Glencross becoming one of NHL’s best in front of the net
Gritty winger unafraid to pay the price for deflections, screens and getting under a goalie’s skin
Go ahead and call Curtis Glencross a masochist for putting himself in harm’s way at the office.
Sure, bruises of all different hues and colours pop up on a regular basis, thus ruining any dreams of a modelling career. And sure, Glencross has limped off the ice in agony on more than once occasion after taking a puck in the, um, tender bits.
But the Alberta rancher and chuckwagon aficionado takes pride in his blue-collar labour for the Calgary Flames.
“I don’t mind going to the front of the net and standing there,” Glencross said Tuesday as the 0-2 Flames packed their bags for Vancouver. “If you want to stand in front of the net, you’re not always going to be able to stand there and go untouched.
“You’re definitely going to take a beating.”
The beating — in the form of cross-checks to the back and head, sticks across the ankles and shins and 100-mile-an-hour pucks uncorked by the likes of Dennis Wideman and Anton Babchuk — is the price Glencross pays for employment.
The Flames benefited from Glencross and deft touch Monday night with two perfect deflections of point shots past goalie Jonas Hiller.
Sure, the Flames lost 5-4 to the Anaheim Ducks. And sure, they’re 0-2 heading into tonight’s road clash with the Vancouver Canucks.
But the sight of Glencross parked in the blue paint is clearly a delight to head coach Bob Hartley.
“I’m not surprised,” Hartley said after practice over at the old Corral. “Even in practice, he’s standing in front of that net. He’s screening, and he’s tipping pucks. It’s tougher and tougher to get these guys.
“So we’re very fortunate to have him.”
Perhaps the best in the game at tipping pucks and sticking his rump in the crease — Tomas Holmstrom — officially retired Tuesday after 15 years as a Detroit Red Wing.
No one has yet stepped up to claim Holmstrom’s title as the forward most likely to make an NHL goalie drink an alcoholic beverage during a game.
Enter Glencross into the conversation.
“I think with Holmstrom being gone this year, Glennie has to be up there as one of the best in the league,” said defenceman Mark Giordano. “He’s not afraid to go to those dirty areas. He’s our guy who stands in front in a lot of situations. But it’s not just about tipping. He always gets a good screen, and he creates a lot. So it’s a big sacrifice.
“He takes a lot of pucks of the body, a lot of shots off the body. But he gets rewarded for it.”
Glencross, 30, is hardly a one-trick pony. Blessed with speed and a heavy shot, the former Brooks Bandit collected career highs of 26 goals and 48 points in 67 games last season with the Flames.
As a reward, he added the title of “assistant captain” to his resume last week on a rotating basis with Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Michael Cammalleri.
“Glennie, from the first time I met him, he’s a passionate guy,” Hartley said. “He’s ready to pay the ultimate price to be a proud Calgary Flame. He loves it over here. He wears the red ‘C’ on his chest very proudly. That’s why I made him an assistant. I felt this right from the first minute I met him.
“You build a winning culture around guys like this.”
No doubt blessed with a degree of natural hand-eye co-ordination, Glencross concedes he is a “decent” golfer and played a fair share of badminton and volleyball back in high school.
“But nothing quite as fast as a hockey puck coming at you,” he said, laughing.
The Flames signed Wideman as a free agent this summer in part because of his cannon from the point.
On the first day of training camp, Glencross took three Wideman blasts off various body parts, a sign of things to come in this whirlwind 48-game season.
But Wideman is a relatively accurate cuss, at least compared to Babchuk and former Flame-turned-Maple-Leaf Dion Phaneuf.
“Dion was tough, definitely,” Glencross said, with Cammalleri cackling in the background. “Dion, you never knew where it was going. Babs has a bomb from back there, so you don’t know where it’s going half the time.
“So I think Dion and Babs are probably two of the scariest.”
Technique, however, is the perfect tonic for a healthy dose of fear.
“I don’t think that just anyone can go in front of the net and try to tip a puck,” Glencross said. “It takes years of practice.”
His best piece of advice to minor hockey players: keep the stick stationary before the shot arrives as opposed to waving it up and down.
Control is the key.
“If you hold your stick still and let it come to your stick and try to cup it, that works a lot better,” he said, demonstrating with an air hockey stick.
Clearly, this is a man who takes pride in his trade.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald