “On the ice about six times a week. Sometimes, I was on the ice by myself. It’s been long. But at the end, I know it’s going to pay off. So I have to focus on my goal. I’m excited. It’s a chance for me. Nobody thought I’d try to make a comeback. And here I am. So I have to make the best out of it.”
He is well aware that Calgary is short on centremen but also knows his role — supplying grit.
“I know what I have to do,” said Begin who calls Montreal home in the off-season. “When I come here, I don’t look at the sheet — who is on the bubble, who’s not, if I have a chance or not. So, I have to prove something first to myself and the coaching staff. I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can do. I want to be here; I want to be in this league again and I know I can do it.
“So, that’s all I can do.”
JACKMAN LOOKING TOO PRETTY
Teeth in and mug unmarked, Tim Jackman is nearly unrecognizable.
The Flames’ tough-guy is currently enjoying a rare state of unscathedness. No black eyes. No eyebrow embroidery. Yet. Because facial dings are a byproduct of a winter spent heroically fighting the team’s battles, which is what Jackman does.
And this season, with a lighter lineup, the rugged right-winger will be as busy as ever. As it is, only nine players fought more times than No. 15 in 2011-12.
“I think everybody has their role,” said Jackman, six foot four and 220 pounds. “Those (finesse) guys are going to do what they do and do their best at it, and I’m going to try to do my best at what I do. I’m going to be physical and try to bring that to the team.
“We’re going to go out there, play together, see what we can do.”
Jackman spent the extended off-season skating at Ridder Arena — home of the University of Minnesota women’s team — with likes of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Matt Carle.
Wednesday, however, marked his first spin of the winter in Calgary.
“I’m excited. I think we’re all excited,” said Jackman, 31. “It’s just we have no time to waste. Let’s get in shape and get ready to go, get jelling and get everything working as fast as we can.”
WOW IS WORD OF THE DAY AFTER BURKE’S FIRING
The news of Brian Burke’s firing greeted the Flames Wednesday as they wrapped up an informal training session at Winsport’s ice complex.
Mark Giordano, for one, wondered if it might simply be a practical joke making the rounds among the twitter-addicted reporters in attendance.
“Wow,” Giordano said, after what seemed like an eternity. “Wow, didn’t see that coming.”
With every ‘wow,’ the reality began to sink in that the truculent Toronto Maple Leafs general manager was indeed sacked in the so-called Centre of the Universe.
“Wow, they’ll be a lot of coverage on that one,” Giordano said. “That’s a surprise to me. I was a Leafs fan growing up and all my friends are, so it will be a lot to talk about over there for the next couple of days, that’s for sure.”
Having taken time to catch his breath in the locker-room before chatting with reporters, fellow Toronto native Matt Stajan anticipated the question before it even came.
“That’s shocking news,” Stajan said. “I’ve been skating the last four or five days in Toronto before I got here, and that will be a shock to all the players, I would say, let alone the whole city.”
In Toronto, even the most innocuous utterance of fourth line grinder ranks as significant news, so Stajan can’t imagine how this one will play out in the media.
“You know what all the hype is like with the lockout being over,” said Stajan, who played the better part of six seasons in his hometown. “You feel it here, but in Toronto, you feel it even more. And this is just going to cause a big stir.
“The radio talk shows and newspapers are going to have a field day.”
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