Chomping at the Bert
Bertuzzi eager to help Flames
ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media
|Todd Bertuzzi speaks during a press conference to officially welcome the five newest Flames at the Saddledome. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)
Famous for sending one of the loudest messages in sports lore, Todd Bertuzzi delivered a much gentler one to Calgary Flames fans yesterday.
"Obviously I'm well aware I wasn't the most popular pickup in Calgary Flames history but at the same time, I think you have to give it a little bit of time and give me a chance," said the bruising winger at his introductory press availability alongside four other new Flames.
"Given the chance, I think I can prove myself and help this team out."
Predictably, an increasing percentage of the populace is slowly warming to the fact one of the club's most hated enemies is now amongst the local heroes. And in what appeared to be a calculated effort to speed up the process by humanizing the controversial, 6-ft-3, 230-lb. winger, Big Bert showed up in front of cameras yesterday with his seven-year-old son, Tag, in tow.
Moving into a rented home last week so he and his wife could get their young kids enrolled in school, Bertuzzi said the reception he's received in town so far has been good.
"It's very similar to being back in Vancouver as far as being (recognized) on the streets and wherever you go," said Bertuzzi, signed as a free agent as per Jarome Iginla's request.
"Everyone has been very respectful and I hope it continues, especially when my family is around. Me, myself, is a different story, but no, everyone has been very respectful and nice."
Flames president Ken King said having Bertuzzi introduced with his son was simply a product of circumstance.
"When he came in, his son was with him and I thought, 'cool, that's where young boys should be in the summer -- with their dads,' " said King, who added GM Darryl Sutter insisted he present the youngster with a jersey.
"It was a natural thing -- it wasn't clever or planned but I'm glad it worked out because I think it's important people see that Todd Bertuzzi is not only what we think is going to be an important addition to our team, but he's a person.
"A real person with real kids, a lovely wife and daughter as well as his son, Tag. We often think of athletes one dimensionally but there are a lot of dimensions to people. I'm glad people are going to see more of Todd than the hockey side."
And yes, the adjustment period goes both ways.
"I can't lie to you -- it's not a jersey I thought I was going to wear, especially coming in so many times with Vancouver," said Calgary's new No. 7.
"At the same time, I played enough games here to know what kind of fan base and team there is here -- it's a fun place when you're winning. I really like the personnel. They've got a great cast and guys that want to win. They're all Canadian boys and they play a style that represents our league. And I think I can fit into that. I'm still young and have a lot of legs left. I want to show them I can fit in."
As for the crowd's reaction: "I've been around long enough that if they're not yelling it's boring and I'm doing absolutely nothing," he smiled.
Plagued by back injuries in Detroit two years ago and concussion woes in Anaheim last season, the former 40-goal scorer said he'll enter camp healthy and hoping to prove he deserves time on one of the top two lines.
"Here you can't go five, 10 games without anyone noticing and I think that's one thing that benefits not only myself but this team: You're under the gun here and there's pressure of having to perform and I'm looking forward to being under that pressure," said Bertuzzi, 33, throwing in several "no comments" when asked obvious questions about the ongoing legal proceedings of Steve Moore's $38-million lawsuit for his 2004 attack.
"Obviously (dealing with the media) is not on my A-list of things to do but it comes with the territory. Everyone is making out like it's such a tough thing but I played in a Canadian market for nine years and I absolutely loved it. Obviously there were a couple years that were tougher than others but I loved being in the spotlight and being part of that. I was gone for a while but I'm glad to be back and have an opportunity in a city like this."
Judging by the smile on his son's face, so is he.