SUN Hockey Pool

Jim enjoys Rebel reunion

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:04 AM ET

Calgary Flames management felt Jim Vandermeer would complement the team's young defencemen.

Last night, he got that opportunity firsthand, suiting up for his first game with the Flames alongside Dion Phaneuf, while wearing the No. 4 jersey.

It's not the first time the two blueliners have played on the same team, although their stint with the Red Deer Rebels lasted only two or three games back in 2000-01 when Phaneuf was a 15-year-old callup and Vandermeer was an overager on the Memorial Cup-winning WHL squad.

"Neufie was a pretty good young player at the time," recalled Vandermeer while addressing the local media in Calgary for the first time yesterday. "Look at the way he turned out."

But their relationship hasn't been limited to hockey.

"I've golfed with him a few times, seen him at different functions in the summer," said Phaneuf. "We've always got along. I'm excited to be paired with him and looking forward to it."

Asked what kind of golfer the 22-year-old Phaneuf is, Vandermeer quickly got into the good-natured ribbing teammates enjoy.

"Aww, he's alright," he said with a grin.

"Better than me, though, so that's not saying much."

Adrian Aucoin has also spent time with Vandermeer.

Both were in Chicago together for two years after the lockout, and while the new addition in Calgary seems to have fallen out of favour with the Blackhawks and Flyers before being dealt twice this season, Aucoin says fans will likely come to appreciate the 28-year-old.

"Very underrated as a player," said Aucoin. "Plays with an edge.

"He's definitely got some toughness, people know that about him, but he's pretty poised with the puck and I think he'll add to pretty much every dimension of our game."

Head coach Mike Keenan said after the morning skate the best way to get Vandermeer integrated is to play him, and he figured his new defenceman would be able to contribute minutes in every aspect of the game.

Keenan also figured the Caroline, Alta., product would be energized being back in his home province. Excited about the prospect of his first game with the Flames, Vandermeer admitted the previous 24 hours were hectic.

A long day of travel brought him into Cowtown Thursday night at around 8:30 p.m.

The first thing he did after his arrival, which was his 28th birthday? "I just got in the hotel, sat down and relaxed for a second," said Vandermeer, recalling the relief.

"So many things start going through your head when you're on the plane, and you're packing stuff. What am I forgetting? What am I doing? Who's on the team?"

Although his contract is up at the end of the year, the rugged rearguard can rest a little easier knowing Calgary is home for at least a few months. He had been comfortable in Chicago, and only just started settling into the City of Brotherly Love before being bounced out west.

"I was there (in Philadelphia) for two months. I had an apartment for just over a month," he said. "Not really that settled but everything was sort of unpacked.

"It's tough, but you're here to play hockey and it doesn't really matter where you're at."


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