Flames' Michael Ferland taking it one game -- and one day -- at a time

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames left wing Michael Ferland (79) during first round playoff hockey series.
 

Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames left wing Michael Ferland (79) during first round playoff hockey series.

Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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CALGARY -- It was Michael Ferland’s 23rd birthday on Monday, but he has much more important things to celebrate about his life these days.

Like sobriety.

Ferland, the Calgary Flames winger who is quickly gaining a kind of cult hero status among the team’s fans, reflected Monday on where he was a year ago.

“I think about that every day,” Ferland said. “A year ago from today, I was in rehab and I didn’t think I’d be playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs right now, that’s for sure.”

Ferland is doing more than just playing in the playoffs. He has made a considerable impact in the first three games of the series with the Vancouver Canucks, which the Flames lead 2-1, and his physical play seems to have gotten under the skin of the Canucks.

“I hope so,” he said with a wry smile. “I think I am starting to frustrate them, for sure.”

Raised by a single mom, Dianne -- who happens to be a big fan of Daniel and Henrik Sedin -- Ferland was born in Swan River in northern Manitoba, but grew up in Brandon, where he played junior hockey for the Wheat Kings.

He was well on the way to wasting his pro hockey career when, with the help of some persuasion from the Flames and coach Bob Hartley, he entered rehab just over a year ago.

On Monday, he called it the best decision he has ever made.

“When I was getting help, the people there always said you’ll see your life unfold in front of you and it will be the best thing for you,” he said. “I never really understood it, but now my life is starting to unfold right in front of me and I am just enjoying it. . .I am having a lot of fun right now.”

Hartley spoke Monday about how proud he is of Ferland.

“I was just ready to help if he was ready to make a commitment to his life,” Hartley said. “My message to him was very simple. As a coach we all care about careers, but I said I will go further with you. I care about your life. I don’t believe you can have a career if you don’t have a life and this young man is so impressive. I love it.”

As Ferland’s story begins to get told, he hears more and more from others who are inspired by his story and make improvements to their own lives.

“It’s nice when I get people messaging me and telling them that I am helping them out,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”

Ferland hasn’t made the Canucks feel good. He has led the Flames with 17 hits in the first three games while forming an effective partnership with linemates Matt Stajan and David Jones.

“If he gets a d-man or a forward in his sights, he doesn’t miss them too often,” said teammate Joe Colborne.

As for his birthday, Ferland said he could think of only one present that really matters: a win Tuesday night by the Flames in Game 4.

“That would be a perfect gift for me,” he said.

bziemer@vancouversun.com; twitter.com/bradziemer

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames left wing Michael Ferland (79) during first round playoff hockey series.
 

Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames left wing Michael Ferland (79) during first round playoff hockey series.

Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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