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Leap left behind

Right-winger Shean Donovan is one of several Flames who simply can't wait to get back on Saddledome...

Right-winger Shean Donovan is one of several Flames who simply can't wait to get back on Saddledome ice after the lockout. (Calgary Sun File/Darren Makowichuk)

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Shean Donovan toned down his post-goal celebration overseas.

The Calgary Flames winger became a crowd favourite for his enthusiastic leaps into the Plexiglas after lighting the lamp during the 2004 playoffs.

Last season, playing for Geneva-Servette of the Swiss Elite League, Donovan was a little more reserved -- mostly because of the rink's football field-like dimensions.

"I scored a few times but the boards were too far away," Donovan joked. "I would have been out of wind by the time I got there."

The 30-year-old right-winger spent six weeks in Switzerland, from mid-November to Christmas, before returning home in hopes an NHL deal would get done.

The whole experience was a little rough on Donovan's wife Teresa and son Jorian, who was born just before the 2004 playoffs began.

"She was stuck in a hotel and they speak French in Geneva," Donovan said. "She didn't speak French."

"It was an experience anyways. But it makes you like home a lot more."

Donovan said he was suprised by the high skill level in the Swiss League but added the European game wasn't as wide-open as most people might think.

"Everybody could skate really good," he said. "The physical aspect of the game was a little different but I got used to it by the end of the six weeks. I was impressed with how well all the kids could skate over there.

"You don't get many breakaways or two-on-ones because no one pinches up. They all cheat back towards their own net. There was a lot more clutching and grabbing, I found."

Donovan did get the opportunity to play without the red-line, just as the NHL will do this season, but the style of play was so bizarre, the experience won't be of much help.

"They had a system over there where the wingers play up at the far blueline and the d-men pass the puck back and forth. It was like a soccer game," he said.

"As a winger, I just sat on the far wall and just waited until the D got tired of passing it back and forth. We'd sit there asleep on the blueline."

Donovan got to watch Martin Gelinas, who ripped up the second division with Morges, as well as Flames teammates Steve Montador, Rhett Warriner and Robyn Regehr when he played against the touring world stars squad.

Back home after the Christmas break, Donovan played in a few men's league tournaments in Ontario and then laced up with a group of firemen until the season was officially cancelled.

He's recently been skating with other Flames at Father David Bauer Arena.

Eager to build on his career-best 18 goals in 2003-04, Donovan said he's amazed at the support Flames fans have shown, especially after a long, nasty lockout.

"Their response has been awesome," he said. "I know from talking with the boys I'm skating with, everyone's fired up."


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