SUN Hockey Pool

'Couldn't care less'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Finally, the Western Conference Championship banner will be raised. The Sea of Red is allowed to return. All those memories from the Stanley Cup run of 2004 can be rekindled.

That's what tonight's Calgary Flames home-opener is all about. Right?

Not if you're in the Flames dressing room.

"Honestly, I couldn't care less about it. If the banner was already up there, it wouldn't bother me," said defenceman Andrew Ference.

"It's not this great positive feeling from the playoffs because we lost. We didn't win the Stanley Cup. It's good memories from going through it with the guys but, at the end of the day, it wasn't a championship -- it was a good first step.

"I don't think the players are asking for accolades, asking for all this gratitude for what we did in the past. We're moving on and have bigger issues to deal with right now."

Rest assured, GM/head coach Darryl Sutter doesn't want his players thinking too heavily about tonight's festivities before the meeting with the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., Sportsnet, Fan 960).

Besides, as he points out, of the players who'll hit the ice tonight, there are only a dozen who skated during the run to the Stanley Cup final.

"It's good for the guys who were on that team," Sutter said. "I'm kind of in-the- moment, not in-the-last-decade. That was two years ago, it's almost irrelevant to me.

"It's a tribute to the fans. When I came here, the one thing we had to do is ask our fans to be part of our identity. They became a part of that as that year went along.

"So, to me, it's sort of their reward."

Bank on those fans wanting more than just the reward of a banner being hoisted to the rafters.

With elevated expectations surrounding the squad, fans aren't too happy the Flames were blown out three times on their season-opening four-game road trip.

Those ticket buyers also are looking for two points.

Still, Ference doesn't believe the pressure is any higher than if he and his teammates had won three of four road games.

"There's pressure all the time. There's pressure to perform the whole season," he said.

"Whether it's added because you dropped three of the first four, I don't know. We know we didn't put ourselves in a good position right off the bat but that's what the whole season's for -- to recover from losses, recover from tough times and forge ahead.

"No sense dwelling on it, learn from it and move on."

For a while, though, there will be some reminiscing.

The fans deserve it, since they were left on the sidelines, with almost no consideration, while the owners and players had their spat that wiped out the 2004-05 season and delayed the festivities.

"The fans are welcome to celebrate, it's just as players we don't have to," Ference said. "We have a game to concentrate on, the fans can party all they want."


Videos

Photos