Forced to join 'taxi' squad

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

You can look at the late-night incident on a St. Louis runway two ways.

Optimists will say if the Calgary Flames can push a 135,000-lb. plane, surely the team can overcome its calamitous start to the season.

Pessimists will claim it's just another example of the Flames players not pulling their weight.

Either way, it's hard not to chuckle at the episode.

There they were Saturday night, coming off a 3-2 win over the Blues -- courtesy of a late goal from Jarome Iginla -- and looking forward to sleeping in their own beds following three games in four nights on the road.

But after sitting an unusually long period of time in their oversized seats waiting to take off, the always eager to keep moving GM Darryl Sutter got up to investigate the hold up.

"Darryl went to look out the front door to see what the delay was and they told him the ramp truck, they couldn't start it," said head coach Jim Playfair.

"They couldn't move it, let alone start it. The captain went out and looked at the tarmac, viewed the situation, realized it was a bit of a slope going backwards and he asked for help."

Albeit a little skeptical they could get a 737 rolling, the coaching and training staff (minus Sutter and his wonky knees) skipped down the immovable hydraulic stairway and prepared to push the winged mass of metal about 500 metres away from the ramp before another functional stairway was trucked over so they could re-board.

"First of all, I never thought you could push a 737 down the runway. Just the strong guy from Quebec (Hugo Girard) could do it," recalled Playfair, who found himself eye-to-blade with a dormant but intimidating turbine.

The coach, though, said the plane's captain was very safety conscious.

"He was really crystal clear on what the dos and don'ts were," said Playfair.

"They had a lead horse in the front with hand signals from him. They had a guy at the back -- only one person was allowed to be behind the back wheels.

"Everybody just grabbed a handle and started pushing and it got moving."

Well, once the captain remembered to release the brake after a few seconds of ineffective grunting.

Meanwhile, the players -- many adorned with ice packs and wraps after a bruising couple of games on consecutive nights -- were moved to the front of the craft to make the workload easier for the dozen or so people on the ground.

"Makes you a little nervous," said Iginla with a lopsided smile.

"I was fine as long as they didn't tell us during the flight that we all had to rush to the front of the plane because of turbulence or something."

Teammate Andrew Ference said his captain initially wasn't too comfortable with the situation.

"Jarome thought we had to stay up there the whole flight," ribbed Ference.

"He was standing at the front, he wasn't too pumped. He was scared."

Although the players had it easy, it was FAN 960 colour commentator Mike Rogers who was called out by the coach the morning after.

"Mike Rogers by far was the laziest guy," Playfair joked outside the dressing room. "He barely even put an effort in. The trainers, of course, were the hardest-working guys. They pushed it the most and the hardest and the longest."

Playfair found the event interesting, to say the least.

"Like I told those guys that went out there to do it," said Playfair. "Never in your lifetime will you ever get a chance to push a 737 down a runway again. It was neat."


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