It's a blockbuster

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Regardless of what happens between now and Thursday's trading deadline, it says here Darryl Sutter has already sewn up GM of the year honours.

In what first appeared to be a relatively insignificant deal involving a minor-league tough guy for a veteran defenceman, Sutter brought to Calgary one of the biggest talents the city has ever seen.

Arriving in Calgary with little fanfare early Wednesday morning, the new star in town has kept a decidedly low profile for many reasons, including the fact she's due to give birth roughly the same time playoffs start.

Her name is Gena Lee Nolin and because her husband, Cale Hulse, is now a Flame, Calgary is a better place to live.

A blond bombshell from Minnesota whose early successes included being Miss Las Vegas and one of Bob Barker's Beauties on The Price is Right, Nolin surged to international fame and fortune in 1995 when she stepped into the sandals and red swimsuit of the departed Pam Anderson on Baywatch.

What's followed has included endless TV and movie credits, including a hosting gig on ElimiDate, a regular stint on Hollywood Squares, an appearance on Fear Factor and her own show -- Sheena, on which she was a scantily clad Amazon-type wearing skimpy loincloth made out of animal skins.

So popular is Nolin, a Google search on the 34-year-old actress and model finds 1,020,000 matches, giving an intrepid reporter years to peruse websites, calendars and magazine spreads, if he so chooses.

Versatile enough to apprehend a drug lord and survive a shark attack in the same Baywatch episode, Nolin was also a Miss Universe judge, co-host of a revamped That's Incredible and a contestant on The Great American Spelling Bee.

Her movie credits include Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding and Adam Sandler's Airheads, neither of which had anything to do with her appearances on talk shows with everyone from Craig Kilborn and Conan O'Brien to David Letterman and Howard Stern.

So, how did a former Calgary Royals defenceman who grew up in Bonavista wind up marrying one of the sexiest women in the world?

"Funny story -- it was a blind date," said Hulse, whose matchmaking pals should be entered into the Friendship Hall of Fame. "I had just signed a deal with Phoenix (in September 2003) and had been there about a week and mutual friends set us up. We went for coffee, hit it off and here we are."

Aside from appearing on the cover of a recent magazine on pregnancy, Nolin's career has been put on hold so she can focus on the birth of her second child.

"She's had offers on different things but being pregnant there's only so much you can do," said the 6-ft. 3-in., 215-lb. Hulse, 32, taking her fame in stride. "She's in a situation where she's lucky -- she hasn't been in the big-time spotlight for a while but she does still get offers."

Are they stopped by fans everywhere they go?

"She gets recognized a lot depending on where we are but she's a very humble, down-to-earth person and is flattered when people approach her and say something."

Calgarians will only have that chance for the next handful of days before Nolin returns to their Scottsdale home where she'll stay until she gives birth.

A free agent at season's end, locals can only hope things work out here in Hulse's second-go-round as a Flame, opening the door for another brilliant Sutter signing.

Then maybe, just maybe, we'll see his wife running across the sand at Sikome Beach.

- - -

GENE LEE NOLIN

BORN -- Nov. 29, 1971, Duluth, Minn.

RESIDENCE -- Scottsdale, Ariz.

HEIGHT -- 5 ft. 9 in.

CAREER STATS -- 36C-24-34

SEASON -- HIGHLIGHTS

1993 -- Miss Hawaiian Tropic (runner-up)

1994 -- Price is Right, Young and Restless

1995-2000 -- Baywatch (Neely Capshaw)

2000 -- Sheena

2002 -- Fear Factor

2003 -- Hollywood Squares, Pet Star

2004 -- ElimiDate (host), married Cale Hulse, Celebrity Spelling Bee

2005 -- Life after Baywatch

2006 -- Traded to Calgary with Hulse for Cam Severson. Expecting second child in April.


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