To China and back

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

Before he was ready for the transition from playing to coaching, Wade Flaherty literally went to the Great Wall.

When we last saw the former Manitoba Moose standout between the pipes as a member of the Rockford IceHogs in 2007-08, you could tell Flaherty was a valuable resource as a mentor, but still had the ability to make the big save.

Sure, there was a nagging groin injury, but the numbers were good and there was no reason to retire just yet.

But rather than wait for an offer from an NHL team that would eventually come, Flaherty opted for a life experience, signing a one-year deal with the China Sharks of the Asia League of Ice Hockey.

“I had opportunities to go over to Europe over the years but I didn’t really want to go,” said Flaherty, who starred for the Moose for three seasons before joining the IceHogs. “The San Jose Sharks contacted me and it was a good opportunity. Going over to China was a shorter season, with less time away from the family.

“It was a first-class set-up in Shanghai. We lived in an international five-star hotel, the food was good, we were treated great. We weren’t a very good team in the league but from the beginning of the year to the end, there were huge improvements. It was a fun time.”

Flaherty started all 36 games and saw plenty of rubber. There was also plenty to experiences off the ice.

“We had an exhibition set-up in Beijing, my family came down and it was like we were tourists,” said Flaherty. “We went to the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. I had the opportunity to do things I probably never would have. It’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

Flaherty enjoyed the exper-ience, but knew his playing career was winding down and shortly after the season in China ended, he signed on to be the Chicago Blackhawks developmental goalie coach.

Flaherty works with goalies in the Blackhawks’ system and also scouts others who might be on the radar screen.

“It’s been an easy transition,” said Flaherty. “I had some experience because I was kind of mentoring already (when he was still playing). It’s a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it.”

Flaherty’s passion for the game and reputation as a level-headed guy that could play when the chips were down (he won a Calder Cup with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2003-04 and a Turner Cup with the Kansas City Blades in 1991-92) are obvious assets in his new role.

“He’s played a lot of years and in a lot of different leagues and he has a wealth of experience,” said Moose captain Mike Keane. “As a young goalie, they’re lucky to have a guy like that around.

“He’s played in the NHL, played in the minors, riding the buses and he knows what it takes to play every night. He’s trying to pass those things on to the young guys.”

“He was always good with his teammates and the goalies who were around him,” added Moose head coach Scott Arniel, who had Flaherty as his starter during the 2006-07 season. “Being in that capacity as goalie coach, he’s a guy who has a good personality and a good demeanour. He’s not anal when it comes to technique.

“And if anybody can handle pressure, especially with young goaltenders, Flats is probably a real good guy to have around to look at situations in a different light, given that he’s been there and had success.”

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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