SUN Hockey Pool

Joseph's burning desire

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

Curtis Joseph could have easily skated off into the sunset.

It would have been understandable for him to never return to hockey, enjoy the spoils of a lengthy and successful NHL career and his family.

But, even though he'll have 41 candles on the cake in late April, the newest Calgary Flame netminder admitted he wasn't ready to retire.

"I see that retirement is a long time," Joseph said after partaking in his first practice with his new team yesterday at the Saddledome. "I didn't have any injuries or physical complaints and still felt like I had a lot to give, and that was the main reason to go to the Spengler (Cup tournament). That reiterated I want to play."

Joseph officially joined the team yesterday, signing a pro-rated contract worth US$1.5 million for the remainder of the season. He is expected to serve as the back-up for No.-1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff.

However, he's more than just a caddy for a Flames team that believes it can win the Northwest Division title and go on a lengthy playoff run.

With 913 NHL regular-season games under his belt -- as well as 131 playoff outings -- he currently sits fifth on the league's all-time goaltender wins list with 446, one behind Terry Sawchuk.

How many games he'll play in Flames' silks remains to be seen, even for him.

"No -- just happy to be playing again," he answered, when asked if he had an idea of how many of the final 4 games he'd see action. "It's a supporting role, and that's fine by me. Whatever I can do to help with the workload and help this team win I'm perfectly fine with."

Curtis McElhinney was demoted to the AHL's Quad City Flames to make space.

The addition has the Flames believing more in their Stanley Cup aspirations..

"It's nice to have that experience back there," said centre Daymond Langkow.

"He's a competitor to be at his position and played as long as he has and accomplished all he has."

Captain Jarome Iginla pointed out Joseph's addition will extend past on-ice play.

"Off the ice, just his experience for some of the young guys to look at and learn from him will help our locker-room, too," said Iginla, who was Cujo's teammate on the gold-medal winning 2002 Olympic team.

Joseph spent the last two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes but didn't find a job to his liking before this campaign began. However, he proved he wanted another crack by winning gold with Canada's entry at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, where he posted a 1.95 goals-against average and a perfect 3-0 record.

And he found a renewed zest for the game.

"You should have seen Curtis this morning," said goalie coach David Marcoux. "He had the fire in his eyes coming in here and taping his sticks. He was like a rookie. It was really impressive to see the desire and the fire in his eyes.

"I'd like to see him in a Calgary Flames uniform beating Terry Sawchuk's record. That's something very interesting."

Joseph, who received overtures from several teams in the days leading up to his signing, said part of his decision to join the Flames was he believes it's a team with a chance to earn him his first Stanley Cup.

"It's a hard-working team and appears to be a close team. I know how much hockey means here," said Joseph, who faced the Flames in a memorable 2004 playoff series. "If you could win a cup here that would be pretty special -- the fans come out in full force."


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