SUN Hockey Pool

Cujomania hits Calgary

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Wayne Fleming stepped off the ice and walked towards the dressing before doing a double-take that would've made Don Knotts proud.

With the largest gaggle of journalists ever assembled at a Flames' optional skate lining the dressing room corridor three deep, the assistant coach asked the obvious question.

"Is Sidney Crosby back in town?" he wondered.

Turns out Fleming was in the midst of something far bigger: Cujomania.

The Curtis Joseph era officially began in Calgary at lunchtime yesterday, when the Flames finally acknowledged his signing by suiting him up for an optional skate that featured an inordinate amount of participants, both on and off the ice.

With no less than 10 cameramen and 35 journalists on hand to document the arrival of a 40-year-old backup netminder who may play a half-dozen games at most, it quickly became apparent the whole exercise bordered on ridiculous.

An insurance policy, at best, who was wanted by no one before Joseph played well at the same sort of meaningless Christmas tourney thousands of youngsters across Canada participated in, his arrival somehow prompted the type of over-the-top coverage Entertainment Tonight thrives on.

While few argue the merits of his signing, it's clear nothing in town has received this much hype since Brad and Angelina shacked up here.

Still, in the interest of satisfying Flames fans' need to know, we give you a blow-by-blow of Joseph's arrival on the red carpet of the Flames dressing room:

12:45 p.m. -- Joseph hits the ice, skates, stops shots.

1:15 p.m. -- Teammate asks, "how's the altitude affecting you?" It wouldn't be the stupidest question of the day.

1:30 p.m. -- Goaltending coach David Marcoux spends plenty of on-ice, one-on-one time telling Joseph, presumably, to stop the puck lots. Joseph nods.

1:45 p.m. -- Media descend on the dressing room entrance, prompting curious Calgary Hitmen assistant Dave Lowry to joke, "free lunch?" He laughs, unaware he could've caused a riot.

1:53 p.m. -- Joseph leaves the ice and waddles by the assembled, prompting cameras to whir, lighting up the bowels of the rink.

1:59 p.m. -- Paparazzi and muckrakers herd into the dressing room where a horseshoe is formed around the spot from which Joseph will soon hold court. It sparks talk amongst journalists of a tiered system where people who have never before been in the dressing room are placed at the back, just behind those who only come when Crosby or Cujo arrive.

2:00 p.m. -- Flames PR man/comedian Sean Kelso walks in and asks if there's a square dance going on in the middle of the gathering. Still not the stupidest queston.

2:01 p.m. -- Flames communications czar Peter Hanlon announces Joseph went to put on a dry shirt and go to the washroom.

2:04 p.m. -- Cujo emerges with dry shirt. No word on the designer of said garment.

2:05 p.m. -- Paparazzi yell, jostle, before the feeding frenzy begins. "This is certainly a welcome," says Cujo, who goes on to suggest he chose Calgary because it's a winner. Says he's happy to be playing again, knows he's a backup and can't wait to talk shop with Kiprusoff. (He wasn't told Kipper doesn't talk.)

2:12 p.m. -- Kiprusoff emerges (remember him?) and shrugs his shoulders as if to say, "What the heck am I doing here?" The Cujo scrum continues as Kipper walks by.

2:17 p.m. -- Kiprusoff talks. "This is a lot of people."

2:19 p.m. -- Equipment manager Gus Thorson emerges to answer by far the dumbest question of the day. "His shoe size is nine-and-a-half," says Gus.

2:30 p.m. -- Both goalies are gone, ending one of the most bizarre scenes in dressing room lore.

2:45 p.m. --Square dancing begins.


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