SUN Hockey Pool

Vet urges mates to lighten up

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

When the Calgary Flames were climbing from the ashes of their Thursday loss to Columbus and readying for last night's clash with Minnesota, Rhett Warrener took to the podium.

Amidst a meeting, the defenceman, who's been sidelined all season with a shoulder injury, told his teammates a major element that's been lacking in their game lately.

Fun.

It wasn't about the pitiful powerplay, the struggling penalty kill, impotent offence or swiss-cheese defence Warrener wanted to talk about.

He let them all know they weren't enjoying the process in the final push for the playoffs.

"It stuck out with me for a few weeks," Warrener said yesterday. "Iggy (captain Jarome Iginla) had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and I should have said something then. I regret I didn't because it dragged on even longer than it should have.

"They might not listen to what I say, but it's a guy that's been around and trying to add a little insight."

Warrener has no idea whether his surgically repaired shoulder will receive clearance to play, even if the team has a lengthy Stanley Cup run, but his value can be found in the room.

"It's easy when you're on the outside looking in, and I haven't been in the trenches all year, but I think I'd have said the same thing if I had been playing all year," he said. "You could see it in their faces and the way the guys are carrying themselves. There's too much worrying and not enough enjoyment, I think.

"You look around the league, and the teams that are winning are the teams having fun. I've always believed that. Having fun doesn't mean you're not taking it serious and it's not important. It means we're enjoying the challenges of playing the game and being involved in the games that are important.

"We all know every game is important, but the work games are No. 1 through 82, and then the real fun starts.

"With eight games left, it's more playoff-like and you've got to have fun, be looser."

It may be hard to buy the Flames need to add fun to their repertoire right now. With the team having lost seven of 10 prior to last night's clash with the Wild and struggling in all areas, one would think there are too many other elements to worry about.

Then again, Warrener said as he watched the 5-0 loss in Columbus he saw a team trying but almost trying too hard -- to the point where everybody was making mistakes.

"You're over-working, over-thinking, over-analysing, gripping the stick," he said.

"Any team I've had success with has enjoyed going to the rink and playing the games, and it's always been fun.

"I don't think you can win if you're not enjoying it."

It was a message the players were trying to remind themselves about.

"You look at the Olympics, guys are listening to music right up before they compete," said Craig Conroy.

"They're listening to music when they're getting ready to swim to take their mind off the swimming. Michael Phelps was doing it.

"They know what they have to do, we know what we have to do.

"But if you're constantly going over it in your mind, it weighs on you."

To the point where a couple of loses turns into a skid big enough to see a double-digit lead on the division turn into the one-point edge the Flames had on the Canucks before they faced the Wild.


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