Calgary players redefine term 'flying the friendly skies'

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Like magic, the professional hockey team that stepped onto the charter out of Minnesota Thursday night was replaced by a completely different squad when it landed in Vancouver a few hours later.

Transformed mid-flight, all it took was the message that the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Canucks 2-1 to hand those Calgary Flames a playoff spot.

Their playoff fate left undetermined with one game to play, the Flames who climbed the stair truck to the plane after losing a 3-1 decision to the Wild earlier that night were a sombre bunch, reluctant to make a sound.

By the time they touched down, the silence was broken.

"We went from one extreme to the other emotionally," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin of the journey. "We knew we had probably lost the biggest game of the year -- another one -- then (would be) playing another biggest game of the year.

"Going from quite frustrated to quite happy. It was a good feeling."

The whispers started when the pilots received the score in communication with controllers on the ground. They told the flight crew, and they told head coach Mike Keenan.

Soon, the whispers grew into excited chatter.

"I was right in the back," said Craig Conroy. "You kind of heard the rumbling through the plane. It was a good feeling."

Those reliable pilots, always coming through with information when blackberries and cellphones are rendered useless.

"They always have connections to find out what we need to find out," said Alex Tanguay, calling the night a roller-coaster. "When guys started walking around on the plane (Thursday), we started wondering what was going on.

"Then we saw the excitement."

Said Keenan: "I think that the team was really relieved."

Aucoin agreed with the coach's assessment.

"Yes. Relief would be the word," he said. "The lighter side came out in a hurry.

"The plane ride became a little more fun, that's for sure."


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