Gap-toothed smiles abound as Flames players ready to get back to work
Cammalleri sporting a wicked smile as he mirrors enthusiasm of players around the league
A charitable sort, Michael Cammalleri hated the idea of terrorizing his fellow passengers Sunday in the departure lounge at Pearson International Airport.
But the Calgary Flames forward couldn’t help but grin as he waited with his young family for the plane back home.
And that grin? Well, let’s just say he won’t be appearing in toothpaste commercials any time soon.
“If I sound funny, I got three teeth knocked out a couple days ago on the ice,” Cammalleri said via cellphone just before boarding. “It’s my front three teeth.
“You’ll notice a big difference in my smile for sure. And today is a big day of smiles.”
Nothing — not even recovery from oral surgery — could bring Cammalleri down the day the NHL and NHLPA finally hammered out a deal to end the 113-day lockout.
In a new experience, Cammalleri took part in marathon negotiations in December with the federal mediator and both parties in the room.
As such, the 30–year-old offered a shout out to everyone involved — from the players’ side — in finally bringing closure to the hockey shutdown.
“I can tell you I was at the last round of negotiations in New York where you’re putting in 18-hour plus days in a board room,” he said. “It was the most exhausting experience of my life. We did it for three days in a row. The guys now have done it for a week, the guys who were there to get the deal done.
“I just can’t believe how exhausted they must be. I’ve talked to a couple of them through text message and it was gruelling that way for them. I’m really thankful to the staff and the guys who really worked hard to get this done.”
As Cammalleri sat waiting for his plane — and it’s never an easy task booking last minute between Toronto and Calgary, especially at the end of a weekend — NHL players all over the globe scrambled to make travel arrangements and get back in time for training camp.
After 113 days of flipping channels — and scouring all forms of social media — defenceman Mark Giordano can’t wait to finally make the news instead of watching it.
“It’s such a roller-coaster,” he said. “With all the ups and downs along the way, it’s been really tough. Some days, you come into the rink and you’re optimistic. Other days, it doesn’t feel so good.
“For us to get to January, there were some really frustrating days. And then you start to feel nervous and wonder if you’re going to play at all this year.”
Forward Lee Stempniak wondered if his brother was just playing with him by sending a text in the wee hours of Sunday morning to say the lockout was over.
Still sleepy, Stempniak turned on TSN to watch the Sunday NFL Countdown.
Turns out his brother was right.
“They had this whole NHL ‘game on’ special,” Stempniak said. “So I sort of knew it was real then.
“The deadline was approaching on Jan. 11. You knew it was coming, but it still felt far away. You knew progress was being made, but to wake up and have a deal?
“That was pretty surreal.”
Like Giordano, Stempniak is simply thankful for the end of emotional tug of war.
“It was a little bit of a roller-coaster ride where it seemed like there was progress being made and then it would be a stalemate,” said Stempniak, who also thanked the players in New York and union boss Donald Fehr for making a deal happen. “It seemed like you took two steps back, and it was just a really long process.
“I think the uncertainty and just not knowing what to expect day to day when you expect to be playing hockey, I think that’s tough.”
All hockey players pride themselves in being tough. Cammalleri is no exception.
So while he was outwardly smiling Sunday in the airport, a big part of him actually felt like grimacing.
“The puck came off Steve Stamkos’s stick,” he said of the teeth-shattering incident at an informal practice with Toronto-area NHLers. “It’s been pretty painful. I had to have oral surgery. One of the teeth had already been knocked out and put back. There was a post and a root canal, and it was like in 25 pieces. So it was just like digging it out of your face.
“But it’s just a few teeth. I’m a hockey player. What are you going to do?”
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