SUN Hockey Pool

Nolan's emotional intro

The newest Flame, Owen Nolan, almost joined the team at the trade deadline but medical concerns...

The newest Flame, Owen Nolan, almost joined the team at the trade deadline but medical concerns kiboshed the move. (Sun File)

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

The question was simple.

The answer was as complex as it was emotional.

Officially introduced yesterday via conference call as the latest addition to the Calgary Flames, Owen Nolan was asked how close he came to becoming a Flame before the trade deadline.

His response revealed a little-known family tragedy that made his decision to turn down a late-season trade to Calgary a no-brainer.

"I was real close," said a soft-spoken Nolan, pausing to clear his throat before speaking of a pain dwarfing that of his reconstructed knee.

"We had some misfortune in our family a couple of years ago -- we lost a daughter -- and my wife was pregnant at the time around the trade deadline. Just out of respect to me (Phoenix Coyotes' then-GM) Mike Barnett told me that if I wanted to go (to Calgary), I could go. It was a tough decision but I felt my wife needed to be near doctors that's she's been with all year. It was a tough decision to stay on a team that wasn't going to make the playoffs (for a chance to) go to a team that's going to make the playoffs. But I've always felt the family has to come first and that's why I made that decision."

Blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Jordan, in the summer of 2003, Nolan's wife Diana had a stillborn child two-and-a-half years later that helped extend a two year-hiatus from the game initially brought on by knee surgery.

To put a happy ending on the story they had a healthy baby boy last month.

If there was ever any doubt he was a Darryl Sutter type, the paramount concern of his wife proved it.

At age 35 and with two years of healing, Nolan is still chasing the dream of winning a Stanley Cup 17 years after being drafted first overall by Quebec.

No, the Flames aren't counting on him to return to the form that twice saw him eclipse the 40-goal mark as one of the most complete players in hockey. Sutter simply knows he can easily provide the type of leadership, grit and experience every team needs to survive two months of playoff wars.

When asked what fans could expect from him, Sutter's longtime captain in San Jose chuckled.

"It's going to be better than last year, lets put it that way," said Nolan who shook off rust to score 16 goals and add 24 helpers in 76 games with the 'Yotes.

"I know I can still play in this league and be effective in this league."

He proved that last year when he progressed from fourth-line checker and penalty-killer to a top-line scorer by Christmas who had no centre of note.

Penciled in as the Flames second-line right-winger behind Jarome Iginla, his versatility is key for a club that waved goodbye to shorthanded specialist Jeff Friesen and even Tony Amonte to a certain extent.

"When I come to Calgary, I want to play physically, score goals and be accountable for my defence," said the free agent who signed for one year at US$1.75 million.

Words to the ears of Sutter, who wishes every player could bring such intangibles.

As a longtime Sutter supporter you get a distinct feeling he thrives on the intense atmosphere Mike Keenan is sure to bring this season.

But more than anything else, the chance to finally win a Cup is what excites the feisty native of Belfast, Ireland, more than anything else.

"I feel we have a great chance to win and that's why it was as great option to come," said Nolan.

And, this time, the timing is just right for everyone involved.


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