Opportunity knocks for Abbotsford Heat players
Brodie, Baertschi among AHL players aiming to compete for full-time jobs with the Flames
There are no details, dates, or rosters in place yet.
But T.J. Brodie knows, for sure, this upcoming Calgary Flames training camp will feel a little different.
“Usually you go to Calgary before the start of the season,” the 22-year-old defenceman was saying Sunday, hours after the news broke of the deal reached between the NHL and NHLPA. “Bring your stuff there. Then if you get sent down, you have all your stuff with you. Being here, not knowing if I should pack everything up.
“There’s a lot of question marks, I guess. But I’ll just deal with that stuff as it comes.”
A rushed camp is expected to take place later this week, making future planning difficult for Brodie and a handful of Abbotsford Heat players who’ll likely get the call to trek the 900-odd kilometres from the Fraser Valley to Calgary.
Of course, the uncertainty is a small price to pay for the payoff in bigger picture — that hockey is back in business.
For Brodie, it means another chance to kick-start his National Hockey League career after playing 54 games and finishing the season with the Flames last year.
No doubt it’s been something the Chatham, Ont., native has been itching to do since he got his first taste of NHL during the 2010-11 season when he made the Flames lineup out of training camp.
“It was obviously disappointing when (the lockout) happened,” Brodie said. “The whole season, you’re wondering how long it’s going to be or if it’s going to be the whole season but I was fortunate to be able to play this year at least. It wouldn’t have helped me too much if I didn’t have a place to play.
“At the same time, I’m sort of lucky.”
Now, like many, he’s in a waiting mode.
“I haven’t heard anything yet,” said Brodie who has a goal, 19 assists, and 22 penalty minutes in 34 American Hockey League games this season. “Hopefully I’ll get invited to camp and get a chance to play.
“They’ve got a lot of guys on D that are one-ways. It’s definitely going to be pretty tough to crack the lineup.
“The opportunity would be nice.”
Also enjoying a day off in Abbotsford, Sven Baertschi rolled out of bed on Sunday morning, fired up his laptop, and pulled up TSN’s website.
Good news all around — but no need to get too excited yet.
“All I know is they have the deal and that’s it,” said the 20-year-old Swiss sensation. “I don’t know when camp is going to start and I’m not sure what’s going to happen the next couple days. Nobody’s talked to me yet.
“I think they’re really busy doing other things.”
Preparations had only just begun on Sunday but Baertschi had his focus elsewhere for the majority of the weekend, trying to get return to playing form after missing 13 games with a head/neck injury.
The Swiss sensation returned to Abbotsford’s lineup on Friday and Saturday against the visiting Rochester Americans after suffering a hit on Nov. 30 against Hamilton.
“I was excited to come back and skate again,” he said. “Then, out of nowhere, the news came up that the NHL is going to start sooner or later.
“For me, the focus is I want to make the team this season. But, on the other side, I haven’t heard anything. So I’m kind of prepared for anything right now.”
Baertschi compares the upcoming shortened season to his stint in the Swiss 2 league during the 2009-10 campaign when he played for SC Langenthal. There, they only play 50 games a season.
And every game really does matter.
“There isn’t really much time for losing streaks and stuff like that,” Baertschi said. “So you have to try to win as many games as you can and can’t really afford a losing streak. For me, it was good I had this experience back then.”
Last season, the Flames called up the former Portland Winterhawks winger on an emergency basis and, in five games, he scored three goals while becoming a fan favourite in the process.
Now, like Brodie, Baertschi has a shot and will most likely crack the lineup for the duration of the saved 2012-13 NHL season.
“What’s coming up next, I’m not sure,” he said. “The thing is, I haven’t made the team, yet. So, I can’t really comment on anything with what’s going to go on with the team and stuff. I’m still on the outside.
“I’m not inside yet.”
Still, after 113 days of the back-and-forth roller-coaster ride, the lockout is finally over and everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.
Although it was out of his control, Brodie was keeping track of the news all season.
“You hear they’re close a couple times and you start to mentally prepare,” he said. “Then, they’d disagree on something and it was almost like they took a couple steps back.
“At the same time, it was entirely out of my hands so I didn’t try to really worry about it too much.”
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