Back in the 'Saddle'

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Some of his fondest memories have taken place at the Saddledome, so it seems fitting Grant Stevenson now gets to add to those as a member of the Calgary Flames.

"The first time I put that 'C' on it was a pretty cool feeling," Stevenson, who was signed as a free agent over the summer, said yesterday after practising with his fellow Flames prospects for the first time.

The grandson of Hall-of-Fame goaltender Glenn Hall -- who served as a consultant to the Flames from 1988-2000 -- grew up near Edmonton in Spruce Grove but rooted for Calgary. His allegiance was cemented by trips to the locker-room with his grandpa, hockey cards in hand.

"My grandpa would take me in there," said the 25-year-old who can play centre or wing. "You look around and see Theoren Fleury, Joel Otto, Mike Vernon and those guys, it was pretty cool. I had my hockey cards with me and got those signed. Those memories are probably the best ones."

His first NHL game was pretty unforgettable, too. Coincidentally, it took place at the 'Dome as well. Stevenson was called up by the San Jose Sharks during a road swing through Alberta in November, 2005, and suited up against the Flames in front of his family, with grandpa Hall watching from the press box above.

He scored early in the third period to cap off his greatest NHL memory to date.

But after spending all of last year in the minors, Stevenson says he's looking forward to a clean slate and a fresh start.

"I think it's a great opportunity for me. Being a fan and growing up having my grandfather involved the way he was, it's even more special for me," he said.

ICE CHIPS

Daniel Ryder was absent from camp as the on-ice activity kicked off yesterday. Flames GM Darryl Sutter said the team excused Ryder for the same personal issue that kept the Bonavista, Nfld., product away from this summer's development camp, but the hope is Ryder will join the team soon ... Sutter also said the club hasn't given up on Russian Andrei Taratukhin, whom the GM called "an honourable kid." The Flames remain in contact and expect him to honour the second year of his two-way contract, although that seems unlikely this season.


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