Zyuzin always wild about Calgary

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

Andrei Zyuzin's only experience in Calgary is as a visitor, part of the travelling carnival that is life in the NHL.

Yet the defenceman said there's something soothing about becoming the newest member of the Flames.

Call it a sort of homecoming.

"We thought about Calgary a lot," said Zyuzin, who signed a free agent contract with the Flames Saturday.

"I told my wife after the season if we couldn't stay in Minnesota, it was a place I wanted to go.

"It's great when you go to a team that really wants you and you really want to be there.

"It's a good feeling. Like going home."

Currently on a family getaway in Hawaii, Zyuzin's time as an unrestricted free-agent was short-lived, leaving the Wild for a two-year, $2.8-million US pact with the Flames on the first day free agents could sign elsewhere.

"I didn't think it was going to happen that quick. My agent told me Calgary was interested and it happened quickly," he said.

"It's a great town. Calgary is a hockey town, it's Canada and everybody loves hockey."

Where the 28-year-old from Russia fits into Calgary's strong defence corps remains to be seen.

No slam-dunk, sure-fire partner leaps out -- though the Flames will need a replacement for Jordan Leopold alongside Robyn Regehr -- but Zyuzin has the savvy to know the best course of action is to see how things play out.

"All I have to know is to go out on the ice and play my hardest," said the vet, who has skated in 415 games with San Jose, Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Minnesota.

"It's hockey. You go and play."

The signing also reunites Zyuzin with Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, who guided him through parts of two seasons in San Jose in the late 1990s.

Although Zyuzin will admit not always seeing eye-to-eye with the hard-edged Sutter, he admits knowing now the coached pushed him to make him the best he can be.

"When I came into the league, everything was new. I didn't know anything about NHL hockey. Growing up in Russia, we didn't have satellite dishes to watch the games, we only had three channels on TV and one was only news," he said. "He showed me the character you need.

"When you're young and you don't like certain things, you think it's not the way it should be done.

"But then you get older and you learn it's not that they're trying to hurt you, they're trying to help you.

"That's one reason I'm so happy.

"I know Darryl's character and what he's trying to do."


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